FIFA Wold Cup 2018: Germany most likely to win, predicts UBS

The logo of the soccer World Cup 2018 in Russia is drawn in light at the Aurora Cruiser during a light show marking the centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution in St.Petersburg, Russia. (Photo: AP/PTI)

With barely a month remaining for the FIFA World Cup to begin in Russia, a recent study by UBS attaches a 60 per cent likelihood that the winner will be one among Germany, Brazil and Russia. Germany, it predicts, has the highest probability – 24 per cent – to lift the winner’s trophy as compared to the other participating nations.

Simulations indicate no country has higher odds of winning the tournament than Germany, leading the table with a likelihood of 24 per cent. Brazil and Spain also stand a good chance of lifting the trophy, with chances of 19.8 and 16.1 per cent respectively. Host nation Russia will start in the Cup’s weakest group and is expected to progress to the round of 16, where it is likely to lose against Spain or Portugal,” UBS says.

To zero in on the winner, UBS uses econometric tools, usually applied to assess investment opportunities. Germany, Brazil and Spain are the top three teams in the tournament as per Elo rating, which UBS believes is an objective measure of team strength that looks at things like how well the teams have played in the past, victories against stronger teams etc.

While Germany and Brazil are set for an easy start, Spain will have to hit the ground running if they are to beat Portugal, the current European champions, in their opening game. From there, the going will get tougher for Spain and Brazil, who will possibly face Argentina and England, respectively, in the quarterfinals. Both are former champions, UBS says.

On the other hand, Argentina’s fate will strongly depend on the form of their star players, which, in UBS’ view, is an element of uncertainty and hard to capture with our quantitative model.

Russia versus Saudi Arabia, Portugal versus Spain, Argentina versus Croatia, Saudi Arabia versus Egypt and England versus Belgium will be the five most exciting matches to watch, UBS says.

Surprisingly, four-time champions and twice runners-up, Italy, failed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup 2018. Since 1930, they’ve only missed two other tournaments, the first not because they didn’t qualify, but because the team decided not to undertake the long journey to Uruguay.

Back in 2014, Goldman Sachs had predicted Brazil to win the FIFA World Cup in that year. It constructed a stochastic model that generated a distribution of outcomes for each of the 64 matches of the FIFA World Cup 2014, from the opener between Brazil and Croatia to the final on July 13 in Rio de Janeiro.

The model favoured Brazil to win the World Cup, with Argentina and Germany next most favoured but much lower down in probability. Brazil, Germany, Argentina and Spain were expected to reach the semi-finals, and suggested that Brazil would beat Argentina in the final.

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