I currently owe my 2018 fourth round fantasy basketball pick to my best bud (Thanks LeBron!). I still have money to collect on from Yahoo’s Fantasy Basketball. And I was recently trying to get a group of my friends to bet on the winner of this year’s World Cup. The rules just in case you were wondering: 1) Each person gets two teams 2) When two people want the same team the higher bid gets the team.
If you haven’t guessed it, I love to gamble. I can’t remember when I first started doing it, but I remember one of my earliest bets, Chauncey Billups for 2004 Finals MVP. Not that hard of a bet even though really and truly that award actually belonged to the entire Pistons squad. I also remember one of my earliest losses, stupidly picking the 03’ Buccaneers to repeat as champs.
The lesson learned from that, don’t pick teams to repeat right after the Super Bowl, football is waaaaay too unpredictable.
Since then, there’s been peaks and valleys with more peaks than valleys. Best peaks though: picking 2013 Seahawks OVER a historic scoring Broncos, and grabbing the 2014 Patriots midseason and watching as Seattle decided to not run the ball. Huge win for me.
Back to that World Cup betting I mentioned earlier.
Like JR Smith at the end of Game 1 of The Finals, I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m in uncharted territory when it comes to the World Cup.
Anyway, follow me along as I try to break down who’ll win this year by asking relevant questions.
How often has a country repeated as World Cup Champion, and do favorites really matter?
What I’m really asking is, whether or not Germany wins it again. For example, England won the 1966 Cup but hasn’t been back to the finals since. You could say that all of their talent erupted that year, and there was no beating them. Same with 2010 Spain, who was unstoppable that tournament, but couldn’t even get past the group stage as the fourth best favorites the following World Cup.
So here’s the thing, either favorites don’t matter, or the people that are evaluating the talent aren’t that good, or something happened within the matches that upended the favorites. I’m going with one of the first two, because it’s rare to see something like the third happening, well unless you’re Zidane and somebody insulted your mommy and you feel the need to head butt them.
Here’s the favorites for the previous three World Cups (Finals’ teams in bold):
2014 – 1) Brazil 2) Argentina 3) Germany 4) Spain 5) Belgium 6) Italy 7) The Netherlands
2010 – 1) Spain 2) Brazil 3) Italy 4) Argentina 5) The Netherlands 6) Portugal 7) Germany
2006 – 1)Brazil 2) England 3) Germany 4) Argentina 5) Italy 6) France 7) The Netherlands
Outside of the top six favorites, you could say no one else has a chance. Which leads to this…
What’s Vegas’ 2018 favorites?
1) Brazil, 2) Germany, 3) Spain, 4) France, 5) Argentina 6) Belgium
Who are this year’s most talented teams (total stars in parenthesis)?
1) Spain (8)
2) France (6)
3) Germany (5)
After removing goalies from the talent pool of each team, what’s the average of the countries’ stars from the last question?
1) France (24)
2) Brazil (26.2)
3) Belgium (27.3)
4) Argentina (28.8)
5) Spain (29.3)
6) Germany (30)
Because really and truly, it’s nice to have stars as long as they can survive a couple of weeks of frenetic sprinting up and down the pitch, especially in the one and done stages.
Are preceding tournaments an indicator of success?
Spain cruised to the Euro 2008 title, placed third in the 2009 Confederations Cup, but then won the World Cup in 2010. Germany placed fourth at Euro 2012, didn’t qualify for the 2013 Confederations Cup, but destroyed everybody in 2014.
Nothing can be drawn from any of this though.
What about head to heads?
Remember when I ran through the favorites earlier? Would a created point system based around favorites beating other favorites from previous tournaments help predict the World Cup winner?
*Record based on Copa America, Euro, and Confederations Cup wins.
Let’s start with the 2006 favorites:
1) Brazil 2-0
2) England 0-1
3) Germany 0-2
4) Argentina 0-3
5) Italy 0-0
6) France 1-1
1) Spain 1-0
2) Brazil 2-0
3) Italy 0-3
4) Argentina 0-1
5) The Netherlands 1-1
6) Portugal 0-0
1) Brazil 2-0
2) Argentina 0-0
3) Germany 0-1
4) Spain 2-2
5) Belgium 0-0
6) Italy 1-3
Small sample size, yes I get it, but basically if you have two losses you’re not making the finals. Also, teams with at least one win ended up being represented 50% of the time with the top team only making it once. And Brazil doesn’t care who they play!
So what about this year’s World Cup head-to-heads?
1) Brazil 0-0
2) Germany 0-1
3) Spain 0-0
4) France 1-1
5) Argentina 0-0
6) Belgium 0-0
Okay, this doesn’t help that much but I’m done trying to filter out teams. I kicking Belgium out for their pretender status. They’ve only made the World Cup once in the past three tries. Sorry I’m looking for a winner, not handing out Participation Awards.
Out goes Spain, Germany, and Argentina too. I want a fit team, one that can sprint up and down the pitch for a hellacious couple of weeks because every game will feel like you’re last. We all remember how quickly Spain aged in the last World Cup too – failing to make it out of the group stage after being blasted by Chile and Netherlands with SEVEN goals against. I’m not betting on that.
That leaves just Brazil and France.
I could just easily pick France, because of their age (younger) and the amount of stars they’re bringing (six), both advantages to France over Brazil, but I’m not.
Sometimes you have to go with your gut. I took the Patriots over the Eagles in the Super Bowl, because it was a safe pick even though it felt like nothing was stopping Philly.
One last thing to mention, I remember watching two fearless players just light up teams on their way to the final of a tournament (2-1, 5-2, 2-0). One constantly doing his celebration dance, while the other worked his magic in the midfield – tricking defenders, whipping the ball around, and constantly creating havoc.Then a fluky injury happened, and they were upset. Those two fearless teammates: Greizmann and Pogba. Their score against 2nd Ranked Germany in Euro 2016: 2-0.
I’m going with my gut and putting my money on France, oh wait, I already did.