In just a few weeks the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ starts. People already discuss passionately who is going to win and how the chances for their teams are. Almost everybody has an intuition, opinion, idea, feeling or whatsoever about the performances of the different nations. There might be a consensus among football experts and fans on the top favorites, e.g. Brazil, Germany, Spain, but more debate on possible underdogs. However, most of these predictions rely on subjective opinions and are very hard if not impossible to quantify. An additional difficulty is the complexity of the tournament, with billions of different outcomes, making it very difficult to obtain accurate guesses of the probabilities of certain events.
How can we make reasonable, objective and quantitative estimates of the outcomes? For example, what is the probability that Brazil, Germany or Spain will win the cup? What are the chances that England will make it to the Round of 16? What are the chances that Brazil beats Germany in the semifinals 7:1?
In this and the following posts, we give quantitative answers to all kind of these questions. This post will start with what we can learn by studying previous matches and tournaments. Once we found some appropriate data we will investigate which models are out there to model an event like the FIFA World Cup.