Saturday 21 September 2019

UBS ran 10,000 World Cup simulations and here’s who they think will win

And what of England’s chances?

Is football coming home? (Mike Egerton/PA)
Is football coming home? (Mike Egerton/PA)

By Max McLean, Press Association

Every four years people attempt to predict who will win the World Cup, but how many of them run 10,000 simulations to make sure they’re in the ballpark?

Investment banking company UBS have done exactly that, running thousands of pretend World Cup tournaments to see what the likelihood of each team winning the competition is.

They’re only predictions, but here’s what they discovered.

The parameters

The 2018 Fifa World Cup draw

UBS’s simulation was based on a number of things, one of which was the ‘Elo’ rating of each team, which considers difficulty of opponent faced as well as the context of the game among other things.

The predictions also took into account how successful each team was in qualifying as well as their success at previous tournaments.

A statistical model was then calibrated using results from the previous five tournaments to estimate the most likely outcome in the upcoming matches. Here’s what happened next…

The winners

Germany's Sami Khedira lifts the World Cup trophy

Four-time winners and 2014 champions Germany came out on top after 10,000 simulations, with UBS’s model suggesting they have a 24% chance of winning.

That might have something to do with their relatively easy group, which contains Mexico, Sweden and South Korea, while Brazil’s group contains Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia, contributing to their 19.8% chance of victory.

Spain meanwhile apparently have a 16.1% chance of winning, placed in a tricky group as they are with Portugal, Morocco and Iran.

The hosts

The 2018 World Cup mascot

Russia’s place in the tournament as hosts boosts their chances according to UBS’s model, but not enough to suggest they could win the trophy.

Group A might have the lowest average ‘Elo’ rating of any of the eight groups – comprised of Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay – but that still leaves Russia with less than a 2% chance of getting to the final and winning it.

Progression from the group stage looks a strong possibility for the hosts, but they will probably run into very difficult opposition in the next round.



Is football coming home? While England fans might feel like they have watched their side knocked out of the World Cup 10,000 times over, the simulation suggests victory isn’t all that far-fetched.

The model gives England an 8.5% chance of winning the tournament, as well as a more-than generous 31.4% chance of reaching the semi-finals.

That’ll be music to the ears of fans who rate England’s chances somewhere between diddly and squat.

Around the world

No team has ever won the World Cup from outside Europe and South America, but which nation has the best chance of changing all that?

According to UBS, Nigeria is one of the favourites to do so, with a 0.3% chance of winning overall. They also have a 4.8% chance of becoming the first African nation to reach the semi-finals.

But the least likely team to win it? That would be Panama, grouped with England, who apparently have a 0.2% chance of reaching the semi-finals, but nothing more. What a story that would be…

To read UBS’s full report on the 2018 World Cup in Russia, click here.

PA Media

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