World Cup Data Analysis: Part V – Application to Upcoming 2018 World Cup in Russia

By @k2thedubs

To download the PDF document in full, click here – World Cup White Paper.


In this section, I will evaluate how we can apply our learnings to the 2018 World Cup, whether for pleasure or perhaps financial gain in the betting markets.

First, I have grouped teams into cohorts based on insights from many of the analyses performed herein, ELO ratings, and the ease or difficulty of the World Cup draw.

Cohort #1 – Title Favorites

  • Germany, Brazil, France, Spain, Argentina

Cohort #2 – Contenders

  • Belgium, England, Portugal, Colombia, Uruguay

Cohort # 3 – Expect to Reach Knockout Rounds

  • Mexico, Switzerland, Croatia, Denmark, Russia, Poland

Cohort #4 – Chance to Reach Knockout Rounds

  • Sweden, Peru, Iceland, Senegal, Serbia

Cohort #5 – Need a Lot of Help to Advance from Group Stages

  • Costa Rica, Egypt, Japan, South Korea, Iran, Nigeria

Cohort #6 – Unlikely to Advance from Group Stages

  • Australia, Panama, Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia

Exhibit AA: Composite Comparison – World Cups from 1998 – 2014 vs European-Hosted World Cups

Image 35

The visual above displays the composite World Cup results from the past five World Cups (shown earlier in Part I) alongside the composite World Cup results from the past two European World Cups (in 1998 and 2006). I analyze the impact by confederation of playing a World Cup on European soil below.


  • No impact for countries #1-5
  • 3-6 place boost for countries #6-14


  • No impact for countries #1-2
  • 1-4 place drop for countries #3-5


  • 4-6 place drop for all countries


  • 4 place drop for country #1
  • Minimal impact for countries #2-5


  • 3 place drop for country #1
  • Minimal impact for countries #2-4

I have furnished my predictions below, which are largely informed by the insights from the analyses uncovered as part of this research.

Exhibit AB: Kyle’s 2018 World Cup Predictions by Group (in order of expected finish)

Image 36

Exhibit AC: Kyle’s 2018 World Cup Knockout Round Predictions

Image 37

When I think about this World Cup, I believe the World Cup champion will come down to one of the five teams in cohort # 1 – Germany, Brazil, France, Spain, Argentina. Upon analyzing the player pools, I was surprised to conclude that Brazil and Argentina are not as strong, neither in depth nor top quality, as the three European teams. Argentina has weaknesses in the midfield and defense and Brazil has some question marks in central defense and midfield depth.

My assessment of Germany, France, and Spain surprised me as well. France has the most depth and is going to leave some supremely talented players at home.  Among attacking options at their disposal, they will have to whittle down among the following group – Griezmann, Giroud, Lacazette, and Gameiro as central forwards and Dembele, Mbappe, Coman, Martial, Fekir, Lemar, and Payet as wingers.

Germany is very talented and has the track record of performing exceptionally well at the World Cup, but I am reluctant to predict a repeat champion since it has not occurred in over fifty years. As a result, I’m predicting Spain to win the World Cup. I think they are the most balanced team with elite players at every position with lots of depth and versatility.

In evaluating the draw, it’s difficult to see any top teams failing to make the knockout rounds, though the World Cup tends to have a few surprises in the Group Stages so we’ll have to wait and see if there are any early exits. However, the top teams would be wise to win their groups to avoid some potentially explosive Round of 16 matchups, which could feature France vs Argentina and Brazil vs Germany.

Exhibit AD: Comparison – World Cups from 1998 – 2014 vs European-Hosted World Cups vs Predictions

Image 38

The visual above compares the aforementioned composites to my predictions made earlier. As you can see, my predictions largely align with the historical performance trends illustrated by the composite results. The main divergence in my predictions relative to the composite results of the last two World Cups hosted in Europe is CAF 1, the best performing team from CAF. Based on the World Cup draw, I don’t foresee any CAF team advancing from the Group Stages.

In terms of interesting bets[1], I’m intrigued by the Top Goalscorer odds.

Image 39

I love Messi and expect he’ll do great, but I worry Argentina will play 1-3 games less than other teams so I am going to look elsewhere for my recommendation. It’s tempting to choose a French or Spanish player since I forecast those countries to reach the Finals. However, neither France nor Spain have an outright talisman who I expect to score five or more goals and are likely to share the scoring load among several players. Additionally, each country’s track record raises some question marks. France’s goal scoring has been extremely erratic at the World Cup, and Spain has never scored more than 10 goals at a World Cup, including their victory in 2010.

If history is any indication, the smart money suggests selecting a Brazilian or a German. Those countries meet all the criteria in choosing a Golden Boot winner – they tend to advance deep into the tournament and consistently score lots of goals. Based on past performance, Brazil and Germany should each safely expect to reach at least the Quarter-Finals and to score at least 10 goals.

It’s enticing to go with a Brazilian because I can see them racking up goals, but there is risk of goal scoring by committee with the pair of Barcelona compatriots, Paulinho[2] and Coutinho, complimenting the frontline firepower of Neymar and Jesus with marauding runs forward from the midfield. Neymar and Jesus are each likely to find the back of the net multiple times, but I don’t like their value relative to their odds (10:1 and 20:1, respectively).

Through process of elimination, I believe a German is the best choice for Golden Boot, and I would place my bet on Timo Werner (at 16:1). Germany is a safe bet to play a lot of games and score a lot of goals, and he is the most likely candidate to score goals in bunches as he is a pure finisher. Though, it’s worth noting that Germany has two other compelling options. Thomas Muller (at 25:1) has finished first and second in the last two World Cups so he must be seriously considered in any Golden Boot conversation and Leroy Sane (at 66:1) is intriguing given his tremendous goal scoring form for Manchester City this season.

In terms of a sleeper, I think Mbappe (at 33:1) is a good value bet for the odds since his upside is massive. He is likely to advance deep into the knockout rounds, should play lots of minutes, and should be involved in lots of goal scoring opportunities.


ICYMI, please refer to Part I Introduction & Evaluation of Performance by Confederation.

ICYMI, please refer to Part II Evaluation of Performance by Country.

ICYMI, please refer to Part III Evaluation of Performance by and within Confederations.

ICYMI, please refer to Part IV Trends & Insights on Performances by Confederation and Country.


For those interested, please refer to my companion piece on the implications of this analysis on the USMNT.




General Resources


[1] Per Bet365

[2] Who has had the Midas Touch in the past 18 months, scoring loads of goals for club and country.

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