Category: World Cup 2018

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.

UEFA

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

CONMEBOL

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

CONCACAF

  • 4-6 place drop for all countries

CAF

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

AFC

  • 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.

 

References

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/jun/01/world-cup-25-stunning-moments-italy-south-korea

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/das-reboot-how-german-football-reinvented-itself-and-conquered-the-world-by-raphael-honigstein-book-10505726.html

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/oct/11/lionel-messi-hat-trick-secures-argentinas-passage-to-world-cup

http://www.goal.com/en-us/news/paulinho-coutinho-neymar-and-jesus-brazils-goalscoring/1jdxj5m8ta8l515nryck81j59k

 

General Resources

http://www.fifa.com/fifa-tournaments/archive/worldcup/index.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FIFA_World_Cup

 

[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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World Cup Data Analysis: Part IV – Trends & Insights on Performances by Confederation and Country

By @k2thedubs

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

 

The table below ranks all 208 individual country performances over the last seven World Cups based on the following criteria – Goal Differential, Total Points, and Place.

Exhibit W: Country Performance Ranking from 1990 – 2014

Image 27

Image 28

Image 29

Image 30

Image 31

The list above ranks the individual country performances at the World Cup in order from best to worst. The notes that follow highlight various takeaways.

Dominant, Nearly Flawless Performances

  • Brazil (2002), Germany (2014), and France (1998) had the three best performances ever. They each went undefeated with at least six wins and +13 Goal Differential.

Notable Performances

  • Germany (2002) is the first non-Champion performance (#7) mainly due to its +11 Goal Differential, which is tied for fourth best.
  • Spain (2010) is the lowest rated Champion performance (#8) due to its +6 Goal Differential. They only scored eight goals the entire tournament.
  • Brazil (2006) and Colombia (2014) each had the best non-Semi-Finalist performances (#19 and #20) where they won four games, finished in fifth place, and had a +8 Goal Differential.
  • The top 34 performances were all from UEFA or CONMEBOL countries.
  • The first non-traditional countries appear among performances #15-23 related to uncharacteristically deep runs – Croatia (1998), Sweden (1994), Colombia (2014), and Turkey (2002).
  • Quarter-Final runs from powerhouse nations appear high on the list – Argentina (2006, 2010, 1998), Italy (1998), Spain (2002), and France (2014).
  • Argentina (1990) is the lowest Runner-Up finish with only two wins and a +1 Goal Differential. They won two of their knockout round games on penalty kicks, which are recorded as ties.
  • Spain (2006) has the best non-Quarter-Finalist performance (#43) where they won three games, finished in ninth place, and had a +5 Goal Differential. In hindsight, this performance was a harbinger of the historic three-peat that followed in the Euros (’08 and ’12) and World Cup (’10).
  • Costa Rica (2014) is the highest non-UEFA, non-CONMEBOL performance (#45) other than South Korea (2002), who benefited from being the co-host nation.
  • Bulgaria (1994) is the lowest Semi-Final finish with only three wins and a negative (-1) Goal Differential.
  • Every Mexico performance, all Round of 16 exits, occurs within #60-102.

Country Performance Trends

  • Germany
    • Won 5 or more games and reached at least the SF in 5 of 7 World Cups
      • Won 3 games and reached QF in both 1994 and 1998 (prior to Das Reboot)
    • Scored 14 or more goals in 5 of 7 World Cups
      • Scored 8 and 9, respectively, in 1994 and 1998
    • Lost 1 game or less in 6 of 7 World Cups
      • 2 losses and 3rd place in 2010
    • 5 of the Top 9 Goal Differential performances
    • At least 10 Points in all 7 World Cups
  • Brazil
    • Won 3 or more games in all 7 World Cups
    • Lost 1 game or less in 5 of 7 World Cups
      • 2 losses and 2nd place in 1998 and 2 losses and 4th place in 2014
    • Scored 10 goals or more in 5 of 7 World Cups
      • Scored 4 and 9, respectively, in 1990 and 2010
    • At least 9 Points in all 7 World Cups
  • Italy
    • Only won more than 1 game once since 1998
      • Won 5 games in their World Cup victory in 2006
    • Double digits Points in 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2006 World Cups
      • 4 Points or less in 2002, 2010, and 2014 World Cups
    • Lost 1 game or less in 5 of 7 World Cups
      • 2 losses and 15th place in 2002 and 2 losses and 22nd place in 2014
    • Conceded 5 or less goals in all 7 World Cups
  • Argentina
    • Only won more than 3 games in 2 World Cups (2010 and 2014)
    • Lost 1 game or less in 5 of 7 World Cups
      • 2 losses and 2nd place in 1990 and 2 losses and 10th place in 1994
    • Positive Goal Differential in 6 of 7 World Cups
  • Netherlands
    • Won 3 or more games in 4 of 6 World Cups
    • Lost 1 game or less in 5 of 6 World Cups
      • 2 losses and 7th place in 1994
  • Spain
    • Lost 1 game or less in 6 of 7 World Cups
      • 2 losses and 23rd place in 2014
    • Positive Goal Differential in 6 of 7 World Cups
  • France
    • Crazy back-and-forth streak from 1998 2014
      • 6 wins, 0 wins, 4 wins, 0 wins, and 3 wins
      • 15 goals, 0 goals, 9 goals, 1 goals, and 10 goals
      • Goal Differential of +13, -3, +6, -3, and +7
      • Points of 19, 1, 15, 1, and 10
    • At least 1 tie in all 5 World Cups
    • Conceded 4 goals or less in all 5 World Cups
  • England
    • Declining performance from 1990 2014 (missed 1994)
      • 3 wins, 2 wins, 2 wins, 3 wins, 1 win, and 0 wins
      • 8 goals, 7 goals, 6 goals, 6 goals, 3 goals, and 2 goals
      • Goal Differential of +2, +3, +3, +4, -2, and -2
      • Points of 12, 7, 8, 11, 5, and 1
    • Lost 1 game or less in 5 of 6 World Cups
      • 2 losses and 26th place in 2014
    • At least 1 tie in all 6 World Cups (including two or more in 4 of 6 World Cups)
  • Mexico
    • 1-2 wins, 1-2 losses, and 1-2 ties in all 6 World Cups
    • Goal Differential between -1 and +2 in all 6 World Cups
    • 4-7 Points in all 6 World Cups
  • Paraguay
    • Exactly 1 win in all 4 World Cups
    • -1 to +1 Goal Differential in all 4 World Cups
  • Russia
    • Never won more than 1 game or earned more than 3 Points at a World Cup
  • Nigeria
    • Exactly two losses in all 5 World Cups
  • South Korea
    • Besides its 4th place finish in 2002, has only won 2 games in 6 World Cups and earned 4 or less Points in these 6 World Cups
    • Lost 2 games or more in 5 of 7 World Cups
  • USA
    • Won 1 game or less in 6 of 7 World Cups
    • Lost 2 games or more in 6 of 7 World Cups
    • No positive Goal Differential in any World Cup (0 GD in 2002 and 2010)
  • Cameroon
    • Only scored more than 3 goals in 1 of 6 World Cups
    • Conceded 5 or more goals in 5 of 6 World Cups

Other Performance Observations

  • Wide Range of Performance
    • France – 28 place Range and 14.0 Standard Deviation
      • Finished 1st in 1998 and 29th in 2010
    • Japan – 22 place Range and 11.2 Standard Deviation
      • Finished 9th in 2002 and 2010 and 31st in 1998
    • Italy – 25 place Range and 10.3 Standard Deviation
      • Finished 1st in 2006 and 26th in 2010
    • Costa Rica – 23 place Range and 9.9 Standard Deviation
      • Finished 8th in 2014 and 31st in 2006
    • Croatia – 20 place Range and 9.3 Standard Deviation
      • Finished 3rd in 1998 and 23rd in 2002
  • Narrow Range of Performance
    • Mexico – 5 place Range and 1.9 Standard Deviation
      • Finished 10th in 2014 and 15th in 2006
    • Ivory Coast – 4 place Range and 2.0 Standard Deviation
      • Finished 17th in 2010 and 21st in 2014
    • Germany – 6 place Range and 2.2 Standard Deviation
      • Finished 1st in 1990 and 2014 and 7th in 1998
    • Tunisia – 5 place Range and 2.5 Standard Deviation
      • Finished 24th in 2006 and 29th in 2002
    • Brazil – 8 place Range and 2.9 Standard Deviation
      • Finished 1st in 1994 and 2002 and 9th in 1990
  • Multiple Performances Finishing in the Bottom Eight Teams
    • 3
      • Saudi Arabia (1998, 2002, 2006)
      • Cameroon (1998, 2010, 2014)
      • Japan (1998, 2006, 2014)
    • 2
      • Tunisia (1998, 2002)
      • Nigeria (2002, 2010)
      • France (2002, 2010)
      • Iran (2006, 2014)
      • South Korea (1998, 2014)
      • USA (1998, 2006)

Exhibit X: Performance Range by Confederation from 1990 – 2014

Image 32

The tables above show the number of occurrences and percentage of confederation total of individual country performances at the World Cup in quadrants of fifty. A breakdown by confederation follows.

