Here’s one prediction: Brazil beats Spain to win World Cup
If you’re looking for a favorite when the World Cup opens next week in Russia, it’s Brazil. Spain will be the losing finalist.
If real outsiders are of interest, two to consider are Latin American teams Colombia and Peru.
Those are some of the findings from an analysis of the 32-team World Cup field run by Gracenote, a U.S-based sports and entertainment provider that’s done simulations of possible outcomes.
Of course, Gracenote is one of many World Cup predictions out there. It gets some extra credence because it’s using the Elo system, which was originally devised to rank skill levels of chess players. It’s now used to rank the relative strength of American baseball football teams.
Simon Gleave, who ran the World Cup analysis for Gracenote, says Brazil has just over a 21 percent chance of winning its sixth World Cup. Spain, Germany, and Argentina are ranked next in that order. Spain has a 10 percent chance, and Germany and Argentina are listed at 8 percent.
“We have Brazil as the favorite, and we have Spain as the other finalist. This is the most likely scenario,” Gleave told The Associated Press in an interview.
Rather than have a few “experts” size up the teams, Gleave uses the Elo system and runs millions of simulations to determine the chances of each team at each stage of the tournament.
Here are predictions for the order of finish in each group and each team’s percentage chance to reach the final 16 stage.
In the group stage, the top two teams advance to knock-out play. The top team from Group A plays the second-place team in Group B, and the second-place team in A plays the top team in B. Groups C-D, E-F, and G-H work the same way.
Group A — Uruguay (77 percent), Russia (60), Egypt (36), Saudi Arabia (27)
Group B — Spain (76), Portugal (58), Iran (35), Morocco (30).
Group C — France (69), Peru (68). Denmark (35), Australia (27).
Group D — Argentina (82), Croatia (57), Iceland (35), Nigeria (27).
Group E — Brazil (90), Switzerland (51), Costa Rica (31), Serbia (28).
Group F — Germany (79), Mexico (60), Sweden (34), South Korea (27).
Group G — England (71), Belgium (71), Tunisia (32), Panama (26).
Group H — Colombia (77), Poland (50), Senegal (45), Japan (29).
Gleave has Brazil, Spain, Germany and Argentina into the last four. If that happens, it means Brazil would face South American rival — bitter rival — Argentina in one semifinal, with Europeans Germany and Spain in the other.
“What happens historically with these types of competitions,” Gleave said, “is there’s a fairly good chance that one of these four teams won’t make it to the semifinals. But I can’t say who they are going to be replaced by.”
France would be a good candidate. Or Belgium or England or Uruguay.
Only eight nations have ever won the World Cup. And since England won its only title in 1966, only six have lifted the sport’s most coveted trophy: Germany, Brazil, Spain, France, Argentina and Italy.
The Italians didn’t qualify this time.
If you like outsiders and underdogs, Gleave says there’s an almost a 50-50 chance that this year’s winner will not be among the other five.
This is where Colombia and Peru come in.
Gleave has Colombia ranked No. 5 in the world, far above its FIFA ranking of 16.
Colombia reached the quarterfinals four years ago in Brazil, losing to the host nation. Colombia is favored to win Group H and face either England or Belgium in the round of 16. It is ranked higher than either by Gracenote.
Gleave has Peru ranked No. 7. This again is above the FIFA rankings of 11. Peru should get a boost by the return from a doping ban of captain Paolo Guerrero.
If Peru wins Group C, it would probably face Croatia or Iceland in the knock-out round. Peru has beaten both in recent friendlies. France is the other favorite to win Group C.
“We know eventually surprises will come in,” Greave said. “But Colombia and Peru look better in the results we have than fans might expect.”
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