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Was Portugal really the best-performing team at Euro 2016?

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By Chris Harris
Was Portugal really the best-performing team at Euro 2016?

No-one can deny Portugal their moment of Euro 2016 glory, after their backs-against-the-wall triumph over hosts France in Sunday’s final, all the more impressive given it was without their star player, Cristiano Ronaldo.

But we wanted to see, if the playing field was levelled off, whether Portugal would still be the best-performing side?

It might also help answer the following questions:

  • Did the costliest squads triumph over those composed of relative unknowns?
  • What was the influence of a country’s population? Did country’s with a bigger pool to pick from succeed where those with smaller numbers fail?
  • And did rich countries, which, logic suggests, have more money to spend on developing footballing talent, do better than poorer ones?

We’ve compiled a points total for each country, taking their group tally and then adding three points for each win in the knockout stages.

We’ve taken these totals and then factored in each country’s squad value, population and GDP, to compare the relative successes of each team.

Who has the best value squad?

This infographic plots a team’s performance at Euro 2016, in terms of points won, against the value of its squad, using data from Scroll over the graphic to explore the values.

Teams towards the top-left corner are the best-value ones, whereas those in the bottom-right quarter, such as Spain and England, are the most overpriced, in terms of their Euro 2016 performance.

These tables go into more detail, dividing countries’ squad value by the number of points gained, to tell us how ‘costly’ each point was.

This table reveals the five best-value squads were:

TeamSquad value (€ million)PointsCost of each point (€ million)
N Ireland38.1312.7
Click here for the full table.

While the least economical were:

TeamSquad value (€ million)PointsCost of each point (€ million)
Click here for the full table.

Finally, how did the most expensive squads perform?

TeamSquad value (€ million)PointsCost of each point (€ million)
Click here for the full table.

Verdict Despite Portugal’s victory, expensive squads are no guarantee of success, as Spain and England show. Hungary is the surprise package in joining Iceland among the best-value squads.

Who made the most of their talent pool?

Much has been made of Iceland, population 325,700, beating England, which has around 54 million inhabitants.

So we decided to look at each country’s population, comparing it with how many points each one picked up. Scroll over the infographic, below, to explore the values.

These tables go into more depth, showing the best and worst performers in terms of a country’s population.

They show how many inhabitants each country needed per point won at Euro 2016.

Russia made the worst use of its talent pool, needing 142 million people per point won, whereas Iceland required around 40,000 inhabitants for each point.

TeamPopulation (millions)PointsPopulation (millions)per point
N Ireland1.830.6
TeamPopulation (millions)PointsPopulation (millions)per point
Click here for the full table.

Verdict Russia is evidence population size is no guarantee of success, while Portugal’s win shows relatively small countries can prevail.

If we classify a small country as one with fewer than 12 million inhabitants, the infographic above shows more smaller countries (Portugal, Iceland, Wales, Croatia and Belgium) got more than the average points tally of six, than larger countries (France, Germany, Italy and Poland).

Did richer countries outperform poorer ones?

This infographic looks at a country’s GDP per capita, against points won at Euro 2016. Scroll over to explore the data further.

Looking at GDP in more depth, these tables show the best and worst when it comes to the amount of GDP needed for each point gained at Euro 2016.

The top five best teams were:

TeamGDP per capita (€)PointsGDP per point (€)
Click here for the full table.

The worst value for GDP were:

TeamGDP per capita (€)PointsGDP per point (€)
Czech Republic14,700114,700
Click here for the full table.

Verdict Several countries with high GDP, most notably Switzerland, Sweden and England, performed badly, with Germany, France and Iceland the exceptions. Portugal and Wales, meanwhile, outshone their richer European neighbours.

So who was Euro 2016’s best performer?

Wales, on the account they were the only team to appear in the best five of each of our categories.

Portugal were the overall winners and they, like Iceland, made the best five in two out of three of the areas we looked at.

England and Russia were the common thread in all our worst of tables, meaning they share the wooden spoon.


There are some obvious limitations to this study.

First, the transfer values might not accurately reflect a squad’s value, especially if there is a talented young player who has not yet been transfered.

Secondly while it is logical to consider a country with a high GDP is more likely to have the resources to pour into their footballers’ development, this may not be the case in practice.