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Opta Predicts England Special: Who do Opta think should make the final squad?

  • Opta
  • 3:00 min read
The world's leading football stats company have teamed up with Betfair

Betfair and Opta are teaming up with a rich content partnership for Euro 2024, so what better way to kick off their 'Opta Predicts' content series with an England special. Who do Opta think should make the final squad, and what chances do the Three Lions actually have in Germany?...


Get excited everyone because Euro 2024 is round the corner and England are 3/14.00 favourites to win the tournament.

But before we get there, there are some big questions that need answering.

WHO MAKES THE FINAL SQUAD?

Goalkeepers

Jordan Pickford has been Gareth Southgate's no.1 since the 2018 World Cup, with the England manager showing loyalty to him through some periods of heavy criticism.

But going into Euro 2024, there is no debate about whether Pickford deserves to be starting for his country. He ranks above the other three goalkeepers in the provisional squad in almost every metric imaginable.

Pickford let in 48 league goals from an expected goals on target (xGoT) conceded - a metric that tracks how difficult an on-target shot was to save as well as its xG - figure of 53.5.

From that, it can be calculated that he was responsible for preventing 5.5 goals - the fourth-most of any Premier League goalkeeper in 2023/24. Pickford is, in fact, the only shot stopper in the training squad to have registered a positive goals prevented number, suggesting the others underperformed.

He also has the highest save percentage of the four (69.6 per cent), so Pickford is a shoo-in as no.1.

Pickford England.jpeg

Of the other three players, it is highly likely that Aaron Ramsdale will be Pickford's back-up despite only making 11 appearances in all competitions for Arsenal this season.

He is the second-most experienced goalkeeper in the squad, although he has been slightly outperformed by Dean Henderson. Henderson saved 66.5 per cent of the shots he faced over the course of the season compared to Ramsdale's 64.3.

All of that means that the uncapped James Trafford looks like being the one to miss out. Looking at the figures it would be an understandable decision, with Trafford posting the lowest save percentage (63.1 per cent) and goals prevented figure (-5.5) of the four.

Player cut: James Trafford

Defenders

Looking at the defenders in the training squad, we can immediately make a few calls without diving too deep into the numbers.

Harry Maguire and John Stones, for example, will be England's first-choice centre-back pairing as long as both are fit.

Kyle Walker will also be in the 26-man squad barring any last-minute injuries, as will Kieran Trippier, owing to England's dearth of availability at left-back. On that topic, let's rule out Luke Shaw. The Manchester United full-back hasn't played since February and Southgate admitted his inclusion was "a long shot" in his squad announcement press conference.

Elsewhere, it gets more interesting.

There is a case to be made for the inclusion of the uncapped Jarrad Branthwaite - 3/14.00 to start against Serbia. He has had a fantastic season at Everton, ranking first among the defenders in the training squad for interceptions per 90 minutes (1.44) and is second for tackles per 90 minutes (1.91) in the league. The 21-year-old is an aggressive defender and can play on the left, so it's easy to see how he could deputise for Maguire if needed.

What lets Branthwaite down is his distribution - he averaged just 31.7 successful passes per 90 minutes in the Premier League - but that is what an extended squad is for. Enter, Lewis Dunk. The Brighton captain can be trusted with the ball at his feet, with a pass accuracy (92.5 per cent) second only to Stones in the squad. He also averaged 93.1 successful passes per 90 minutes - comfortably more than any other defender.

Not far behind Dunk's pass accuracy is Ezri Konsa's (92.2 per cent). Given that he can also cover at right-back, he's in.

Speaking of versatility, Joe Gomez also squeaks in as a makeshift left-back with an average of 2.38 tackles per 90 minutes last season - better than any defender in the squad. That leaves Marc Guehi and Jarell Quansah not making the plane to Germany.

Players cut: Luke Shaw, Marc Guehi, Jarell Quansah

Midfielders

There are two debates to be had here.

Firstly, who starts alongside Declan Rice? Data suggests the answer is Conor Gallagher - currently priced at 4/71.57 to start against Serbia. The Chelsea midfielder posted a pass accuracy of 91.5 per cent during the Premier League season - better than any other midfielder in the training squad.

He is also the second-most capped midfielder behind Rice and Trent Alexander-Arnold, who hasn't played for England in 2024.

