Spain and Germany peak at the right time heading into Euro 2016
With just a matter of days to go until kickoff, Spain and Germany look to have chosen squads that confirm their status as favourites ahead of Euro 2016.
Both their chosen sets of 23 contain over 20% of players entering the peak of their careers. Many have already won the highest accolades in football for both club and country, and now they’re primed to add another medal to their glistening trophy cabinets.
Just 13% of England’s youthful squad are at a peak age for their position - a similar amount as fellow Group E opponents Slovakia and Russia and regular foe Portugal, who they may go on to meet in the knockout rounds.
However, youth traditionally works in England's favour. Squads were also considerably below peak age in Euro 1996, 2004 and 2012, where the Three Lions enjoyed some of their best recent tournament performances.
It's possible that the fearlessness demonstrated by youngsters this season will replace the worries about inexperience on the big stage. England’s youngest inclusion, the confident Marcus Rashford, falls nine years below peak player age and he's been causing defenders major headaches this season.
Peaking at the Right Time
Austria (26.9), Iceland (27.1) and Poland (27.2) are the three teams with the squads closest on average to their peak, however with just 12%, 13% and 8% of their respective squad players actually being peak age, they seem to be operating at the extremes of the age ranges.
Hungary are one team who may be poised to poised to make a surprise impression on Group F, comprising of a relatively weak lineup of Portugal, Iceland and Austria. With 43% of their squad considered to be at their peak, it’s no wonder they’ve qualified for their first international tournament since 1986 and first Euros since 1972.
Romania may also be worth an outside bet, with 32% of their squad at their peak. They’ve been perennial under performers since the days of Hagi, however the last time they made it out of a group stage in a tournament was in 1998, meaning they’re a team well suited to French soil.
Finding the Right Balance
Matt Busby famously said "If you're good enough, you're old enough.” however that doesn’t always work out to be the case at the pinnacle of international football.
The Germany side that fell at the semi-final stage in Euro 2012 was just 24.8 years old. Two years later, they took World Cup 2014 by storm and marched to a comprehensive victory in Brazil with a team averaging 26.8 years old.
By contrast, the average age of the Spain team that defeated Italy in the final of Euro 2012 was 27.1. However with a largely unchanged lineup, by the time they got to World Cup 2014 they had reached average age of 28.3 and grown past their peak, suffering a humiliating exit at the group stage.
About Our Peak Player Age Calculation
A peak age has been assessed for each position:
- GK: 27 years 11 months
- DF: 26 years 8 months
- MF: 26 years 5 months
- FW: 27 years 1 month
The average age for each position has been assessed based on the current age of the 40 best performing players in each position this season from across the English Premier League, French Ligue 1, German Bundesliga, Italian Serie A and Spanish La Liga.
This information comes from whoscored.com, using their average player ratings for players who have played over 15 games in the 2015/16 season.
Where players can play in multiple positions, we’ve only included their primary position as indicated by Who Scored player profiles.
Squads and ages have been sourced from Wikipedia, logging player ages from the date the tournament started. Positions have been used as logged in Wikipedia.