Although the major World and European soccer contests currently take place in even-numbered years, the odd numbers aren’t entirely devoid of action. The Under-21 European Championships kick off in June, but how different is youth soccer to senior soccer? How should you approach Under-21 European Championships betting? Read on to find out.
This year the European Under-21 tournament takes place in Poland, running from the 16th to the 30th of June. The format of the competition has been expanded to comprise 12 sides in three groups of four teams compared to two groups of four in previous tournaments.
The competitiveness of the groups is likely to be slightly diluted by the extended format, but only the three group winners are guaranteed passage to the semi-finals along with the single best runner-up.
Countries who stack their squads with younger players may be at a disadvantage compared to those who have maximised their squad numbers with players nearer to 23.
Yugoslavia won the inaugural competition in 1978, but this century, footballing powerhouses, Spain, Netherlands and Italy have lifted the trophy twice and Germany, Czech Republic and Sweden once each but due to the quick turnover of players, past performance isn’t that reliable for Under-21 European Championships betting.
The finals themselves have been more inclusive this year, with twelve different countries taking part, including lesser countries on the full international stage, such as Serbia, Switzerland and Ukraine - get some expert insight into the Under-21 European Championships odds.
Under-21 European Championships betting - How important is age?
The under 21 age restriction applies at the qualifying stage for the finals, which typically take two years. So the squads at the finals can contain players a few years in excess of 21.
Ageing curves show that there is a steep increase in performance as players progress through their teens and approach the sweet spot of peak performance levels in their mid to late twenties.
So countries who tend to stack their squads with younger players who may have more variable upsides, but are immature performance wise, may be at a disadvantage compared to those who have maximised their squad numbers with players nearer to 23.
Over the last three tournaments, England has taken the youngest squad, adjusted for caps won and had an unimpressive win draw loss record of 1-2-6. In terms of Under-21 European Championships betting, it’s easy to take such an apparently clear cut example as indicative of a strong general trend, but although the average age profile of the 23 man squad is correlated to tournament performance, it is only weakly so.
Turning youth caps into senior caps
A similarly weak correlation with tournament performance can be found using the number of caps won by the squad, a possible proxy for experience at this level of competition. The best of a weak group of predictors is the number of Under-21 players who subsequently go on to represent their country at full international level.
Again England’s relatively unsuccessful recent efforts are characterised by a below average number of players making the step up to gain even one full cap compared to say Sweden’s 2015 victorious side of which 19 of the 23 man team have already won full honours.
Outlay on playing talent at club level invariably correlates very strongly with success on the field.
The obvious problem with using this indicator is that we do not know the future international career path of many of the 2017 squad members, although you may have strong opinions about some players and a few may have already won a full call up.
It does indicate that, while factors such as maturity of the players may push a side towards being slightly more likely to succeed in the short format finals, raw talent unsurprisingly remains the biggest influence on results.
Qualification and the lack of correlation
We might hope that the qualifying matches played by each of the finalists will reflect the current abilities of the countries, but once again there is little correlation between how easily a side negotiated the qualifying stage and how they subsequently did in the finals. A large cumulative goal difference for a team in their qualifying campaign is no guarantee that they will excel in the finals either.
Over the last three tournaments, a more successful qualifying campaign is only very weakly related to improved success in the finals. This correlation disappears entirely if we discard Spain in 2013, who won the trophy by winning all of their matches and similarly impressed in qualifying; dropping just two points, scoring 35 and conceding just 3 goals.
Fourteen of the Under-21 Spain squad from 2013 has represented the country at full international level, placing them above the average for a typical Under-21 squad progressing to full honours. The side contained the likes of de Gea, Thiago and Isco and with the benefit of hindsight it is easy to see why they did so well in the competition.
At the time of the competition, the three aforementioned players were already worth a combined £45 million. A sure indication that they had shown abilities that would make them extremely likely to become top class, full internationals.
Using transfer value for Under-21 European Championships betting
Therefore, in a competition where countries may have different priorities in how the Under-21 squads are assembled and traditional metrics, such as previous results show only very weak correlations with future performance, perhaps squad value, as shown on a site such as Transfermarkt may be the most valuable indicator of which team is likely to beat another.
England’s relatively unsuccessful recent efforts are characterised by a below average number of players making the step up to gain even one full cap.
Outlay on playing talent at club level invariably correlates very strongly with success on the field and in the absence of up to date wage information, a player’s current transfer value is a useful proxy.
Spain’s victorious 2011 and 2013 teams paraded starting 11 talent worth, respectively at the time, £95 and £130 million. The median worth of the starting 11 in each final was respectively £7 and £10 million.
These values comfortably eclipsed those of their respective opponents in each final, Switzerland (median value £1 million) and Italy (£3.4 million) - not one side had Spain’s financial advantage in the 2015 competition.
Although the value of a typical starting eleven varied from highs of £75 million for Germany, these values were often skewed by the presence of a few high-value players and the median of many of the contenders for the 2015 trophy, including Germany was in the region of £4 million per starting player.
Although there are few certainties and many traditional metrics prove unhelpful for Under-21 European Championships betting, it may provide a rewarding summer for those who are prepared to delve into transfer value of the talent on display.
Add to this insight with expert Under-21 European Championships odds analysis and bet with the best soccer odds online at Pinnacle.