At least I had the brief opportunity to draw public attention to the luck of the Germans during this European Championship. I was invited by WDR to take part in the programme “Dellings Woche”. The presenter was Gerd Delling, as you might expect. His programme was not a sports programme, so I could also feel “slightly out of place”. However, hungry for publicity, I of course accepted immediately, no question about it. I had a nice preliminary talk with Mr. Delling. I tried to explain to him how the “calculation of a European Football Championship” would work in computer terms. Five minutes were certainly not enough, even for an expert like Mr. Delling. He was also more interested in current affairs and, as luck would have it, the Bundesliga was playing that evening, a Wednesday. So I was supposed to present him in the studio rather a live bet and how to make it, maybe later with a result, before I was allowed to put my calculations for the European Championship on the screen.
No sooner said than done. I placed a live bet and briefly commented on the interim results in connection with my bets. Mr. Delling had plenty of other studio guests with whom he duly occupied himself. Time was moving on, and even the name Delling does not guarantee a Gottschalk overdraft. We had to finish on time. So he briefly asked me about the teams’ chances, my prepared calculated table came on the monitor – very briefly visible to the viewer – combined with the question: “Who will be European champion?” My answer: “Germany is indeed the favourite. ALthough I wanted to start explaining, why Germany? Especially considering my relationship to the history of their successes? Yes, I wanted to add, but was interrupted by the credits: “But the Germans do not owe this to their outstanding abilities, but once again to the proverbial luck of the draw, which is already so envied abroad. This time they were drawn against Poland, Austria and Croatia in the preliminary round. As much as one may appreciate these nations, a group with Holland, Italy, France and Romania sounds a bit stronger, doesn’t it?
The Germans’ opponents, Poland and Austria, were ranked 15th and 16th in my playing strength rankings – which were confirmed by the usual betting exchanges and bookmakers – which, given there were 16 teams taking part, is a pretty huge statement. Croatia was 8th at best, lucky, lucky, lucky. There it was again….
So did the preliminary round once again become the usual walk in the park? No, I dare say not. The victory against Poland may have been correct and well played out, the defeat against strong Croats unfortunate, but still possible. This made the final match against Austria a deciding game in which a draw would have been enough for the Germans. However, the Austrians fought with all they had to offer against the apparent German superiority and came close to a miracle. The 0:1 result nevertheless confirms some of the thoughts expressed in the chapter on the 2006 World Cup. There were again a lot of refereeing decisions, especially in the Austrian games, that caused tempers to flare. Even if the tendency of the decisions was not quite so clear this time: I have never heard the argument that in case of doubt the strikers were given the benefit of the doubt. But that does not mean to me that it is not true.
So Germany was through as usual, as my computer had predicted, even if only about 90%… What happened in the other groups?
Remarkable here, really, a series of games that did revive football somewhat compared to the 2006 World Cup. First of all, the Turks managed to turn the game against Switzerland around in a dramatic final phase to win 2-1. But that alone was not enough to make them happy after their opening defeat. They were 2-0 down against the Czech Republic and even I would probably have thought a chanterelle was too valuable to risk on the Turks at the 75th minute… if I hadn’t already had about 16 tonnes of chanterelles on them beforehand. They managed to tie it up at 1-2, a quarter of an hour of hope. And it was more than hope, as there were even scoring chances. Indeed! Three minutes before the end, 2:2! Unbelievable. Curiously, a 2:2 in this game would even have resulted in a penalty shoot-out already in the preliminary round. Points and goals were equal in all instances. However, the Turks scored the 3:2 virtually at the final whistle. For me, it is anything but strange that such a match was soon afterwards voted into the list of the 10 best European Championship matches of all time. Consider, however, that each of these games is one with goals, usually many, and scored in turn. That’s just on the subject of goals in football, where, in my view, interpretation of the rules is ensuring fewer and fewer of them.
The Romanians’ performance in the group of death with France, Italy and Holland was also very special. After they had managed a 1-1 draw with France, they had to play Italy. And as much as I like to begrudge the Italians success, in this game they didn’t really deserve it. The Romanians had a penalty just before the end, which, if converted, would have ensured them a place in the next round if they lost more narrowly than 1:4 to the Netherlands in the final group game, or not at all. And that would have been possible, wouldn’t it? In the last group game, Italy and France played a final match in which only the winner of the two big nations could hope to advance. The Netherlands had already won the group, so the B-team had to play Romania, which could have lost without any risk and eliminated a major competitor at the same time. But the B-players did what fair play and the A-team’s desire to advance dictated. They took the matter seriously and eliminated the Romanians instead. At the same time, Italy defeated France in the losers’ duel, so that my friends were allowed to advance to the quarter-finals after all.
The quarter-finals also produced some drama. Blessed with their usual soup, the German kickers were able to defeat the Portuguese 3:2. An exciting, a great game. With the usual outcome. Spain defeated the Italians, who once again did not do much wrong, after a goalless game in a penalty shoot-out. In the Netherlands versus Russia, the Russians withstood the pressure, reached extra time and eventually scored two more goals in it. Compared to other results at such a tournament stage, this could be considered a sensation, but for me it is nothing more than the realisation of a minor probability.
The real drama in the game Turkey vs. Croatia. If the Turks had already pushed their luck sufficiently – no one will reach German proportions so soon –, here it came to a culmination. The 0:0 score once again confirmed my fears of a lack of goals at major events, but only on a much smaller scale for this European Championship. After 119 minutes, however, the Croatians scored the 1:0 winning goal. It couldn’t have been any other way under the circumstances. But the winning goal was more like the goal of defeat. For after conceding 1-1 in the last second, they only dragged their frustrated heads on their sluggish legs to the penalty spot and – failed one after the other. Had it remained 0-0, might the penalty shoot-out have been different? The Turks went on again. In a dramatic way, but even more so in a happy one.
But who were the Germans “drawn” to play? Exactly, the Turks. But the lucky players of this tournament had finally used up their luck. And trying to fight Germany with luck is comparable to trying to cross the Aegean Sea on a bicycle. They did manage to equalise 2:2 shortly before the end of the game, which actually catapulted me out of my phlegm in my TV chair for a few seconds, but really only for a few seconds. Lahm took the ball, rushed forward, quickly got around a few opponents who were lethargic at the moment because of the lucky equaliser, hammered it in, 3:2, Germany in the final. Well, the Aegean really is quite long, and wide. And all on a bike. No way.
And where were all the others? Yes, that’s what we heard in the media for a few days. “We” are here again. The others are out. But doesn’t it become clear what the main reason for this is? The quality of the German team’s games cannot justify another appearance in the final. And the tough competition had obviously eliminated each other. So where were they? On the track, yes. Each in their own way. Only the opponents were usually tougher than the Germans.
The final stumbling block awaited in the final with the Spaniards, who for this year equalled the role of club teams in international football. And they were clearly out of their league in that match. So my computer was wrong after all! 1:0. The most beautiful of all football results?!. At least soon the most common…
My database just told me that in the last two seasons, of all the leagues and results recorded, 1-0 was indeed the most common. Provided you add 1-0 and 0-1 together, of course. It has occurred 17.83% of the time. The 1:1 in second place only 12.32% of the time. If you still consider the 0:0 with its 8.02%, then the low-scoring games are clearly on the rise with over 25% for 0 or 1 goal overall. And remember: all leagues are represented, including many smaller ones, where the danger is much lower.