With the World Cup starting next Thursday I’m sure plenty are filling out those prediction forms at work and school. It may not be much help but here’s some quick advice based on the statistics of questions people are often asked to answer.
1. Qualifying: In terms of qualifying for the last 16 it's not always plain sailing for the top two teams in a group. If we a use (and trust) the FIFA rankings to categorise teams, from 'the real pot C and D' teams in groups over the last 4 world cups (since it became a 32 team competition), 14% of the 128 teams on the lower end of the relative rankings progress to the last 16. The advice: Mostly include favourites to qualfiy from the group but choose 4-5 teams that are not expected to qualify from the group.
2. Goals Scored: There was an average of 156 goals scored over the last 4 World Cups. France 98’ saw the most goals ever scored in a World Cup at 171. This has reduced since to 161,147, and 145 respectively. There has been an average of 2.44 goals scored per game over the last 4 competitions. The advice: use the average as a benchmark and perhaps guess a maximum of 12 goals either side.
3. Golden Boot: There maybe another case of the cursed prolific goalscorer here. In the 19 World Cups to date only 25% of the top goal scorers have played for the champions (Schiavio – joint for Italy in 1934, Ademir for Brazil in 1950, Kempes for Agentina in 1978 and Ronaldo for Brazil in 2002). Just looking again at the last 4 world cups the top goal scorers have all played the maximum 7 games (Suker-Croatia 1998, Ronaldo-Brazil 2002, Klose-Germany 2006 & Mueller-Germany 2010) The advice: Choose an attacking player you believe will get to the end of the competition (third place play-off or final). He does not necessarily have to be in the winning team.
4. Winner: As Robbie Butler has suggested “the average age of the winning team since 1994 has been 27.75 years. Brazil’s most capped 18 will be aged 27.56 years.” Also only 1 in 5 World Cups have been won by nations outside of the host continent so the advice would be to stick with the bookies favourites, given that Brazil tick these two boxes of age and geography.... Their not bad footballers either..!
If these don’t help you may need to make friends with a mystic octopus or alternatively familiarise yourself with Stephen Hawking’s World Cup math!