The next question is who gets cut from the training squad? Signs point to 20-year-old Adam Wharton. It is only his second season as a professional footballer and he only made his Premier League debut in February. Impressive though he has been, he is one for the future.

Player cut: Adam Wharton

Forwards

England are likely to start with a front three of Bukayo Saka, Harry Kane and Phil Foden.

While that means Foden getting shunted onto the left, it is nothing he cannot handle having played there semi-regularly for Manchester City. Judging by his numbers in 2023/24, he is set for a big tournament.

Foden was the second-highest xG overperformer in the top five European leagues this season, scoring 19 from an xG of 10.34. That confirms what we already know about him: he is an incredible finisher.

While Harry Kane is second-favourite for the Golden Boot, 11/26.50 feels too skinny to get behind. Instead, Foden holds massive value at 25/126.00. For those on the lookout for something even bigger, the England to win Euro 2024/Foden Golden Boot double is available at 66/167.00.

Foden England.jpeg

One place below Foden in the highest xG overperformers is La Liga's 2023/24 Player of the Year, Jude Bellingham.

Having previously played further back for England, it's likely that he will be deployed in a more attacking role, like the one that he has enjoyed so much at Real Madrid.

He is likely, then, to be in direct competition with Cole Palmer for a spot in the starting XI. Palmer is another player who has had a phenomenal season and, should he get significant gametime, a price of 14/115.00 for Young Player of the Tournament appeals. Bellingham, meanwhile, is available at 11/43.75 in the same market.

Palmer Bellingham.png

One player who it is hard to make a case for is Ivan Toney. While he is the most similar player in the squad to Kane, both Ollie Watkins and Jarrod Bowen can play centrally as well as wide.

Toney has the worst numbers among the forwards as well, registering a shot conversion rate of just 7.8 per cent since his return to professional football - at least 10 per cent lower than Kane, Watkins and Bowen.

Southgate's comments about forwards needing "a lot of love" suggest that he doesn't want to bring people who won't feature. So don't be surprised to see Toney miss out despite his penalty ability.

With one more player to cut, it makes sense to look at England's wide forwards.

Anthony Gordon warrants a place after his best-ever season. The Newcastle man scored 12 goals in all competitions from an xG of 12.25, indicating he was not wasteful in front of goal. He was also creative, laying on 0.5 big chances per 90 minutes - more than any other player.

Looking purely at the data, the unfortunate man may be Jack Grealish. He created the fewest big chances per 90 minutes (0.27) in the squad, contributed one assist and only started 10 league games all season.

Players cut: Ivan Toney, Jack Grealish

England XI.png

HOW WILL THEY PERFORM?

Southgate has often been criticised for 'keeping the handbrake on' during his time in charge of England, but the in-tournament statistics tell a different story.

The Three Lions ranked equal-second for big chance creation in two of the three major tournaments under Southgate. Those were the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020, where their total was only bettered by Belgium and Spain respectively.

In the 2022 World Cup, England also scored the third-most goals (13) behind finalists Argentina and France despite playing two fewer matches.

Given that the array of attacking quality England will be bringing to Euro 2024 is arguably better than it has ever been, they look a good bet to be the tournament's highest-scoring team at [11/4].

Remember, Betfair are offering you a chance to earn a free bet every time the side you back to win Euro 2024 scores - find out more about the offer and how to qualify here!

Southgate's side scored three or more on three occasions during the 2022 World Cup and hit nine in the group stage. With what looks like another kind draw, they could rack up some scores.

Group C predictor.png

The Opta supercomputer predicts that England have a 68% chance of winning Group C - which equates to odds closer to 1/21.50. Perhaps their price to do so on the Betfair Sportsbook is too short at [1/3], which has an implied probability of 75%.

Extending that out, they have a 20% chance of lifting the trophy - better than any other team at the Euros. Converting that % chance to odds makes England Opta's 4/15.00 favourites, a bigger price than their current 4.3100/30 on the Betfair Exchange. The caveat that needs to be applied there is that France are just one percentage point behind them, with a potential semi-final meeting between the two on the cards.

In terms of England's path to the final, they will meet the third-placed side in Group D, E or F if they top Group C. Based on FIFA rankings, that could be Austria, Romania or Turkey.

A victory there would be followed by a quarter final against the runner-up in Group A or B, so Italy or Switzerland based on current rankings. Then a semi-final with France could be next.


Now read more of Opta's dedicated content at Euro 2024 here!

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