Will the World Cup Winner Win the Next World Cup?
A blog around football and stats.
This post was inspired by this article.
The question we will try to answer is: will the world cup winner win the next one?
In order to do so, we will start with a recap of what happened in the past, then we will perform an analysis based on a model that takes into account that it is easier for some teams to win than others. Finally, we will look at it from a betting perspective.
We will look at all the world cups from 1930 to 2014 (excluding 1942 and 1946 since they did not take place). For each year, we have:
The winner of the world cup (W)
The number of goals scored by W in its last game (G)
The number of goals scored by the runner-up in its last game (GR)
The ratio between G and GR (R=G/GR)
My latest project is a book based around blog posts. The book is called Thinking with Data, and it’s about how data can help us better understand the world around us.
“What are my chances of winning this bet?” – a question I get asked by friends and family all the time, but never an answer. Will the World Cup winner win the next World Cup?
There has been a lot of debate over whether or not football is a sport of skill or chance. In my opinion, football is more than just a game, it’s a way of life. It’s difficult to quantify how much luck plays in deciding who wins and loses. But there is no doubt that skill plays an important role in football.
In this blog post I will try to answer the question: what are the chances that the winner of this year’s World Cup will win next year’s? I’ll use historical data from all previous World Cups to find out what happened then and see if there are any patterns that can be used to predict outcomes for future tournaments.
The answer may surprise you!
Although a lot of you probably think that this post will be about the World Cup, I want to point out that it is all about the next World Cup. The title is not clear enough? Well, let me ask you this:
Will the next World Cup winner win the next World Cup?
I mean, will Brazil win in 2018? Will Germany in 2022? And so on and so forth.
So, after some thinking and some searching on Google, I did find a good predictor for this question: the number of goals scored by each team in the current edition.
More goals scored = higher chance of winning the next tournament.
Obviously, we need to take into account some other factors, like how many matches a team plays (obviously more games = more goals) or how many teams are in the tournament (fewer teams = fewer matches played).
But we can still do some interesting stuff with these numbers. So here are some plots and tables to play with.
One of the most common questions on this blog is, “Will X be the next world champion?” Where X is usually a team that has just won the World Cup. I have always replied that that would be very unlikely.
Today, I am going to take a more systematic approach to answering this question. In particular, I will look at how often the winner of one World Cup wins the next one. This is something that happened only twice in the eighty-year history of the competition until Germany’s double win in 2014 and 2018.
It’s not because no one tries to repeat their success. In fact, there are several countries who have done it all three times: Argentina (1986-1990), Brazil (1958-62), Italy (1934-38) and Uruguay (1930-34). It is just very hard to go back-to-back…
The World Cup is in full swing and the world’s top football players are competing for the most prestigious soccer trophy. But will the winner of this year’s cup also win the next one? This post takes a look at whether or not there is a pattern when it comes to World Cup winners repeating their victory in subsequent tournaments. Answering this question can help us understand how likely it is that teams will repeat their success and perhaps give us some insights into what it takes to be a World Cup champion.
To answer this question, I looked at past World Cup winners and sorted the data based on whether or not they won the next tournament as well. The data set consists of all World Cups since 1930, except for 1942 and 1946 which were cancelled due to World War II. The data is shown in the table below.
World Cup years are unique in the football calendar. It’s the only time when the domestic game completely shuts down for a period of weeks, allowing every player and coach to focus solely on their international duties.
For some teams and players, this is a real advantage. Those who play abroad can come together in their own countries and not have to worry about recovering from long-distance travel or adapting to local weather conditions. Of course, there are also disadvantages – the lack of recent competitive action being a key one – but generally speaking the break works in favour of those in Europe and South America.
That’s why it’s so rare for World Cup winners to win again four years later. The last team to successfully defend their title were Brazil in 1962, which was also the first time two tournaments had been held in consecutive years (the hiatus between 1954 and 1958 was due to Switzerland’s inability to host the tournament after being awarded it).
The flip side, however, is that we almost always see an improvement from European nations in World Cups played outside Europe. Prior to 2002, no European team had ever won a World Cup outside Europe; now they’ve won three out of the last five. Meanwhile South American teams have won just one of their last five tournaments held on foreign soil
In my previous post, I described the idea of a “hot hand” in football and showed that it is not supported by the data. It is a myth that if a team scores one goal, they are more likely to score another one soon. However, there is a related question which I find much more interesting: do teams get better at scoring in general over time? Does scoring become easier for them once they have scored a few goals already?
Trying to answer this question empirically is surprisingly difficult. The problem is that when we look at results over long time periods (even 5 years), many teams have moved between leagues, and league quality can change drastically over time. For example, as of 2012/13, teams in the German Bundesliga had an average of 1.1 goals per game. In the 2nd Bundesliga that number was 1.5, and in the 3rd Bundesliga it was even 1.9! Hence if we just looked at the data from a single season, we might be inclined to conclude that teams who score more tend to score even more in subsequent games (since those subsequent games would likely be against weaker competition).
To get around this problem, I decided to focus on international tournaments only. Here, all teams play against each other on