UEFA

  • 35 of the Top 50 (70%) performances
  • 57 of the Top 100 (57%) performances
  • 82% of all performances in the Top 150

CONMEBOL

  • 39% of all performances in Top 50
  • 70% of all performances in Top 100
  • 91% of all performances in the Top 150
  • Only 3 of the Bottom 58 (5%) performances

CONCACAF

  • 1 of the Top 50 (2%) performances
  • 86% of all performances in 51-200 range
  • 2 of the Bottom 8 (25%) performances

CAF

  • 7 of the Top 100 (7%) performances
  • 97% of all performances in 51-200 range
  • 1 of the Bottom 8 (13%) performances

AFC

  • 4 of the Top 100 (4%) performances
  • 60% of all performances in the 151-208 range
  • 4 of the Bottom 8 (50%) performances

The following section will discuss various trends, insights, and takeaways from the World Cup analyses conducted.

Confederation Performance on Home Continent from 1990 – 2014

  • UEFA and CONMEBOL dominate World Cups on their home continents
    • UEFA
      • 1990, 1998, and 2006 all won by UEFA teams.
      • 1990, 1998, and 2006 all at least 3/4 Semi-Finalists by UEFA teams (4/4 in 2006).
      • 10 UEFA teams advanced to R16 in each. 6 UEFA teams advanced to QF in each.
      • 3 or fewer non-UEFA or non-CONMEBOL teams advanced out of Group stages. Only one reached the QF (Cameroon in 1990).
    • CONMEBOL
      • 5 of 6 teams advanced out of Group Stages and Ecuador, the lone exception, was top finisher amongst non-advanced teams.
      • Second time having 5 teams advance (the other is 2010) to knockout rounds.
  • Non-UEFA, Non-CONCACAF World Cups (so called “neutral sites”) experience more parity
    • 1994 (CONCACAF hosted)
      • 4 non-UEFA and non-CONMEBOL teams advanced out of Group Stages.
        • 2 CONCACAF (R16, R16), 1 CAF (R16), and 1 AFC (R16)
    • 2002 (AFC hosted)
      • 5 non-UEFA and non-CONMEBOL teams advanced out of Group Stages.
        • 2 AFC (4P, R16), 2 CONCACAF (QF, R16), 1 CAF (QF)
    • 2010 (CAF hosted)
      • 5 non-UEFA and non-CONMEBOL teams advanced out of Group Stages.
        • 2 CONCACAF (R16, R16), 2 AFC (R16, R16), 1 CAF (QF)

Country Performance on Home Continent from 1990 – 2014

Exhibit Y: Host Nation Performance Boost from 1990 – 2014

Image 33

The table above show the performance boost from hosting the World Cup as measured by a country’s improvement as host of the World Cup relative to its average performance in all other World Cups. Unsurprisingly, hosting the World Cup has a significantly positive impact on a country’s performance at the World Cup. As seen above, every country who hosted the World Cup fared at or better than their average World Cup performance with most countries experiencing a substantial uptick.

Except for South Africa, every host country has advanced from the Group Stages so it’s a safe bet to expect Russia to make it out of Group A. Other than USA and Japan who each made the Round of 16, every host country has made it at least to the Semi-Finals. As our country ranking analysis displayed in Part II, Russia fell into the same cohort as USA, South Korea, Japan, and South Africa (cohort # 5). Interestingly, those four countries experienced a wide spectrum of results as host nation with one (South Africa) failing to advance from the Group Stages and one (South Korea) reaching the Semi-Finals.

Given the strength, or lack thereof, of Group A (the easiest of the World Cup by far), I fully expect Russia to advance out of the Group Stages, though I would not count on them to make a deep run into the knockout rounds as they will likely face either Spain or Portugal from Group B in the Round of 16.

Qualification Difficulty

Only five countries[1] (Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, and South Korea) have qualified for the past eight World Cups and Argentina was in danger of missing out on Russia if not for some Messi heroics in their qualification finale.

CONMEBOL Improvement

  • CONMEBOL has been improving over the last 3 World Cups
    • 2 QFs and 1 R16 in 2006 (out of 4 teams)
    • 1 SF, 3 QFs, and 1 R16 in 2010 (out of 5 teams)
    • 1 F, 1 SF, 1 QF, and 2 R16 in 2014 (out of 6 teams)
    • Only 2 teams (out of 15) have failed to advance from Group stages in last 3 World Cups
      • Bodes well for Peru in Russia 2018

CONCACAF’s Struggles in Europe

  • CONCACAF
    • 1 team has advanced from Group Stages in each World Cup in Europe
    • 2+ teams have advanced from Group Stages in each World Cup outside of Europe

CONCACAF, CAF, AFC Weakness

  • Aggregate Stats Across Confederations
    • No team with more than 5 wins except Mexico (8).
    • No team with a winning record[2] (Mexico is 8-8-8).
    • No team with a positive Goal Differential except Mexico4 (+2).
    • No team wins more than 33% of their matches4.

CAF > CONCACAF > AFC on Top 3 Basis

Exhibit Z: Aggregate Stats by Confederation Based on Results from 1998 – 2014

Image 34

Since CONCACAF, CAF, and AFC have not had the same number of countries in the World Cup and it appears that CAF and AFC are overallocated places in the World Cup field, I performed an analysis on each confederation’s performance on an equivalent basis – the top three performing teams at each World Cup. The exhibit above shows the aggregate confederation stats based on the last 5 World Cups (since the field expanded to 32 teams) on an overall basis, a top 3 team basis for CONCACAF, CAF, and AFC, and the difference between the two.

The difference column is quite revealing and certainly supports the idea that CAF and AFC have been overallocated teams at the World Cup. Teams that do not finish in the top 3 of their confederation have not won any matches at the World Cup, have lost over 80% of their matches, and are outscored by more than 1.5 goals per game. CAF has 33 of these matches, AFC has 18 of these matches, and CONCACAF has 6 of these matches.

When the confederations are compared on a top 3 team basis, the pecking order changes to CAF, CONCACAF, AFC with alignment across Wins, Losses, Goals For, Points, and Goal Differential.

 

To continue on to Part V – click here.

 

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.

 

[1] Mexico has qualified for seven consecutive World Cups in which it was eligible to participate. Mexico was banned from the 1990 World Cup for fielding overage players at a junior world championship in the late 1980s.

[2] Amongst teams with multiple World Cup appearances.

World Cup Data Analysis: Part III – Evaluation of Performance by and within Confederations

By @k2thedubs

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

 

Exhibit M: UEFA Advancement Place from 1990 – 2014

Image 16

Advancement Stats

  • UEFA has 5 Champions, 4 Runner-Ups, 7 Third Place, and 4 Fourth Place finishes.
    • Champions
      • Germany (1990)
      • France (1998)
      • Italy (2006)
      • Spain (2010)
      • Germany (2014)
    • Runner-Ups
      • Italy (1994)
      • Germany (2002)
      • France (2006)
      • Netherlands (2010)
    • Third Place
      • Italy (1990)
      • Sweden (1994)
      • Croatia (1998)
      • Turkey (2002)
      • Germany (2006)
      • Germany (2010)
      • Netherlands (2014)
    • Fourth Place
      • England (1990)
      • Bulgaria (1994)
      • Netherlands (1998)
      • Portugal (2006)

Home Field Advantage

  • UEFA had its best performances in its home World Cups – in 1990, 1998, and 2006. UEFA has won and had at least 3 Semi-Finalists in every World Cup hosted in Europe. Additionally, UEFA has had 6 Quarter-Finalists in each of these World Cups in Europe. While UEFA has won the most recent two World Cups, neither of which were played in Europe, its Quarter-Finalists tallies (3 in 2010 and 4 in 2014) were significantly lower than that of their home World Cups.

