It is incredibly hard to predict the winner of the Soccer World Cup, about to kick off in Brazil. Of course, most soccer fans would ideally love to see their own country winning the coveted trophy, but there is a big difference between wishful thinking and playing the odds statistically.
The advantage of home turf
For those neutral fans, many would pick Brazil to win. They have won the tournament on 5 separate occasions and are the only team ever to have appeared in all of the World Cups. And of course, there is home team advantage.
However, when Brazil last hosted their last World Cup sixty years ago, they were beaten in the final by Uruguay. Of course it’s a completely different squad now, but if one looks back at South Africa in 2010, the host nation did not even progress to the second round after losing to Uruguay in the group stages and it looks as if Uruguay could be a bogey team for some of the favourites going into this year’s competition again.
It’s all about goals
So if home ground advantage isn’t the best way to go about placing bets on the winner of the tournament, what else should one consider? In order to win a match, you need to score goals. So this simple logic could be applied to the form shown in the qualifying rounds where Argentina scored the most goals by a long way. So what about Argentina lifting the trophy? With the likes of Lionel Messi – arguably the world’s best striker – goals should not be hard to come by for the Argentinians. However, Messi struggled in the 2010 tournament. However, they looked well on course in 2010, having scored heaps of goals past their opponents, before being thrashed by the Germans 4-0, thereby ending their charge to the finals. This then begs another question. How good is the defense?
Defense needs to be solid
It’s all good and well to have a set of strikers that can net your team all the goals it needs, but if you have a porous defense you’re quickly back to the drawing board. Looking again at the qualifying rounds, Colombia may not have scored the most goals, but they nevertheless conceded the least, making one wonder if this nation could be a dark horse.
On average, fewer goals seem to be scored in World Cup games, simply due to the higher level of competition and somewhat less flair shown, as teams seem to play far more conservatively. This could play into the hands of teams like Colombia. And with the top 10 goalkeepers scheduled to appear in Brazil for the tournament, goals will be even harder to score.
What about Spain?
Many members of Spain’s squad seem still be around for this year’s tournament, but do the defending champions have what it takes to repeat 2010? The squad is after all 4 years older and they do not have the same unbeaten momentum going into Brazil as they did leading up to South Africa.