World Cup 2018 Previews – Teams 32-29

Welcome to the WGF World Cup 2018 Previews – Teams 32-29.

We wanted to try something a bit different this time around. Instead of previewing groups, we wanted to take a look, from worst to first, at the teams who we believe have the best (or worst) chance of winning the World Cup. We’ll give you a bit of team info, but this is more about the numbers.

We ran 25,000 (!) simulations of the tournament. Once the previews are concluded, we’ll post all of our numbers/predictions in the same place for reference. Without further ado, here are the results. Also, we know the “betting” odds don’t line up. I.e. 1 in 500 is not 0.2%. The percentages we indicate below pull out the “juice”. WGF does not charge juice for our percentages.

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32. Saudi Arabia

WGF Odds to win: 1 in 25,000 – 0.004%
Betting Odds to win: 1 in 1,500 – 0.059%

Most would likely agree, Saudi Arabia is probably the longest shot in the field to win the 2018 World Cup. We doubted Saudi Arabia for a long time throughout qualifying, but they continued to prove us wrong on their way to Russia. Saudi Arabia has really ramped up the competition in preparation for the World Cup, which should serve them well once getting to Russia.

The real problem for Saudi Arabia has been their historical performance against top teams. Until their win over Greece in a friendly on May 11th, Saudi Arabia had not beaten a top-60 WGF ranked team in our match history, dating back over 7 years. To expect a team, which has historically gotten blasted by top teams, to actually win the whole thing is completely far-fetched.


Why the Numbers are Wrong

1 in 25,000 is quite slim, but maybe that’s pushing it a bit too far. Maybe not. The only thing Saudi Arabia really has going for them is the element of surprise. Only 3 players on the roster ply their trade outside of Saudi Arabia, so the opposition hasn’t had much experience against these players. Saudi Arabia was also drawn into one of the best possible groups, so that could help them perhaps sneak out of the group. We give them a 26.3% chance to make it out of the group, which is not bad.

Why the Numbers are Right

As indicated above, only 3 players on the roster play outside of the Saudi league. It’s not a well-seasoned roster full of players who have faced the highest levels of competition in the world. We tend to trust the historical results. When facing top opposition, Saudi Arabia has lost badly, including a 4-0 drubbing against Belgium in March. It would likely take divine intervention for Saudi Arabia to win the World Cup.

 

31. Australia

WGF Odds to win: 1 in 3,125 – 0.032%
Betting Odds to win: 1 in 500 – 0.177%

Seeing Australia this soon may be a bit of a surprise. But make no mistake… against top competition Australia also struggles mightily. In their last 16 games against WGF top 25 opposition, Australia has 3 draws and 15 losses. They’ve been outscored in those matches 45-14. Being drawn with Denmark, France, and Peru is disastrous in our opinion. All 3 teams are in our Top 15. We give Australia just a 12.1% chance to make it out of the group. No team in the field has a lower number.

Talent-wise, we do like Australia a good deal more than Saudi Arabia. Tim Cahill has been around forever, and they have lots of key cogs sprinkled throughout Europe. We’re not willing to immediately write Australia off, but they have a tough road ahead.


Why the Numbers are Wrong

1 in 3,125 again feels like a high number. Australia has had a decent amount of success recently. They’ve gotten points in 16 of their past 20 matches. If they can get through the group stage, they’ll have proven that they can go toe to toe with some of the world’s best. While our numbers like both Denmark and Peru, those teams are untested and could allow Australia to sneak through.

Why the Numbers are Right

It’s very hard to overlook the history against top competition. Australia handles their own against AFC and CONCACAF, but UEFA and CONMEBOL are a different story. Peru and Denmark are two of our hottest teams in the world in terms of climbing the rankings. If Australia is able to get out of the group, that should be considered a huge accomplishment.

 

30. Japan

WGF Odds to win: 1 in 3,125 – 0.032%
Betting Odds to win: 1 in 300 – 0.295%

There’s a common theme among the lowest ranked teams. This could just be our rankings not valuing AFC correctly, but we do think AFC is going to have the most difficult time in the tournament. Japan is in a bit of a unique position. They’re grouped with some trendy teams in Poland and Senegal, but there’s definitely cause for optimism. The draw could certainly have been worse, as drawing Poland instead of a Germany or Belgium certainly helps.

Unlike Australia, Japan’s odds, and WGF ranking, have taken a hit because they’re just not playing well overall. They’ve won just 4 of their last 13 games, and all 4 were at home against AFC opposition. They’ve only won 2 games away from home (over Thailand and UAE) since the start of 2016. Japan’s biggest stars have gotten older. Kagawa, Honda, and Okazaki are 29, 32, and 32 respectively. They have not had young talent step up and take this team to the next level.


Why the Numbers are Wrong

The draw wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. Colombia, Poland and Senegal is reasonable opposition. Getting out of the group is not out of the question, but Belgium or England are likely waiting on the other side. Perhaps the numbers undervalue Japan a bit, but recent performance has not been encouraging.

Why the Numbers are Right

Japan is a team that is fading. They struggled to qualify for the World Cup in 2018, and they don’t look like a team designed to make a deep run. The other teams in the group just flat out have more talent at this stage. An early exit seems most likely for Japan.

 

29. Korea Republic

WGF Odds to win: 1 in 2,500 – 0.040%
Betting Odds to win: 1 in 750 – 0.118%

It was honestly a bit surprising to see Korea Republic ranked this low. We’ve got them at 67.7% to finish bottom of the group, and just a 12.2% chance to make it out of the group. This is not as much an indictment on this team as it is just a tough draw. Germany is the incumbent champion and arguably the best team in the world. Sweden and Mexico are both in our Top 20. It’s just a tough draw.

The bright spot for Korea Republic is they have a legitimate star in Son Heung-min. It will be interesting to see if he can carry this team and provide the impact he’s had for Spurs over the past couple years. The rest of the squad has some decent talent which should be tough in Russia. Although the numbers aren’t exciting, this team will not be an easy out for any of the other teams in the group.


Why the Numbers are Wrong

This is a team that has consistently challenged itself through top opposition outside of AFC over many years. Not just that, they score goals. They’ve scored a goal in 17 straight matches against non-AFC opposition. That’s awfully impressive. This also feels like a case where Korea Republic’s ranking is a bit hurt by strength of schedule. Sweden and Mexico could underperform as well.


Why the Numbers are Right

You can’t expect Germany to finish 3rd or 4th. You just can’t. We give Germany an 86.2% chance to advance, and even that feels light. That likely means Sweden, Mexico, and this team are fighting for one spot. It makes it that much tougher to win the tournament if you can’t get out of the group. This is a solid team, however, and they’ll be tough.

 

We hope you enjoyed our first batch of 4 teams. Thank you for reading, and we’ll be back tomorrow with 4 more. Again,┬áplease give us a follow on Twitter @We_Global.

 

 

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