World Cup Observations from Analytics Pros | Analytics Pros

World Cup Observations from Analytics Pros

Posted by David Sheffield on June 9, 2014

World Cup football

In less than a week, the largest global sporting event kicks off in São Paulo Brazil—2014 FIFA World Cup. It’s the 20th World Cup Tournament. Since Seattle has become Soccer crazy with the rise of Seattle Sounders FC and the MLS, we at Analytics Pros felt it was time once again do some sporting analytics (also know as statistics) analysis.

A friend of mine recently lamented European countries’ lack of success in the World Cup on American soil. In fact, Europeans have won 10 of the 19 World Cup titles with 9 of those championships occurring in Europe and only one outside of Europe (Spain 2010 in South Africa). South Americans have won all other 9 World Cup titles, while the host country has won 6 of 19 World Cup titles. All of this bodes well for this year’s host country and most prolific World Cup country, Brazil.

Is Brazil Ready for the World Cup?

Brazil is hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup for the first time since 1950. In the lead-up to the Copa do Mundo 2014, there have been well publicized civil unrest and protests just a year ago during the Confederations Cup, with up to a million people taking to the streets in over 100 Brazilian cities, raising concerns over Brazil’s ability to provide security for world soccer fans traveling to the World Cup. The intensity stemmed from anger over the amount of funds spent to build the 12 new stadiums to host the tournament. There are also concerns over logistics and transportation. Will Brazil’s infrastructure be able to support the crowd surge traveling for matches, as well as its airport system’s ability to facilitate in-bound flights?

Despite these legitimate concerns, there is no denying that on the pitch Brazil is a World Cup monster. Brazil has won the most World Cup titles (5), scored the most Copa goals (210), and is the only team to compete in all 19 World Cup tournaments. Further, you have to go all the way back to 1966 (in England) to find the last time Brazil failed to advance beyond the group stage. Said another way, Brazil has advanced to the Knockout Round of 16 for 11 straight World Cups, starting in 1970.

World Cup Powerhouses

Four countries stand head and shoulders above all others in all World Cup competitions: Brazil, Germany, Italy and Argentina. While Brazil has competed in all World Cups, Germany and Italy have competed in 17 World Cups. If you combined East and West Germany as one country (207 points), Brazil would still lead the all time World Cup table in terms of points, titles and goals per game.

The United States is number 25 on all time world cup list in terms of total points with 26 points, 9 World Cup participations and a 1.10 goals per games and currently ranked #21 by Nate Silver’s Soccer Power Index. It’s argued that the quality of USA soccer is improving, as exhibited with the development of the MLS. However, FIFA did the United States no favors with its draw in Group G, which includes Germany (#4), Portugal (#14) and Ghana (#32).

Top 4 All Time World Cup Countries + USA

Rank Country World Cups Points Titles Goals/Games
1 Brazil 19 216 5 2.16
2 Germany 17 199 3 2.08
3 Italy 17 153 4 1.58
4 Argentina 15 124 2 1.76
25 USA 9 26 1.10


Breaking Down the Teams

Ghana has been a bit of an enigma for the United States when it comes to the Copa. USA is 0-2 vs. Ghana and 2:4 in Aggregate—all in the World Cup. Loss in 2006 World Cup and a loss in 2010 World Cup.
I’m making the bold prediction that the United States will beat Ghana on June 16, 2014. Team USA has looked improved in their lead up to the Copa.

Mexico leads North America with 14 World Cup appearances and 49 points. An interesting fact: in the last 5 World Cups, Mexico has advanced from the Group Stage only to get knocked out in the next Round of 16.

Most Prolific Scoring Country in the World Cup

Hungary – 87 goals in 32 games = 2.72 Goals/Game Played

Based on its resume, I would have expected that it would be Brazil, but Hungary scores 0.55 goals per game more than Brazil.

Most Surprising World Cup Team to Me

Sweden – I think of Sweden as primarily a winter sport country, strong in hockey and other sports at the winter Olympics. Sweden ranks 10th all-time World Cups with 61 pts and having competed in 11 World Cups.

Worst Country of All Time

El Salvador – 0-6 – 0 pts – -21 point differential

Worst Country in a Single World Cup

Zaire – 0-3 – 0 pts – -14 point differential

My Predictions for the World Cup Tournament

Predictions – Winner – Runner Up
Group A – Brazil & Mexico
Group B – Chile & Spain
Group C – Ivory Coast & Columbia
Group D – Uruguay & Italy
Group E – Switzerland & Ecuador
Group F – Argentina & Bosnia-Herzegovina
Group G – Germany & Portugal
Group H – Belgium & Russia

Final Four
Spain, Uruguay, Argentina,Germany

2014 World Cup Champion

– by David Sheffield

Business Director
Analytics Pros, Inc.


Sources used to make this analysis:
Wikipedia World Cup
Wikipedia All-Time FIFA World Cup Table
Business Insider Article
Nate Silver SPI