Will history repeat itself in Russia this summer? Should we expect UEFA to win and dominate the knockout rounds?

Exhibit N: UEFA Breakdown by Country from 1990 – 2014

Image 17

  • UEFA has been the best-performing continent. They have won 193 games and lost 131 games and have outscored opponents by 138 goals.
  • 18 different countries have more than 10 Points.
  • 12 different countries have less than 10 Points.
  • Other than six countries – Serbia (0.5), Scotland (0.7), Slovenia (0.7), Austria (0.8), Greece (0.8), and Russia (0.9) – every country averages more than 1.0 Points per game.
  • 30 countries from UEFA have participated in at least one of the past seven World Cups. Iceland will increase the total to 31 with their qualification for the 2018 World Cup.
  • Except for Greece (-15), no country has a double digit negative Goal Differential and half (15) have a positive Goal Differential.
  • 24 countries have a Goal Differential between -9 and +8.
  • 5 countries – Germany (58), Netherlands (25), Italy (24), Spain (23), and France (20) – account for a +150 Goal Differential.
  • 7 countries – Belgium (6), England (7), France (6), Germany (8), Italy (7), Netherlands (6), and Spain (8) – have qualified for six or more of the past eight World Cups.
  • 9 countries – Belgium (9), Croatia (7), England (11), France (13), Germany (32), Italy (20), Netherlands (19), Portugal (7), and Spain (19) – have won seven or more games at the World Cup.
  • 12 countries have won two or fewer games at the World Cup.
  • UEFA qualifying is cutthroat. Germany and Spain are powerhouses who have made every World Cup, but other powerhouses, such as Italy, the Netherlands, and France, have failed to qualify at least once. Some strong countries, such as Belgium and Portugal, have failed to qualify multiple times.

Exhibit O: CONMEBOL Advancement Place from 1990 – 2014

Image 18

Advancement Stats

  • CONMEBOL has 2 Champions, 3 Runner-Ups, 0 Third Place, and 2 Fourth Place finishes.
    • Champions
      • Brazil (1994)
      • Brazil (2002)
    • Runner-Ups
      • Argentina (1990)
      • Brazil (1998)
      • Argentina (2014)
    • Third Place
    • Fourth Place
      • Uruguay (2010)
      • Brazil (2014)

Home Field Advantage

  • CONMEBOL had its best performance in the 2014 World Cup hosted in Brazil, where Argentina finished as Runner-Up, Brazil finished in Fourth Place, Colombia reached the Quarter-Finals, and Chile and Uruguay reached the Round of 16. This was the only time two CONMEBOL teams made it to the Semi-Finals in the past seven World Cups and only the second time five CONMEBOL teams made it out of the Group Stages.

Exhibit P: CONMEBOL Breakdown by Country from 1990 – 2014

Image 19

  • CONMEBOL has been the second best-performing continent. They have won 74 games and lost 46 games and have outscored opponents by 59 goals
  • Brazil and Argentina have been the two dominant nations and account for the majority of the total Wins, Goals For, Goal Differential, and Points.
  • Every country, except for Bolivia, has more than 10 Points and averages more than 1.1 Points per game.
  • Only eight countries from CONMEBOL have participated in at least one of the past seven World Cups. Peru will increase the total to nine with their qualification for the 2018 World Cup.
  • CONMEBOL qualifying is extremely difficult. Brazil and Argentina are powerhouses who consistently make the World Cup, leaving high quality countries like Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Uruguay fighting for limited spots.
  • Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Uruguay each have win-loss records around 50% and Goal Differentials near zero.

Exhibit Q: CONCACAF Advancement Place from 1990 – 2014

Image 20

Advancement Stats

  • CONCACAF has no Champions, Runner-Ups, Third Place, or Fourth Place finishes.
  • CONCACAF’s best result is Quarter-Finals, which has happened two times.
    • USA (2002 – QF)
    • Costa Rica (2014 – QF)
  • CONCACAF has had at least one country advance from the Group Stages at each of the last seven World Cups. Notably, Mexico has made and lost in six consecutive Round of 16’s.
  • The 10 teams to advance out of the Group Stages and lose in Round of 16 are as follows:
    • Costa Rica (1990 – R16)
    • Mexico (1994 – R16)
    • USA (1994 – R16)
    • Mexico (1998 – R16)
    • Mexico (2002 – R16)
    • Mexico (2006 – R16)
    • USA (2010 – R16)
    • Mexico (2010 – R16)
    • Mexico (2014 – R16)
    • USA (2014 – R16)

Home Field Advantage

  • CONCACAF had a relatively strong performance in the 1994 World Cup hosted in USA, where USA and Mexico each reached the Round of 16.
  • The 2002 and 2014 World Cups were more successful where multiple teams advanced out of the Group Stages with one team reaching the Quarter-Finals.

Exhibit R: CONCACAF Breakdown by Country from 1990 – 2014

Image 21

  • CONCACAF has been the third worst-performing continent. They have won 19 games and lost 38 games and the majority of countries have a negative Goal Differential, albeit most are in single digits. Mexico has a +2 Goal Differential.
  • Mexico, USA, and Costa Rica are the only countries with more than 3 Points.
  • Only six countries from CONCACAF have participated in at least one of the past seven World Cups. Panama will increase the total to seven with their qualification for the 2018 World Cup.
  • Honduras, Jamaica, and Trinidad & Tobago have combined for one win in twelve matches and only four goals scored.
  • Mexico (8), USA (5), and Costa Rica (5) are the only multi-game winning countries.
  • Each country has lost more games than they have won except for Mexico who has won, lost, and tied eight games apiece.
  • The countries combined to allow 40 more goals than they scored.

Exhibit S: CAF Advancement Place from 1990 – 2014

Image 22

Advancement Stats

  • CAF has no Champions, Runner-Ups, Third Place, or Fourth Place finishes.
  • CAF’s best result is Quarter-Finals, which has happened three times.
    • Cameroon (1990 – QF)
    • Senegal (2002 – QF)
    • Ghana (2010 – QF)
  • The 5 teams to advance out of the Group Stages and lose in Round of 16 are as follows:
    • Nigeria (1994 – R16)
    • Nigeria (1998 – R16)
    • Ghana (2006 – R16)
    • Algeria (2014 – R16)
    • Nigeria (2014 – R16)

Home Field Advantage

  • CAF had one of its best performances in the 2010 World Cup hosted in South Africa, where Ghana reached the Quarter-Finals.
  • Arguably, the 2014 World Cup was more successful where two CAF countries advanced out of the Group Stages for the first time ever with Algeria and Nigeria reaching the Round of 16.

Exhibit T: CAF Breakdown by Country from 1990 – 2014

Image 23

  • CAF has been the second worst-performing continent. They have won 22 games and lost 55 games and every country except Senegal (+1) has a negative Goal Differential, albeit most are in single digits.
  • Nigeria, Cameroon, and Ghana are the only countries with more than 10 Points. South Africa and Ivory Coast have each earned 10 Points.
  • Togo participated in only one World Cup where they lost all three matches with a combined -5 Goal Differential.
  • Only Nigeria (5), Cameroon (4), Ghana (4), and Ivory Coast (3) have won more than two games, and no country has won more than five games.
  • No country has a winning record at the World Cup except for Senegal.
  • Each country has lost more games than they have won except for Senegal who only participated in 2002 and made the Quarter-Finals. The other three countries that participated in only one World Cup did not advance from the Group Stages and did not win a single match, suggesting Senegal’s run is an outlier.
  • Nigeria (6/8), Cameroon (6/8), and Tunisia (4/8) are the only countries to qualify for at least half of the World Cups, though their performance has been poor. Cameroon has the worst Goal Differential of any country (-25) and Tunisia has yet to win a game.
  • The countries combined to allow 61 more goals than they scored.

