World Cup 2018 Previews – Teams 20-17

Welcome to the WGF World Cup 2018 Previews – Teams 20-17. Below are the other links we’ve posted previously:

Teams 32-29
Teams 28-25
Teams 24-21

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. 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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20. Russia

WGF Odds to win: 1 in 378 – 0.264%
Betting Odds to win: 1 in 45 – 1.934%

Let’s just start with the betting odds being a total joke. If anyone takes a futures bet on Russia, you’re just pissing money away. 1 in 45 to win the tournament is laughable. Russia is one of the worst teams in the entire field, and that’s putting it nicely. At the moment, Russia sits at #58 in the WGF Rankings, which is #34 in UEFA. They come into the tournament with 0 wins in their past 7 matches. Russia has gone 18 straight matches without a win against the WGF Top 40. Russia has just 31.9% of possible points from their matches in the past two years. No other team in the field has less than 50%.

The good news is that not only did Russia draw reasonably well, they do have the home field advantage to work with. Without that, we would not project them to even get out of the group. But happy days. Because Russia does get our 0.55 goal bump for home advantage, we give Russia a 58.9% chance to advance.

 

Why the Numbers are Wrong

Which numbers? 1 in 45 is definitely wrong. Although Russia has the #6 Strength of Schedule, they’ve gotten pounded. We’ve got this team all over the map. Could win the group. Could finish dead last. #20 definitely feels pretty generous for a team which is ranked #30 in our overall rankings for this field of 32. That’s how much playing at home helps them.

Why the Numbers are Right

If you don’t count the Confederations Cup win over New Zealand, Russia hasn’t won a competitive fixture in almost 3 years. That’s unheard of. But maybe it’s more of a team lying in wait. Fedor Smolov is legit, and he could easily carry Russia through the group stage. To see this team get anywhere past the Round of 16 would be an incredible surprise.

 

19. Serbia

WGF Odds to win: 1 in 357 – 0.280%
Betting Odds to win: 1 in 200 – 0.442%

Serbia was a bit of a surprise to reach Russia. But they ultimately emerged from a very tight group with Wales, Ireland and Austria to make it. I don’t think anybody is convinced that this is a team to fear in Russia. We’d be inclined to agree. Brazil, Switzerland, and Costa Rica are very, very tough opposition, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see Serbia finish bottom of Group E whatsoever.

Although Sergej Milinkovic-Savic was incredible for Lazio this season, he has just 3 caps. There are some other nice players in Mitrovic, and of course Matic in midfield. Serbia suffers from the problem that many of the CAF and AFC teams do. Their results against good teams are very, very bad. Serbia has 22 matches against teams inside the WGF Top 25. They have 6 draws and 16 defeats in those 22 matches. Not a single win to their name. That’s beyond our data set.

 

Why the Numbers are Wrong

Serbia has a decent chance in the group. We rate Switzerland highly, but many probably feel Switzerland is not much different in class from Serbia. We only give Serbia a 21.8% chance to get out of the group. We’re harsh, and their odds are likely a bit higher. But this Serbia side does not have experience on the big stage. It’s been 8 years since they’ve featured in a tournament.

Why the Numbers are Right

Slotting Serbia in here seems fair. Of the UEFA teams, they should be near the bottom. They didn’t dominate a qualifying group that lacked top-tier opposition. They’re not going to beat Brazil. We think they have a pretty tough climb to advance.

 

18. Iceland

WGF Odds to win: 1 in 117 – 0.856%
Betting Odds to win: 1 in 250 – 0.354%

Debutantes Iceland are going to be a fan favorite in Russia for sure. This has been coming. After an impressive showing at EURO 2016 that saw Iceland knock out England before being knocked out by France in the Quarterfinal, expectations are high. Iceland, like Serbia, also emerged from an even more competitive group. They topped a group with Croatia, Ukraine, and Turkey, which is no easy task. Despite a rough lead-up to Russia (they’ve lost 3 straight as of this writing), they will be ready to go.

Iceland got a reasonable draw. They’re paired again with Croatia, as well as Argentina and Nigeria. It does seem a little far-fetched to see them finish ahead of Argentina, but to ask them to repeat their performance from qualifying doesn’t seem out of the question. Iceland also is stacked with a roster that has been in the works for many years. Many players are in their mid-late 20s. 12 of the 23 have at least 45 caps. They’ve stuck to their guns to get here.

 

Why the Numbers are Wrong

Tough to beef with much here. We give Croatia a slight advantage, but Iceland will certainly be in the mix. They’ve proven they can get the job done on the biggest stage. And there’s the prospect of getting revenge against France. Maybe we’re even underrating this team. The oddsmakers certainly are overly harsh on a team this good.

Why the Numbers are Right

Although this is a good squad, it’s hard to elevate Iceland above many of the teams still ahead of them. We’re talking about winning the whole tournament here, and to have Iceland much higher than the middle of the pack seems a bit much. We’re excited to see how this team does in their first ever World Cup.

 

17. Uruguay

WGF Odds to win: 1 in 98 – 1.020%
Betting Odds to win: 1 in 33 – 2.619%

Let us have it. No way Uruguay can be this low, right? As of this writing, Uruguay sits at #22 in our rankings. They haven’t even been in the Top 20 of our rankings for a full year. Additionally, for almost a full year (October 2016 – August 31, 2017), Uruguay did nothing but lose. Not a single point from the 5 matches they played. Uruguay got points early in qualification and essentially coasted into Russia. The one thing that cannot be denied: Uruguay is an incredible team at home.

Away from home is a totally different story. Yes, we think they win Group A. But heading right into a matchup with either Portugal or Spain (most likely), they could be in trouble right away. Suarez at the World Cup is always a volatile situation. Uruguay got knocked out in the Round of 16 in Brazil, didn’t make it out of the Group Stage at Copa America Centenario, and finished 7th of 12 at Copa America 2015. It’s been 7 years since this team did anything of note at a major tournament.

This could be the last hurrah for this generation in Uruguay. Suarez is 31, Cavani is 31, Godin is 32, Muslera is 31, Stuani is 31, Cristian Rodriguez is 32, Carlos Sanchez is 33, Maxi Pereira is 33. This unfortunately is a team on a downward trajectory. We don’t think they show well in Russia.

 

Why the Numbers are Wrong

It’s not like this isn’t a talented team. Suarez and Cavani are still two of the best strikers in the world. Staring Spain and Portugal in the face is a tough ask. But if they can survive, they will surely be a contender to actually win it all. Our overall percentage chance to win isn’t dramatically off from the oddsmakers.

Why the Numbers are Right

Uruguay has already shown signs of fading. Uruguay has been a very good team for a very long time, but it’s fair to wonder if they’ll disappoint. If they somehow don’t make it out of the group (a 25.8% chance), nobody should be all that surprised. Egypt is a hungry side, and the host nation always seems to have that extra bit of energy. Although this does feel a bit low, Uruguay has a lot of work to do.

 

Thanks again for keeping up with our predictions, and we’ll be back tomorrow with 4 more teams. Again,┬áplease give us a follow on Twitter @We_Global. We appreciate the support!

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