Only 3 days to go for the greatest sporting event of the known universe – the Fifa World Cup 2014! And this world cup may just be all about host and perennial cup favourite’s Brazil. Here’s a look at their chances during this edition.
Looking at their team it seems like they have a decent outfit. In fact, compared to the previous two world cups, this is quite a Strong Team. In terms of experience they are 8th by average age of players in the squad, when compared against other teams in the final draw. In terms of International Caps though, Brazil is 10th from the bottom. Bosnia followed by Spain has the highest number of average International Caps. If we look at Brazil’s squad and try to find players who play for clubs in the top European nations (England, Spain, France, Germany and Italy), we will see that Brazil stands 6th (tied with Argentina and ahead of any other nation in the world, except the countries whose clubs are considered).
To win a match players need to score goals, and so it is important to look at the international goals scored by players in the World Cup squad of different teams. Germany leads this list followed by Spain and Netherlands. Brazil is 15th on this list. See below a snapshot:
Brazil, being the host nation for this World Cup, is placed in Group A along with Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon. As far as qualification from the 1st round is concerned, it seems like Brazil has a more than even chance of making it to the next round. Let us now look at all the groups and try to find out which ones are the toughest and who might qualify from them. This will matter to us when Brazil will play the knock-out rounds.
To measure the toughness of a group, we can look at multiple factors (current matches won by the teams, goals scored by players in recent games, 1:1 analysis between teams when they played last etc), but to simplify our calculation I have looked at one factor which takes into account almost all the mentioned factors related to the teams – Current Fifa rankings of the teams in World Cup. (How Fifa rankings are calculated?-). I have considered that ‘toughness’ of a group is a function of the average ranking of teams in that group and the standard deviation of the rankings from the mean rank of teams in the same group. See the image below:
The ‘toughness’ of a group should be inversely proportional to the above mentioned parameters (i.e. average rank of teams and standard deviation of the the ranks from the average rank) and based on that (pointed out in the above image), Groups D and G looks like the toughest groups. There has been a lot of discussion about Group G as the Group of Death in 2014, but according to me Group D is no less tough. In fact, based on my assumptions, Group D is slightly tougher.
Now let us try to find out what could be the outcome of matches when 2 teams face each other. To do that I have tried to derive a probability which not only takes into account a team’s overall standing (i.e FIFA rankings) but also certain individual parameters of players and the team (I have looked at the results of the last 100 International Friendlies, and results of matches in last 3 World Cups from 2002-2010). In terms of a mathematical equation, the winning probability would be:
P(w) = W0(Fifa Ranking)+W1X1+W2X2+… (where X1,X2,X3..are factors related to player’s individual characteristics like age,number of international caps,international goals scored etc, W1,W2,W3 are weights or a measure of ‘by how much’ of the factors)
Based on the data I could gather from the world wide web, I tried to determine the important variables related to a player’s individual characteristics which could help me derive the chance of a team winning a match. My variables may not be exhaustive and the results are not tested, but perhaps by the end of this World Cup I will be able to answer how accurate I’m. Below is a snapshot of the teams which have the highest Probability score of winning a match (TOP 10):
How do you read the graph? Whenever a team with a higher chance of winning a match will play against a team with a lower chance of winning, the one with higher chance wins. By this I mean (from the above) that in a match between Portugal and Switzerland, Portugal is likely to win.
Interestingly, I could find Uruguay, Bosnia and Switzerland in the list of the top 10 teams with high winning chances; ahead of those of England, Belgium and France (remember, this is not the World Cup winning chance but just the winning probability in a game. The World Cup winning probability would be dependent on how the teams progress through the tournament. We will look into that in the next section). But these teams are the potential dark horses for this tournament. My bets are on Uruguay and Bosnia. – Suarez and Dzeko!
Based on the winning probabilities, I have tried to fill the grid from 2nd round of World Cup. See the image below: (I have indicated the winning teams with a ‘/’ if there is an encounter between 2 teams that do not have any significant difference in winning chance)
I haven’t filled the outcomes of Semi-Finals as a lot of additional factors come into play at that stage.
From the above, it looks like Brazil will face their biggest challenge in the quarters. This could be either in the form of England/Italy or the dark horse – Uruguay. Personally, I would want England/Italy to progress as in Lat Am conditions; Uruguay would be a far more difficult opponent. In the semi-finals Brazil has a chance of facing Germany/Portugal which can be one of the best games of the tournament, a true Clash of Titans. If Brazil faces Bosnia, judging by the fate of Dark Horses in the last few versions of the tournament, it is likely that Brazil would win. For finals, a Brazil vs Argentina clash would be the best thing I can think of. Hope that happens!
Football is a very unpredictable game where things change in the blink of an eye. There have been many instances when a ‘weaker’ team has outplayed a very ‘strong’ team. Everything depends on how players react on the pitch at the time of the game. I will be glued to my TV screen during this World Cup. Hope you’ll be watching as well. Enjoy the Game!
Epilogue(Inspiration for this post):
Everyday we have to make so many decisions. Decide what to eat, what to wear, what to read, whom to talk to, where to go.. and the list goes on. Our decisions shape our lives and determine who we become. However, there are certain other things in life which just happen to us. We have no control whatsoever on their occurrence. The most uncertain thing to happen to us is perhaps our ‘Birth’. What if someone wanted to be born in a different country as a different person in a different family? But, you can’t do it! Whether you like it or not, you have to accept your birth and accept your family as they are. There are many things that I resent about my family (Oh-They are too loud!); being football fanatics though, isn’t one of them. By the virtue of being born in this family, football was injected into my veins at a very early stage of my life. My earliest memory of watching a football game was the 1994 Fifa World Cup Final between Brazil vs Italy. As a 4 year old, I did not understand the game much at that time, but I do vividly remember the penalty that Dunga scored and the one that Baggio missed. Brazil won it and added a lifelong supporter to their innumerable count of fans.
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