Exhibit U: AFC Advancement Place from 1990 – 2014

Image 24

Advancement Stats

  • AFC has no Champions, Runner-Ups, or Third Place finishes
  • AFC’s best result is Fourth Place with South Korea, as co-host nation, in 2002.
  • Besides South Korea (2002), no AFC team has advanced to the Quarter-Finals.
  • The 6 teams to advance out of the Group Stages are as follows:
    • Saudi Arabia (1994 – R16)
    • Japan (2002 – R16)
    • South Korea (2002 – 4P)
    • Australia (2006 – R16)
    • Japan (2010 – R16)
    • South Korea (2010 – R16)

Home Field Advantage

  • AFC had its best performance in the 2002 World Cup hosted in South Korea and Japan, where both of those nations advanced (South Korea to 4P and Japan to R16, respectively) out of the Group Stages.
  • Curiously, China and Saudi Arabia, the other two AFC nations, finished 31st and 32nd in 2002.

Exhibit V: AFC Breakdown by Country from 1990 – 2014

Image 25

  • AFC has been the worst-performing continent. They have won 14 games and lost 52 games and every country has a negative Goal Differential.
  • South Korea and Japan are the only countries with more than 10 Points, and no country averages more than 0.9 Points per match.
  • Three countries (China, North Korea, and UAE) participated in only one World Cup where they lost all three matches with a combined -29 Goal Differential. Yikes!

Image 26

  • Even removing these three outliers (see above), the results are dismal.
  • Only Japan (4) and South Korea (5) have won more than two games, and no country has won more than five games.
  • Each country has lost more than twice as many games as they have won.
  • The countries combined to allow (133) more than twice as many goals than they have scored (66). Each country has a given up at least eight more goals than they have scored.
  • South Korea has qualified for eight consecutive World Cups and Japan has qualified for six consecutive World Cups.

 

To continue on to Part IV – click here.

 

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

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

World Cup Data Analysis: Part II – Evaluation of Performance by Country

By @k2thedubs

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

 

Exhibit H: Results by Country from 1990 – 2014

Image 9

The table above is a visual analysis of World Cup results by country since 1990.

Exhibit I: Aggregate Stats by Country Based on Results from 1990 – 2014

Image 10

Based on a ranking analysis of eight criteria[1], I divided the 37 nations who have made three or more of the past seven World Cups into cohorts of similar performance.

Cohort # 1: Powerhouses with Multiple World Cup Victories

Mild Surprise – Germany Clearly Ahead of Brazil

  • I was expecting the top spot to be closer, but Germany is superior to Brazil on all criteria.
  • That being said, Brazil is clearly head and shoulders above every other country on all criteria.

Cohort # 2: Global Powers with Repeated Successes and at Least One Finals Appearance

Usual Suspects – Difficult to Find Much Separation Between the Teams

  • There is not much differentiation on any criteria between the teams in this cluster which features all the usual suspects after cohort #1.
  • It’s interesting to note the similarities in certain categories.
    • 18-20 wins for Italy, Argentina, the Netherlands, and Spain (France with fewer wins given their DNQs in 1990 and 1994).
    • 20-25 Goal Differential for all five teams.
    • 52%-58% Winning Percentage for all five teams.
    • 17%-23% Losing Percentage for all five teams.
    • 84-1.94 Points per game for all five teams.

Cohort # 3: Contenders with Positive Track Record and Ability to Advance to Later Rounds

History of Strong Performances at the World Cup

  • This group begins to show disparities on certain categories though the teams are largely similar.
    • Some teams have few (Romania, 3) and some teams have many (England, 6 and Mexico, 6) World Cup appearances.
    • All teams have at least five wins and no teams have a losing record except Sweden who is one game under .500 (5-6-7).
    • England and Sweden have the highest Tie Percentage (39%) in the top 20 teams.
    • Mexico and Sweden have the lowest Winning Percentage (Mexico, 33% and Sweden, 28%) of the cohort.
    • All teams have a single digit positive Goal Differential.

Cohort # 4: Noisemakers Who Don’t Always Qualify but Show Well When They Do

History of Above-Average Performances at the World Cup

  • This group consists of only a few teams and is mostly similar.
    • All teams have 4-6 wins and a record either .500 or 1-2 games under .500.

Cohort # 5: Hodgepodge of Countries Characterized by Mediocre, Albeit Volatile, Performance

History of Below-Average Performances at the World Cup

  • This group has some minor disparities but is mostly similar.
    • All teams have five or fewer wins and a Winning Percentage at 33% or less except for Ecuador (40%).
    • All teams have a Losing Percentage between 40%-60% except for Ireland (23%) and South Africa (33%).
    • No teams have a positive Goal Differential (Ireland and Russia at 0).

Cohort # 6: Laggards with Limited to No Success at the World Cup

History of Dreadful Performances at the World Cup

  • This group is smaller and has largely similar performance.
    • All teams have two or fewer wins and a Winning Percentage of 20% or less.
    • All teams have a Losing Percentage of 60% or greater
    • All teams have (1.0) Goal Differential per game or worse.
    • All teams have 0.80 Points per game or fewer.

Exhibit J: Advancement Stats by Country Based on Results from 1990 – 2014

Image 11

Image 12

Consistent Dominance

  • Germany has made the Quarter-Finals or better in each of the last 7 World Cups.
  • Brazil has made the Quarter-Finals or better in 6 of the last 7 World Cups and advanced out of the Group Stages in each of the last 7 World Cups.

Volatile Performance from World Cup Winners

  • Italy won the 2006 World Cup, finished second in 1994, and finished third in 1990. They also failed to advance from the Group Stages in 2010 and 2014 and failed to qualify for 2018.
  • France won the 1998 World Cup and finished second in 2006. Prior to winning the 1998 World Cup, they failed to qualify for consecutive World Cups in 1990 and 1994. They also failed to advance from the Group Stages in 2010.

Trends from Other Strong Performers

  • Argentina has made the Quarter-Finals or better in 5 of the last 7 World Cups and advanced out of the Group Stages in 6 of the last 7 World Cups. They have finished second twice – in 1990 and 2014.
  • Netherlands has advanced out of the Group Stages in each of the most recent 6 World Cups in which they participated and made the Semi-Finals or better in 3 of these 6 World Cups. They failed to qualify for the 2002 and 2018 World Cups.
  • Spain has only advanced beyond the Quarter-Finals once, winning the World Cup in 2010. Their reputation as attractive style of play but lack of killer instinct (other than 2010) certainly holds as they boast impressive statistics but have only reached the Quarter-Finals three times.

Other Notable Highlights

  • England has advanced out of the Group Stages in 5 of the 6 World Cups in which they participated but have only advanced to the Semi-Finals once (in 1990).
  • Belgium has advanced out of the Group Stages in 4 of the 5 World Cups in which they participated but have only advanced to the Quarter-Finals once (in 2014).
  • Mexico has advanced to and been eliminated in six consecutive Round of 16’s. Consistent!

Countries with One Special Run

  • Croatia finished third in 1998 but have not advanced out of the Group Stages in any other World Cup.
  • Sweden finished third in 1994 but have not advanced past the Round of 16 since, even missing 3 of the 6 World Cups.

Countries with Strong Performance in Few Appearances

  • Chile has reached the Round of 16 in each of the 3 World Cups in which they participated.
  • Ireland has advanced out of the Group Stages in each of the 3 World Cups in which they participated, making 2 Round of 16’s and 1 Quarter-Finals.

Countries with Poor Advancement Records

  • Russia has failed to advance from the Group Stages in each of the 4 World Cups in which they participated.
  • Ivory Coast has failed to advance from the Group Stages in each of the 3 World Cups in which they participated.
  • South Korea has been eliminated in the Group Stages in each of the last 7 World Cups except for 2002 (played in South Korea and Japan) where they finished fourth and 2010 (played in South Africa) where they reached the Round of 16.
  • Japan has mirrored South Korea. They have been eliminated in the Group Stages in each of the last 5 World Cups in which they participated except for 2002 (played in South Korea and Japan) and 2010 (played in South Africa) where they reached the Round of 16.

Exhibit K: Cumulative Advancement Stats by Country Based on Results from 1990 – 2014

Image 13

Image 14

Exhibit L: Advancement Timeline by Country Based on Results from 1990 – 2014

Image 15

This table shows a timeline of country performance from 1990 2014. I have included some notable storylines stemming from the timeline below.

