July 11, 2014

Horse 1711 - Three Stars Will Become Four

Only 8 nations have ever won the world cup (Uruguay, Italy, Germany, Brazil, England, Argentina, France and Spain). This Germany - Argentina final in 2014, then, presents two multiple winners against each other; so no new name will be written on the trophy.
But in picking a winner from these two, you only really need look back through the general trends to work out which of this pair is likely to win in Brazil.

Of those eight nations which have won, Spain is a distinct exception. Of all the rest, they either won a tournament at home or if they didn't do that would be riled up enough to install the necessary policies to win within the next two cycles.
- After Brazil suffered the indignancy of losing what was effectively the 1950 World Cup Final against Uruguay, they set about picking players who would eventually win them the title. Brazil subsequently won the 1958 and 1962 finals.
- West Germany won the 1974 final in West Germany but the humiliation of playing relatively toothless football in Argentina four years later (1978), put them on the road to three consecutive finals, which they finally won in 1990.
- Argentina who did host the 1978 Finals, would stumble in 1982 and that stirred them up to play in two consecutive finals themselves, 1986 which they won and 1990 which Germany did.
- France won the 1998 World Cup at home and came last in Group A in 2002, without even scoring a single goal. They bounced back and appeared in the 2006 final, which they lost.
- Germany in 2006 probably should have done better at home and here we are 8 years later against Argentina.
It's worth noting that this is now the third time that these two nations have met in a final and had the Netherlands made it, it would have been their fourth appearance in a final.
History suggests that the winner of the World Cup is either a host or a recent host and I suspect that this has something to do either with a home pitch advantage or more likely, a systemic approach to win the World Cup following what their respective national associations perceive to be a disgrace.

There's another curious trend. If we include North America, then every tournament held in the Americas has been won by South American nations. With the exception of the 1958 World Cup in Sweden (see the rules above) then every other world cup in held in Europe has been won by a European nation.
After checking through 19 sets of semi-finals, there is a weak tendency for teams that won their semi-final by the greater margin; to go on and win the final. In 7/19 of them, that was the case, in 3/19 the reverse was true and in 9/19 the results in the semi-finals were decided by the same margin. Given that Germany absolutely thumped Brazil, this surely has to count for something. Matches of that ilk generally don't occur in latter stages of competitions; though in the first 3 World Cups when the depth of nations simply wasn't there, this was distorted. Only 13 nations bothered to show up in 1930 and by 1938, there were still only 37 teams which applied.

It really doesn't matter which way you slice this, Germany is still the best-dressed-in-show. Statistically; even allowing for the fact that no European nation has yet won a World Cup in the Americas, I really can't foresee any other result than Die Mannschaft becoming der Fussball-Weltmeisteren.

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