Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Odds & Performances

Everyone’s already come out with their Euro 2012 visualization, so just wanted to put mine out before the tournament starts. (Shout out to two other visualizations/dashboards I liked - here  and here .)

Now the moment the draw is made for the finals of any major football/soccer tournament, there’s always a newspaper article that comes out talking about what the odds are for various teams to win the whole tournament. These odds change over the months before the tournament starts and I wanted to catalogue what the odds were in the week before the tournament, specifically for the 16 countries competing in Euro 2012.

This dashboard is my attempt to catalogue tournament-eve odds from the British bookmaker Ladbrokes for the past nine major tournaments, going back all the way to USA’94!

(Why didn’t I go back any further? Because before then you still have countries like the undivided USSR & Yugoslavia competing, and that raises lots of issues for what I was attempting to do, for example, whether past Soviet performances should be seen as part of Russia’s record or Ukraine’s. This is just a simple data-exploration dashboard and I really didn’t want to overcomplicate matters, so 1994 it is.)

Needless to say, trying to get the odds data was a pain but, I think, what I’ve managed to get -- while sticking to free sources -- should conform to the records that paid services like betbase and mabel’s tables have. (Also, since you ask, the main source for most of my data was the site thefreelibrary.com which hosts old issues going back to 1998 of the British betting news periodical “The Racing Post”.) Do note that the odds data I used wasn’t exact-moment-before-the-tournament-starts odds but some-time-in-the-week-before-the-tournament-starts odds.

(You will note that I’ve used decimal odds instead of the original fractional odds form of the data. Decimal odds are just more easily recognized by graphing applications.)

Now to the actual dashboard. There are three separate charts in it.

The chart in the top left corner plots the tournament-eve decimal odds for various countries against their performances in a specific tournament. (Choose a year from the drop-down menu.) The top axis lists the various stages a country can reach in either the World Cup or the European Championships while the vertical axis lists the decimal odds in reverse.

As for what you can learn from the graph, a rule of thumb is that if you see colored dots representing countries in the top left of that particular graph, those countries have underperformed while dots that appear in the bottom right of that graph represent overperformance by a country against the odds.

Similarly, the dashboard in the bottom left corner plots the tournament-eve decimal odds for a specific country in various tournaments. (Choose a country from the drop-down menu.)

The third and last chart plots the odds for a country(s) over several tournaments. This chart was done partly as a concession to the fact that you can’t really see what the exact odds for a country at a specific tournament are from the other two charts. Hopefully, this third chart will make up for that.

Other notes and caveats:
--If you want the original data just send a mail to the address listed below and I’ll forward it to you. If you’re looking to use it in a semi-professional or professional context though, you might be better off paying for the actual data from one of those above-mentioned firms that archive historical betting data.

--The axes resize as you choose different countries and years, just keep that in mind, when you’re choosing different options from the drop down menu. It isn’t really a like-for-like visual comparison. (Resizing axes does make it easier to view the data though.)

--Line breaks in the line chart when choosing particular countries represent periods when they hadn’t qualified for any major competition.

--This is elementary but I guess I do have to mention it. The years in two of the charts have the initials WC and EU next to them, for eg. 1994-WC. WC stands for World Cup while EU stands for European Championship.

--And finally, if you want to know what the latest odds are for Euro 2012, here’s the page  from Ladbrokes

ultimateposeur@gmail.com twitter.com/ultimateposeur

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