The 2018 FIFA World Cup is finally upon us, and the excitement levels are rising at Soccer-Mad Boffins HQ!
It wouldn’t be a World Cup without wall charts, office sweep-stakes, and arguments about which teams will progress from the Group Stages and ultimately win the tournament!
Official FIFA world rankings have Germany in the number one spot (1558 points), with Brazil in second place (with 1431 points).
Behind them the rest of the top-ten is more bunched on points; Belgium, Portugal, Argentina, Switzerland, France, Poland, Chile, and Spain are all strong teams. Snapping their heels are Peru (just 1 point behind the Spanish), then Denmark and England, Uruguay, Mexico, Columbia and the Netherlands.
As Kuper and Syzmanski correctly identify, one of the most exciting things about football is that any team can beat another ‘on their day’. It is the unpredictability and the hope of a giant-killing or a freak score-line that often has us on the edge of our seats.
In 1950 the USA's part-timers beat England, ‘the home of football’ by 1-0. Even between two heavyweight teams, there can be unpredictable score-lines - in 2014 who predicted that Germany would thrash Brazil so convincingly 7-1?
Whilst FIFA rankings suggest that either Germany or Brazil are most likely to win this year’s World Cup, if either or both have an early exit then it looks as though the trophy could be any one’s.
Belgium, Uruguay or Switzerland as finalists? England to progress beyond the Quarter-Finals?
Just for fun, here at Soccer-Mad Boffins we made our own predictions using a World Cup spread-sheet downloaded from http://www.excely.com/football/2018-fifa-world-cup-schedule.shtml.
According to Alex’s calculations, Germany and Brazil will both reach the finals, with the German’s emerging as winners by a score-line of 2-1. Third place will go to Portugal who will beat France 3-1 in the 3rd/4th place play-off.
Meanwhile, Kevin also predicts a Germany – Brazil final, with Germany winning 1-0 in a slightly more cautious or evenly-matched 90 minutes. Kevin’s 3rd/4th place play-off is between Uruguay and Argentina – with Uruguay winning 2-1.
Just for fun we also conducted ‘the random world cup’ by rolling two dice. The random factor generated some very interesting results. Here are some highlights:
- Saudi Arabia to win Group A, Costa Rica to win Group E (with Brazil finishing bottom with just 1 point), and Tunisia to win Group G (England in second place, with Belgium surprisingly in third place and failing to progress).
- The dice took Denmark, Mexico, Argentina, and Switzerland into the semi-finals, with dramatic results: Firstly Mexico beat Denmark 5-2 in a seven-goal thriller, then Switzerland (the home of FIFA) dominated Argentine 6-0 to earn their place in the final.
- The 3rd/4th place play-off was another goal-feast: Argentina beating Denmark 3-2, to claim ‘bronze’ (if this were the Olympic Games!)
- World Cup Finals are often something of an anticlimax and ours was no exception with Switzerland winning 1-0 against Mexico, perhaps after a contentious penalty decision involving the use of the newly introduced VAR, leading to accusations in the English papers of a FIFA inside job!
We can't wait for the tournament to unfold and to see which of our predictions most resembles reality. Which teams will emerge as a surprise package and shock the favorites? Which players will hit form and have a breakout tournament? Will the beautiful game or parking the bus triumph? It's almost time to find out!