After a 20-year hiatus, Brazil can have serious hopes of winning a sixth World Cup. Image: sports photography service imago
15/11/2022, 11:3815/11/2022, 16:29
philipp rich with Datahouse
Ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, soccer fans around the world are preoccupied with one question: Who will be the world champion? Will one of the big favorites win the race, or will he become the first surprise world champion of the modern era? They are throwing and arguing everywhere.
But we wanted to know more about it. And since Paul the Octopus, who correctly predicted the result of all the matches of the German national team and the final of the 2010 World Cup, is no longer alive, we have teamed up with the Swiss data science specialists at Datahouse. An ETH Zurich spin-off created a simulation to predict the most likely world champion.
Octopus Paul is no more, so the simulation must now predict the most likely world champion.image: imago-images.de
This is how the simulation works:
- In the first step, the strength of each team is defined. Current betting odds from the four biggest bookmakers as well as FIFA World Ranking positions and points are used to factor in team strength. Both factors have equal weight.
- In each game, the respective strengths of both teams are then compared and the result is simulated – the bigger the difference, the more likely it is that a goal will be scored at each stage of the game and thus the stronger team will win. .
- The entire World Cup will then be played 10,000 times. The “probability” of a scenario (eg “Switzerland will be world champions”) is then the percentage of the 10,000 runs in which the scenario occurred.
These are the results:
Datahouse’s simulation predicts Brazil as the most likely world champion. In 22 percent of all cases, the “Seleção” won the World Cup. They are followed by two-time world champions France (12 percent) and Argentina (11 percent) before perennial secret favorites Belgium (9 percent).
Spain (6 percent) and Germany (4 percent) fare rather poorly in the simulation. On the one hand, this is due to their weak position in the FIFA world rankings, and on the other hand, the fact that they already face each other in the group stage and, as group runners-up, would probably face the world number two Belgium in the round. 16.
England and the USA, on the other hand, benefit from the fact that, if they qualify for the knockout stages, they would face opponents from a rather modest Group A with hosts Qatar. Your chances of reaching the quarter-finals are therefore significantly higher than those of similarly placed teams.
After all, the Swiss national team has a two percent chance of winning the world title – in 10,000 simulations, the national team has been world champion 200 times. This puts Switzerland level with reigning world runners-up Croatia and three-time World Cup finalists Holland. Switzerland’s chances of qualifying for the last 16 – always the minimum target for a major tournament – are slightly more than half at 58 percent, significantly higher than group rivals Serbia and Cameroon.
Unsurprisingly, this model places Brazil as Switzerland’s strongest group opponent. Against the record world champion, Switzerland wins only 21 percent of the time. In all games, the most likely result is 1-0, which is not surprising since it is the most common result in football. The model sees Switzerland as favorites against Serbia and Cameroon with 55 and 56 percent chances of winning, respectively.
And how accurate are these predictions? “Simulation provides probabilities based on thousands of realizations. However, in individual cases, very unlikely events can also occur,” says Senior Data Scientist Severin Trösch from Datahouse.
Surprise world champion not in sight: The second-highest rated non-world champion is Portugal with a 7 percent chance of winning the title, followed by EC semi-finalists Denmark at 3 percent. The chance of experiencing a legendary World Cup final between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo is also slim – according to the simulation, Argentina and Portugal will meet in the final only 1.6 percent of the time. Switzerland’s dream final against neighboring Germany is even less likely – it has only happened 0.19 percent of the time.
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