  • Will Germany continue their dominance? They won the last World Cup, won the 2017 Confederations Cup (with a young, less than full strength roster), and have made at least the Semi-Finals in the past 4 World Cups.
  • Will Brazil regain their dominance? Since pulling off a Champion, Runner-Up, Champion run in 1998, 2002, and 2006, Brazil has yet to make a Final and bowed out of the 2014 World Cup, which they hosted, with a stunning 7-1 defeat to Germany in the Semi-Finals.
  • What is Italy’s response to their swift fall from grace? They followed a 2006 World Cup victory with 2 group stage eliminations and a DNQ for the 2018 World Cup.
  • Similar to Italy, what is the Netherland’s next step? They followed a Runner-Up and Third Place finish with a DNQ for the 2018 World Cup.
  • How will Spain recover from their 2014 World Cup disappointment? After becoming the first team to win consecutive Euros (2008), World Cup (2010), and Euros (2012), they stumbled out of the Group Stages in spectacular fashion. What Spain will we see in Russia 2018?
  • Can France put together consecutive positive World Cup performances, which they have not done over this timeframe? Will their stockpile of talent be able to overcome this trend?
  • Can England and / or Belgium capitalize on their strongest squads in recent memory to propel a deep run in the World Cup? Neither has made a Semi-Final since 1990.
  • Can Mexico snap its Round of 16 streak, either for better or worse? They are a mercurial side equally likely to fall victim to a difficult group and not advance or finally buck their trend and advance deep into the tournament.
  • Will Romania ever recover? They have missed 5 consecutive World Cups after having advanced out of the Group Stages in the previous 3 World Cups.
  • Will Colombia exploit its golden generation and advance to the knockout rounds for the second consecutive World Cup, a feat it has never done?
  • How will Uruguay fare in Europe, after missing the past two World Cups on the continent?
  • Like Romania, will Ireland ever recover? They have missed 4 consecutive World Cups after having advanced out of the Group Stages in the previous 3 World Cups in which they competed.
  • Can Costa Rica take advantage of its golden generation one more time before age catches up to them?
  • Will Russia leverage home-field advantage to advance out of the Group Stages for the first time in 8 World Cups?
  • Can South Korea and Japan reverse their historical trends? Each nation has failed to advance out of the Group Stages in World Cups held in Europe. However, each country has experienced a Do Not Advance – Advance coupling for the past 5 World Cups that is slated for Advance if the trend were to continue.
  • Will Iran and / or Tunisia be able to make history? Neither country has ever advanced out of the Group Stages.

 

To continue on to Part III – click here.

 

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

 

[1] Criteria based on World Cups Made (World Cups), Matches Played (Matches), Total Goal Differential (GD), Total Points (Pts), Winning Percentage (Win %), Losing Percentage (Loss %), Per Game Goal Differential (Per Game GD), and Per Game Points (Per Game Pts).

World Cup Data Analysis: Part I – Introduction & Evaluation of Performance by Confederation

By @k2thedubs

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

 

Part I – World Cup Analysis: Introduction & Evaluation of Performance by Confederation

In anticipation of the upcoming World Cup in Russia, I decided to conduct a comprehensive statistical analysis on the World Cup. During my research, I gathered data on all World Cup results for the seven tournaments since 1990 and performed numerous analyses on the figures which illuminated a plethora of insights.

Part I of the analysis will evaluate performance by confederation through a series of exhibits.

Exhibit A: Aggregate Stats by Confederation Based on Results from 1990 – 2014

Image 1

The chart above displays aggregate stats by confederation based on the results of the last seven World Cups as well as some key per game metrics. As seen in the chart, we can glean the following insights.

UEFA and CONMEBOL dominate the World Cup

  • They lead all confederations in World Cups, Matches, Wins, Goals For, Goal Differential, Points, and Winning Percentage.
  • They have accumulated 83% of all Wins and 76% of all Goals For while only accounting for 63% of the field.
  • They are the only confederations to win the World Cup.
  • UEFA and CONMEBOL have strikingly similar per game metrics, including Goals For (1.38 and 1.39), Goals Against (1.05 and 1.01), and Points (1.60 and 1.67).

CONCACAF, CAF, and AFC are minnows at the World Cup

  • The confederations have each won 22 or fewer games cumulatively.
  • They each have won less than 25% of their matches and lost more than 49% of their matches.
  • The confederations each have a meaningfully negative Goal Differential with each worse than (0.5) per game.
  • The confederations each score less than 1.0 goals per game.
  • The confederations each do not average more than 1.0 Points per game.

CONCACAF > CAF > AFC[1]

  • Of the three, the pecking order is CONCACAF, CAF, and AFC. The confederations align in that order based on Winning Percentage, Losing Percentage, Goal Differential per game, and Points per game.

Exhibit B: Per World Cup Stats by Confederation Based on Results from 1990 – 2014

Image 2

The chart above slices the previous chart’s aggregate confederation stats into per World Cup and per Team per World Cup stats for another vantage point on the data.

Per World Cup Breakdown

  • UEFA comprises nearly half (47%) of teams at the World Cup, followed by CONMEBOL (16%), CAF (15%), AFC (12%), and CONCACAF (10%).
  • UEFA wins 60% of all matches at a World Cup followed by CONMEBOL at 23%, both of which are above their proportional representation.
  • CONCACAF, CAF, and AFC do not combine to win even 17% of all matches and average only 2-3 wins per World Cup for their entire confederation, which is less than one per team.
  • The difference in Goal Differential is stark. UEFA and CONMEBOL are significantly positive whereas CONCACAF, CAF, and AFC are significantly negative.

Per World Cup Per Team Breakdown

  • The average CONMEBOL team is strongest – they boast the best metrics in Matches, Wins, Losses, Goals For, Goals Against, Goal Differential, and Points.
  • UEFA follows closely behind CONMEBOL with the second-best metrics in each of the categories.
  • CONCACAF, CAF, and AFC trail UEFA and CONMEBOL in an orderly fashion with CONCACAF performing third-best in all categories, CAF performing fourth-best in all categories, and AFC performing last in all categories.

Exhibit C: Advancement Stats by Confederation Based on Results from 1990 – 2014

Image 3

The tables above tally the final place by confederation based on results of the last seven World Cups.

UEFA and CONMEBOL punch above their weight

  • They account for all Champions, Runner-ups, and Third Place finishes.
  • They account for 6 of 7 Fourth Place finishes.
  • They have low Group Stages elimination rates with only 37% and 24% of teams failing to survive the Group Stages.

CONCACAF, CAF, and AFC punch below their weight

  • The only country to make the Semi-Finals from a confederation other than UEFA or CONMEBOL is South Korea in 2002 where they co-hosted the World Cup and benefited from suspect refereeing.
  • They have high Group Stages elimination rates with 74% and 76% of CAF and AFC teams failing to survive the Group Stages.
  • CONCACAF fares much better in the Group Stages with less than half of its teams (43%) exiting during the Group Stages.

Exhibit D: Cumulative Advancement Stats by Confederation Based on Results from 1990 – 2014

Image 4

The tables above record the number of teams who advanced to each respective stage by confederation based on results of the last seven World Cups.

UEFA and CONMEBOL punch above their weight

  • They account for 50 of 56 (89%) of Quarter-Finals teams and 86 of 112 (77%) of Round of 16 teams.
  • 21% of participating teams from each confederation reach the Semi-Finals and approximately 40% (37% and 42%, respectively) reach the Quarter-Finals.
  • They are overrepresented, relative to their proportion of teams in the World Cup (47% for UEFA and 16% for CONMEBOL, respectively), at each stage of the knockout rounds.

CONCACAF, CAF, and AFC punch below their weight

  • They account for only 6 of 56 (11%) of Quarter-Finals teams and 26 of 112 (23%) of Round of 16 teams.
  • CONCACAF teams have performed better than expected in the Group Stages with 57% of their teams advancing to the Round of 16, which vastly exceeds CAF (26%) and AFC (24%) and only slightly trails UEFA (63%) and CONMEBOL (76%).

