World Cup 2014 Simulation: Who Will Advance Through the Knockout Stages to Win the World Cup

Who will advance through the knockout stages of the World Cup, and go all the win to be crowned 2014 FIFA World Cup champions?

The previous article analyzed the group stages of the 2014 World Cup. Using a computer simulation that generated estimated goal amounts based on each team’s Elo Rating (ER) as of May 18, 2014, the outcomes of each match were determined by random numbers from a Poisson distribution. The tournament was simulated half a million times.

The value of the simulation is not determining what teams are most likely to advance. The use of seeding in World Cup groups, as well as common sense, reveals that much. What the simulations provide are percentage likelihoods of each outcome. If you want to know how likely it is that Brazil will finish fourth in their group (0.11% without home field advantage (HFA), then a simulation is the best way to do so.

Of course, simulations reflect the assumptions of the author. This study has two main assumptions:

1. That ER from is a valid measure of the relative strength of each team

2. That the estimated goals algorithm used to feed the Poisson generator is reasonable.

Home Field Advantage

As described in the previous article, whether or not to include home field advantage (HFA) for Brazil was a difficult decision. After looking at each set of results and the dramatically different outcomes they predict, it was decided to use the results with HFA included. Since only Brazil benefits from this inclusion, the obvious difference is that including HFA increases Brazil’s chances of winning the 2014 World Cup.

The Round of 16

The sixteen teams advancing to the elimination rounds of the tournament do not have an equal chance to win the tournament. If strong groups cluster together in the original draw, then the teams advancing from the group stages will have more difficult Round of 16 (R16) matches. Nowhere is this more evident than in Group A and Group B.

With HFA included, Brazil wins their group 96% of the time. This means that either Spain or the Netherlands will likely face Brazil in the R16. 41% of the time this will be the Netherlands, 25% of the time it will be Spain. This difficult round is reflected in their odds of advancing to the quarterfinals. Spain fails to make the quarterfinals 27% of the time. The Netherlands fail to advance from the R16 63% of the time they advance from the group stages. It is amazing that the team ranked fifth in the world by ER has only a 24% chance overall of advancing to the quarterfinals. It is also worth mentioning that Chile has only a 10% chance of making the quarterfinals despite being ranked tenth in the world. Surprisingly, Nigeria has a better chance of making the quarterfinals than Chile.

There are three teams with very favorable draws. Most obvious is Germany. Although in the second strongest group, they are still forecast to dominate and finish first. They then play the second best team in the worst group of the tournament. This will be either Russia or Belgium. Germany has an 84% chance to advance to the quarterfinals, just barely behind Brazil’s percentage. Portugal also benefits from the group match up and has a 46% chance to reach the quarterfinals.

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