the controversial Qatar World Cup 2022 It attracts the attention of hundreds of millions of people these days. But, beyond the passions that the beautiful game arouses, in reality football is increasingly predictable, as the conclusions of studies related to the competition point out. In addition to awakening passions, this sport is also a testing ground for different scientific disciplines, such as sociology or statistics. In exhaustive analysis of all these data provide predictability, although detract from the magic of the sport.
Last year, a study by the University of Oxford concluded that the sport that has aroused the most passion has become a competition that is less and less attractive and more predictable. The researchers started from the analysis of data from the 11 biggest leagues in the world and they concluded that the competition was becoming increasingly predictable in favor of the richer clubs, who won more often.
Brazil, the great favorite in Qatar
A similar conclusion has recently been reached by scientists from the University of Innsbruck, in Austria, who have predicted who will win the world cup helped by an artificial intelligence system (AI)). As expected, there are no big surprises. After running 100,000 simulations of all the predicted matches, they concluded thate Brazil -the team that has won the championship the most times- is also the team with the greatest probability of success. Brazil is followed by other teams with several championships to their credit, such as Argentina (11.2%), the Netherlands (9.7%), Germany (9.2%) and France, the last winner, with a 9.1 % probability. The Spanish team is not among the favourites, with only a 7.5% chance of success.
Despite the predictability of the results, the artificial intelligence not only took into account the number of championships won by the national teams, but alsoanalyzed a set of structural statistical models, such as the number of players present in sports competitions such as the Champions League or data from the betting market, as well as socioeconomic factors of the country of origin, such as population or gross domestic product.
A model was able to correctly predict the final of the Eurocup in 2008, as well as the world and European champions, Spain, in 2010 and 2012.
Of course, the tournament is by no means predetermined, which is reflected in the probability that the best teams win, even if it is comparatively very low. “It is in the very nature of forecasts that they can also be wrong, otherwise football tournaments would be very boring – explains Andreas Groll, a researcher at the Technical University of Dortmund, one of the project managers, who recalls that a 15% chance of winning also implies an 85% chance of not winning.
However, one could say that so far the predictions have been quite successful. For example, the model of the researcher Achim Zeileis, based on the adjusted odds of the bookmakers, was able to correctly predict the final of the Eurocup in 2008, as well as the world and European champions, Spain, in 2010 and 2012.
An unprecedented championship
But on this occasion, the artificial intelligence system faces different challenges, and that is that in this edition the soccer World Cup had to be postponed to the winter months due to the extremely high temperatures that Qatar reaches in summer, when it is usually celebrate this championship. “In addition to the widely discussed ethical issues of this World Cup, this also raises very critical sporting questions: In the winter months, all the major football leagues in Europe and South America have to interrupt their usual match schedule to adapt to the tournament. This gives the national teams less time to prepare and to the players less time to recover before and after the World Cuphe. In addition, extreme weather conditions increase the risk of injury,” explains Achim Zeileis, involved in the study, offering a disadvantage to those teams with many players in international leagues. “All these factors make it more difficult to predict how the tournament will turn out, as the variables that turned out to be very significant in previous World Cups may not work well or work differently.” And it is that, whatever the predictions are, the ball will be in charge of passing the sentence.