Exhibit E: Results by Confederation from 1990 – 2014

Image 5

Image 6

UEFA and CONMEBOL punch above their weight

  • UEFA has had 1 (5 of 7 World Cups) or 2 (2 of 7) participants in all Finals.
  • UEFA has had 1 (3 of 7 World Cups) or 2 (4 of 7) participants in all 3P / 4P games.
  • UEFA has won each of past 3 World Cups in Europe with at least 3 Semi-Finalists in each (4 of 4 in Germany 2006).
  • CONMEBOL has had 1 team in either the Finals or Semi-Finals for 5 of last 7 World Cups. No CONMEBOL teams made the Semi-Finals in 2006 and 2 CONMEBOL teams made the Semi-Finals in 2014, which was hosted in South America.
  • CONMEBOL has strengthened over the past 3 World Cups.
    • 2 QFs and 1 R16 in 2006
    • 1 SF, 3 QFs, and 1 R16 in 2010
    • 1 F, 1 SF, 1 QF, and 2 R16 in 2014
    • Only 2 teams have failed to advance from Group stages, and they finished 18th (in 2006) and 17th (in 2014), respectively.

World Cup Composition – UEFA & CONMEBOL Underrepresented and CAF & AFC Overrepresented

An analysis of the bottom 16 teams who failed to reach the knockout rounds supports the idea that UEFA and CONMEBOL are underrepresented and CAF and AFC are overrepresented.

Of the 40 teams finishing in the bottom eight of the past five World Cups, 13 (33%) have come from AFC, 10 (25%) have come from CAF, 10 (25%) have come from UEFA, 6 (15%) have come from CONCACAF, and 1 (3%) have come from CONMEBOL. The concentration of AFC and CAF teams in the bottom eight relative to their proportion of the World Cup field as well as the weakness of their aggregate confederation stats illustrates that their allocations are likely too high. In contrast, the lack of UEFA and CONMEBOL teams in the bottom eight relative to their proportion of the World Cup field as well as the strength of their aggregate confederation stats demonstrates that their allocations are likely too low.

However, it must be stated that the World Cup’s objective is not simply to field the best 32 nations but to be a global competition of the world’s best. While it may be accretive to the overall quality of the World Cup field to limit AFC, CAF, and CONCACAF to three (or fewer) teams apiece, it is unlikely FIFA will make such a radical change. That being said, there is a compelling argument for transferring a bid each from CAF and AFC to UEFA and CONMEBOL, respectively.

CONCACAF, while performing much worse than UEFA and CONMEBOL, appears to benefit from a more logical World Cup allocation than CAF and AFC. Since they have fewer spots, the highest quality nations from the region tend to earn qualification and underlings, who would be susceptible to poor performances at the World Cup, rarely make it. In contrast, since CAF and AFC are overrepresented, the weakest squads to earn qualification tend to perform poorly at the World Cup as they are largely overmatched relative to the strength of competition.

Exhibit F: Number of Teams to Advance in Knockout Rounds by Confederation from 1998 – 2014

Image 7

The table above and summary below highlight the boost that confederations receive when they host the World Cup, as measured by the number of teams reaching the respective knockout rounds in a home World Cup compared to the average number of teams reaching the respective knockout rounds across all World Cups.

Home Continent Advantage by Knockout Round

  • UEFA (1998 and 2006)
    • R16
      • 10 teams – 1.8 teams ahead of average
      • 10 teams – 1.8 teams ahead of average
    • QF
      • 6 teams – 1.4 teams ahead of average
      • 6 teams – 1.4 teams ahead of average
    • SF
      • 3 teams – 0.2 teams ahead of average
      • 4 teams – 1.2 teams ahead of average
    • F
      • 1 team – 0.4 teams behind average
      • 2 teams – 0.6 teams ahead of average
  • AFC (2002)
    • R16
      • 2 teams – 1.0 teams ahead of average
    • QF
      • 1 team – 0.8 teams ahead of average
    • SF
      • 1 team – 0.8 teams ahead of average
    • F
      • N/A
  • CAF (2010)
    • R16
      • 1 team – 0.2 teams behind average
    • QF
      • 1 team – 0.6 teams ahead of average
    • SF
      • N/A
    • F
      • N/A
  • CONMEBOL (2014)
    • R16
      • 5 teams – 1.2 teams ahead of average
    • QF
      • 3 teams – 0.6 teams ahead of average
    • SF
      • 2 teams – 1.0 teams ahead of average
    • F
      • 1 team – 0.4 teams ahead of average

Exhibit G: Composite Results by Confederation Based on Actual Results from 1998 – 2014

Image 8

The table above displays a composite of World Cup performance by confederation based on the average results of the past five World Cups since the field expanded to 32 teams. Please note this analysis does not adjust for geography. Please also note that for the upcoming World Cup, the final spot (which is the composite of CONCACAF, AFC, and OFC based on playoff results) will be a fifth team from AFC – Australia.

 

To continue on to Part II – click here.

 

[1] This pecking order is not as straightforward as it seems. Part IV of this analysis will delve deeper into the comparative performance of these confederations.

The State of US Soccer: A Report Card on the USSF based on an Analysis of the USMNT’s International Tournament Results from 1990 until Today

By @k2thedubs

 

In light of the USMNT’s dismal defeat to Trinidad & Tobago, which knocked them out of the World Cup and gave rise to a plethora of opinions on the state of the USMNT, I decided to perform a rigorous data-driven analysis of the USMNT’s results to crystallize my evaluation of the national team and the USSF.

I’ve undergone a painstaking process to analyze and catalog key data on match details, such as date, location, opponent, manager, line-up, result, and score, from the last 27 years of international tournament competition which included 144 matches across five competitions – World Cup, Confederations Cup, Copa America, Gold Cup, and the Olympics – to assess any trends, good, bad, or indifferent, in USMNT performance.

Without much further ado, let’s dive into the findings and lessons learned, which are as follows.

Many Key USMNT Players Participated in the Olympics and Confederations Cups

The 1999 Confederations Cup team, which finished 4th, featured 8 players who competed in the 2002 World Cup (Friedel, Keller, Agoos, Berhalter, Hejduk, Lewis, Stewart, McBride), and the 2000 Olympics team, which also finished 4th, featured 5 starters from the 2002 World Cup opening game win over Portugal (Friedel, Agoos, Hejduk, O’Brien, Donovan) in addition to Tim Howard and Josh Wolff who started on the bench.

The 2008 Olympics team, which did not advance from the group stages, featured many key players in the 2009 Confederations Cup (Guzan, Bradley, Feilhaber, Kljestan, Altidore, Davies) and 2010 World Cup (Guzan, Bradley, Feilhaber, Edu, Altidore). Moreover, the 2009 Confederations Cup team, which finished 2nd, featured 11 of 15 (73%) starters of 2010 World Cup games (Howard, DeMerit, Onyewu, Bocanegra, Bornstein, Bradley, Clark, Donovan, Torres, Dempsey, Altidore).

Look at those names. A majority of the key players from the 2002 and 2010 World Cup teams gained invaluable international experience in the Confederations Cup and the Olympics leading up to the World Cup.

Lesson Learned – It’s critically important to qualify for international tournaments (duh)!

No Discernible Difference in Manager Performance

The table below displays USMNT managerial performance by competition. As the table illustrates, there is startlingly little difference in results amongst the managers. With the exception of Arena’s second stint as manager (where his only international competition was the 2017 Gold Cup), the five most recent managers all won between 57% and 62% of their matches, lost between 29% and 33% of their matches (with the exception of Sampson who lost 44% of his matches as he did not tie any games), and tied between 10% and 12% of their matches.

State of US Soccer Image 1

I utilized another analysis to analyze managerial performance based on difficulty of opponent whereby I assigned each opponent a tier[1], rating 1-5, based upon the strength of the opponent. Tier 1 represents elite teams who regularly compete to win the World Cup (Top 8 teams: Brazil, Germany, Spain, etc…). Tier 2 represents teams that consistently make World Cups and expect to advance out of the group stages (Top 9 – 20 teams: The Netherlands, Uruguay, Portugal, etc…). Tier 3 represents teams that make World Cups but are not regularly expected to advance out of the group stages (Top 20-50 teams: Poland, Paraguay, Ghana, etc…). Tier 4 represents teams that rarely make the World Cup but are not complete push-overs (Top 50-100 teams: Honduras, Jamaica, Algeria). Tier 5 represents teams ranked outside of the top 100 and are very easy to defeat (Cuba, El Salvador, Grenada, etc…).

State of US Soccer Image 2

Several distinct trends stand out after reviewing this table. First, USMNT performance is strongly correlated with the level of the opponent. The USMNT winning percentage and losing percentage goes from 19% and 76% to 35% and 50% to 49% and 33% to 90% and 7% to 100% and 0% as we transition from tier 1 through tier 5. These metrics show that the US has feasted upon CONCACAF minnows who comprise most of its Tier 4 and Tier 5 opponents, played decently against similar caliber components in tier 3 as it has won approximately half of its matches, and played poorly against stronger teams from tier 2 and tier 1 where it was won approximately a third and a fifth of its matches against opponents from those respective tiers.

In assessing overall managerial performance, as mentioned above, there is no meaningful difference to discern between the managers, though there does appear to be a shifting trend in the composition of recent performance, as evidenced both by fewer wins against tier 1 and tier 2 teams and more losses and ties against tier 4 teams. Since 2007 when Bob Bradley became manager, the US has only won two games against tier 1 or 2 opponents with an overall record of 2-11-2. The two wins both came more than eight years ago with Bradley-helmed teams defeating Mexico in the 2007 Gold Cup Final and Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup Semi-Final. Offsetting this underperformance against stronger competition, the USMNT has outperformed against tier 3 opponents with Bradley, Klinsmann, and Arena performing better than their predecessors against this subset.

Lesson Learned – US Managers have performed roughly the same since 1990 based on overall results. Over the past ten years (with Bradley, Klinsmann, and Arena in charge), the USMNT’s underperformance against stronger opponents (tier 1 and tier 2) was offset by improved performance against similar quality opponents (tier 3).

USMNT Performance (and Quality) Has Been Slipping Against CONCACAF Foes

The table below displays Gold Cup results by decade and reveals a sobering trend.

State of US Soccer Image 3

As evidenced by the table above, the USMNT’s performance in the Gold Cup has declined over the past three decades. In the 1990’s, the USMNT won every match besides two finals defeats to Mexico and a semi-final loss to Brazil, none of which can be viewed as a bad result.

In the 2000’s, the USMNT fared well winning three Gold Cups (’02, ’05, and ’07) and 84% of its matches but started to show cracks against CONCACAF foes who previously could not earn a result against the US with ties against Costa Rica and Haiti.

In the 2010’s, the USMNT officially shed its veneer of invincibility against CONCACAF opponents. In a decade where the US faced no CONMEBOL teams in the Gold Cup, the USMNT performed its worse with its lowest winning percentage despite not facing any nations from South America who are more challenging than their CONCACAF counterparts. Additionally, the US struggled mightily with Panama, losing twice and tying twice, and lost to Jamaica.

Lesson Learned – The US is falling behind and losing ground to its CONCACAF opponents.

Some Stereotypes are True (Even Resoundingly So)

The following tables, while informative and revealing, do not demand in-depth analysis so I will keep my discussion brief.

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Lesson Learned – Where games are played matter. The US performs best on its home continent (74% winning percentage) and wins less than half of its games on every other continent with particularly miserable results in Europe (7% winning percentage, 1-11-3 record) and South America (27% winning percentage).

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Lesson Learned – The confederation of the opponent matters. Similar to playing in Europe or South America, the USMNT struggles tremendously against teams from UEFA (11% winning percentage, 3-15-9 record) and CONMEBOL (26% winning percentage). The US has performed well (though to a lesser extent recently) against CONCACAF (83% winning percentage). The US has a slight advantage in matches against African (5-3-2 record) and Asian (5-2-1) opponents, though the 4-0 Olympic record against Asian teams slightly distorts the record against Asia.

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Lesson Learned – There is a stark contrast in performance relative to the level of competition. Said differently, the level of competition, rather than USMNT performance / quality, has been key determinant of results. The table displays a woeful record against tier 1 and tier 2 opponents in all competitions with the exception of tier 2 opponents in World Cups where the USMNT has defeated Colombia in 1994 and Portugal and Mexico in 2002 (more on that later). Overall, the USMT has a good record against tier 3-5 opponents besides tier 3 opponents in World Cups where the US has been dominated (mainly by UEFA teams as well Ghana, South Korea, and Iran) to a pitiful 1-9-3 record.

In terms of the competitions themselves, the US has performed approximately the same in Confederations Cups and Copa Americas, winning approximately 37% of matches, losing 57% of matches, and tying 6% of matches. In the World Cup, results are more dire. The US has won less than 20% of its matches and has lost nearly 60% of its matches. In addition, the US has won only 5 World Cup matches total and will have just 2 World Cup victories to show for the 20-year period following the 2002 World Cup leading up to the 2022 World Cup.

Now that we have discussed the data, let’s interpret the information and draw conclusions.

The Failure to Qualify for Recent Tournaments Prevented Vital Opportunities for Development and Experience

The failure to qualify for 3 of the last 4 Olympics (including 2 consecutive) and 3 of the last 4 Confederations Cup (including 2 consecutive) is an underdiscussed topic and a significant disappointment as many key players were deprived of invaluable tournament experience against international competition. Virtually every key player in the modern era of the USMNT benefited from participation in one or both of these tournaments. The list includes Keller, Friedel, Howard, Agoos, Lalas, Hejduk, Beasley, Reyna, Bradley, Harkes, Donovan, Dempsey, Stewart, McBride, and Altidore and encompasses each member of the top 27 all-time cap leaders.

Pay attention to the age of those players. Only Howard, Bradley, Dempsey, and Altidore have played in one of those tournaments since 2002. It’s no surprise that they have been the backbone of the USMNT over the past decade. There has been a notable void of key players in the shadow of these failures, and the USMNT has lost multiple generations of players through lack of qualification for these tournaments.

The evidence corroborates this conclusion. Besides the 2014 World Cup, the US qualified for the Olympics and experienced Confederations Cup success before each of the World Cups (’94, ’02, and ’10) it advanced out of the group stage. In contrast, with the exception of the 1996 Olympics, the US did not qualify for the Olympics or the Confederations Cup prior to each of the World Cups (’98, ’06, and ’18) it failed to advance out of the group stages.

Though Olympic qualification out of CONCACAF should be a slam dunk for the United States, it has demonstrated a repeated inability to do so, and while it is more difficult to qualify for the Confederations Cup, it is telling that the USMNT’s struggles in Confederations Cup qualification have coincided with declining performance during the same periods. I can’t help but wonder if the USMNT’s failure to qualify for World Cup 2018 would have occurred if they had the experience of playing in the 2017 Confederations Cup, which, lest we forget, was the result of two separate failures – losing the 2015 Gold Cup and losing the 2015 CONCACAF Cup playoff, each to Mexico. Missing these tournaments is a big deal and should not be taken lightly. The USMNT’s recurring failures in qualification illustrate the USSF’s systematic breakdowns in all facets of the game over many years.

The Player Pool Has Weakened Over Time

Contrary to popular opinion, I believe the findings of my analysis demonstrate that the player pool has weakened over time. I will concede that the pool has more depth (with more players in contention for roster spots), but the top 15 players has absolutely weakened. Please refer to the table below which shows the starters by positional group for matches at the 2002 World Cup, 2010 World Cup, 2014 World Cup, and 2017 World Cup qualification loss to Trinidad & Tobago.

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Let’s first evaluate each positional group before delving into discussion on the teams by vintage. In terms of goalkeeper, it’s mostly a wash as Friedel compares similarly to Howard in 2010 and Howard in 2014, though 2017 Howard is clearly the weakest of the bunch. In terms of defenders, there’s not a huge disparity amongst the four groups, though I’d contend there’s a declining trend from 2002 to 2017 (though it’s arguable that the 2014 group is superior to the 2010 group).

In terms of midfielders, the 2002 group is clearly the class of the bunch with Reyna in his prime, a healthy O’Brien and in-form Mastroeni, Stewart, Lewis, and Beasley.  The 2010, 2014, and 2017 renditions all feature players who epitomize the weakness of the top-end of the player pool. Clark, Torres, Edu, Davis, Zusi, and Arriola are all well below the standard internationally. Also, note the lack of quality wingers and 1-v-1 ability in the 2010, 2014, and 2017 (besides Pulisic) midfielder groups.

In terms of forwards, the 2002 group is once again the top group. McBride, Donovan, and Mathis formed a potent trio and provided three unique scoring threats with Wolff adding some verve off the bench.  The 2010 and 2014 groups are particularly dire. In hindsight, Findley and Gomez were nowhere near the level required for a World Cup, and Altidore was goalless in four starts in 2010. In 2014, Altidore was injured in game one and Dempsey was left as a lone forward, further illustrating the lack of reliable attacking options. 2017 Wood and Altidore were mercurial more than dependable but they comprise the second strongest group of forwards.

This analysis is quite revealing. The 2002 World Cup team is clearly the strongest, boasting the best group of forwards and midfielders with arguably the best goalkeeper and defenders of the bunch. Moreover, this group was far more balanced, well-rounded, and devoid of glaring weaknesses that beset the 2010, 2014, and 2017 teams. 2002 had strong center defenders, up-and-down outside backs, box-to-box midfielders, wide midfielders, and multiple forward options. The 2010 team lacked speed, width, and dynamism in attack. The 2014 team lacked creativity in the midfield and struggled to generate quality attacking chances. The 2017 team combined many of these flaws with the addition of overreliance on Pulisic to create and score goals.

Opportunism (Rather Than Any Material Uptick in Performance) is the Basis of Greatest Successes

I discussed in greater length here, but I will provide a quick overview of the opportunism that went the USMNT’s way in each of its greatest successes of the past 27 years.

1994 World Cup (Advanced to R16) – The US i) won 1 game (2-1 over Colombia), ii) played as the host nation, and iii) advanced despite finishing third place in its group.

2002 World Cup (Advanced to QF) – The US i) won 1 game (3-2 over Portugal, which nearly blew 3-0 lead) in the group stages and ii) laid an egg in its final game (1-3 loss to Poland, who was already eliminated from the tournament) only to be saved by a late South Korea goal vs Portugal.

2009 Confederations Cup (Runner-Up) – The US i) won 1 game (3-0 over Egypt) in the group stages, ii) lost twice badly in the group stages (1-3 to Italy and 0-3 to Brazil), and iii) advanced on the heels of an extremely favorable result (Brazil 3-0 over Italy).

2010 World Cup (Advanced to R16) – The US i) won 1 game (1-0 over Algeria with Donovan goal in stoppage time) and ii) secured a vital point vs England where a Dempsey shot from distance fell through the goalie’s hands.

2014 World Cup (Advanced to R16) – The US i) won 1 game (2-1 over Ghana) and ii) was thoroughly dominated in games against Germany and Belgium.

I wrote the following in the article linked above.

“It’s interesting to note that both highs (2002 World Cup and 2009 Confederations Cup) were only made possible by extremely fortuitous occurrences in the group stages. Had South Korea not beaten Portugal or had Brazil not beaten Italy 3-0, the United States’ two shining moments would never have occurred and the United States tournament results would appear quite bleak. “

“…the U.S. did not play two, let alone three, complete matches in any of the group stages of the five tournaments analyzed (World Cups in 1990, 1994, 1998, 2006, and 2010), proving two key points. One, these tournaments are tough, grueling affairs that are as much about survival as playing perfect soccer. It is rare for any team, aside from the superpowers, to play three complete games in the group stages of any major international tournament. Two, the U.S. has been nothing more than a slightly-above-average team, capable of beating great teams but equally capable of struggling against weaker teams.”

With the benefit of hindsight, I’d like to revise and clarify the aforementioned statements. Related to the first paragraph, I think it’s vital to emphasize that the USMNT’s two shining moments would never have happened if not for two extremely fortuitous results outside of the USMNT’s control. Related to the second paragraph, I would revise slightly above-average team to average team and reframe the closing point. The USMNT can beat a great team (in the sense that it has happened occasionally in the past) but there is no evidence to support the notion that the USMNT is capable of consistently competing with the best teams or is making up ground against the top 20 teams in the world.

In contrast, the evidence points more convincingly in the other direction. The US has yet to play an international tournament where it has single-handedly earned advancement. Let that sink in. Sure, the US has advanced in past tournaments but it’s entirely plausible (as outlined above) that the US could stand in 2017 with never having advanced from the group stages of an international tournament if not for a few surprising (to say the least), fortuitous results and one or two lucky bounces.

Takeaway / Parting Thoughts

While I have limited my discussion in the preceding sections to the empirical evidence, my findings, and conclusions drawn, I will allow myself to editorialize in my closing paragraphs.

The consensus punditry and media opinion that the US is improving is specious and divorced from reality. The USMNT has yet to play three complete performances in the group stages of any international tournament in the modern era. Given the sample size, this is not a fluke. This is a pattern. This is indicative of the quality of US soccer and an indictment of the program and the notion of “progress”. I think this is unacceptable. We should not be content with the past 27 years of results and the current path the ship of US soccer is on. The potential in our country is enormous and it is being squandered by the USSF.

While I recognize the loss to Trinidad & Tobago and failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup has served as a wakeup call for the common fan, in reality, the writing has been on the wall for years. The underlying issues have persisted under the reign of multiple managers and scores of different players so the common denominator is the powers to be at the USSF.

Based on the findings, the USSF deserves significant criticism. The USMNT has failed to qualify for the most recent World Cup, 3 of the last 4 Confederations Cups, 3 of the last 4 Olympics, and multiple youth national team tournaments in the past decade and a half. Furthermore, the USMNT has only beaten two top 20 teams in the world in a competitive tournament in the past fifteen years and has demonstrated a deterioration in performance against regional opponents in the Gold Cup. This article and these damning statistics focus solely on the results and do not delve into the style of play, which can best be characterized as pragmatic, rudimentary, and unimaginative, or the inability to produce international-caliber players.

For a country of our size, resources, and interest in soccer, these results are indefensible, especially when considering the strength (or lack thereof) of our region relative to the rest of the world. For Gulati and the USSF to claim growth and progress is inaccurate (our growth trails the rest of the world so by growing more slowly we are falling behind) and misses the big picture.

The potential in this country is immense and has been artificially stifled by the monopoly that is the USSF who are denying and turning away billions of dollars (literally!) of investment to preserve the exclusionary, closed system that has stifled any meaningful progress relative to the rest of the world.

We have often been told to “build a better mousetrap” (here and here). Without dwelling on the inauthenticity or disingenuousness of that remark, I’d respond no. The USSF has monopolized soccer in this country for too long and actively prohibits someone from building a better mousetrap. We need to open the soccer ecosystem (yes this means promotion and relegation) in this country. Exponential growth will only come from opening the soccer pyramid where billions of dollars of investment and true market incentives will spur actual change. We should demand so much more from our country. We should demand more than a fluke ability to defeat top teams. We should demand an equitable market that allows access to everyone and permits the cream to rise to the top.

[1] The full breakdown of opponents by tier is available and can be provided if requested. Moreover, I put in a significant amount of time compiling this data and am happy to share with anyone who would like to use it. This information is all factual, and, frankly, the dialogue surrounding the USMNT and the USSF can be enhanced if more people are exposed to and digest the data.

 

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Putin Says Sepp Blatter Deserves Nobel Prize, World’s Population Turns It’s Head

Fromm CNN:

Embattled FIFA President Sepp Blatter deserves a Nobel Prize for his work leading world soccer’s governing body, according to Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Russia’s President made the comments in an interview with Swiss broadcaster RTS that was released Monday, two days after he and Blatter had gathered on stage in St. Petersburg for the preliminary draw for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

“I believe that people like Mr. Blatter, the heads of major international sports federations, deserve special attention and gratitude from public organizations,” Putin said. “If anyone should be awarded Nobel Prizes, it is these people.”

I read this article and I laughed because at first glance I thought maybe I was on The Onion instead of CNN. Vladimir Putin, as we all know, is not a good judge of character. In fact he’s not a good man at all. But after reading this I think he is either the biggest troll of all time or going insane because even a stupid sane man would never say something like this. I mean look at the below timeline:

This is not even to mention the thousands of migrant workers in unmarked graves in Qatar and the economic effects World Cups have on host countries because of FIFA’s insane demands. This is easily the most absurd thing I have ever heard. I can’t wait till he’s gone. We’re almost there.