World Cup 2018 Previews – Teams 28-25

Welcome to the WGF World Cup 2018 Previews – Teams 28-25. Below are the other links we’ve posted previously:

Teams 32-29

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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28. Tunisia

WGF Odds to win: 1 in 1,667 – 0.060%
Betting Odds to win: 1 in 1,000 – 0.089%

Tunisia got to the World Cup through a bit of controversy. There was a whole fiasco back in summer 2016 regarding how the World Cup draw would go down. Tunisia ended up in Pot 1 for the draw, and here they are in Russia. They beat the teams they were drawn with, so it’s not like they don’t deserve to be here. Tunisia has been MUCH better over the past 12 months. It’s no coincidence that the appointment of Nabil Maaloul has proven successful.

Since taking over, Tunisia has not suffered defeat. 5 wins and 3 draws against some pretty solid opposition is nothing to brush off. Tunisia’s last defeat was March 2017 at Morocco. But, as is the case with many teams early in this preview, the group opposition is tough. One of England or Belgium will have to be passed to advance. It’s not impossible, but the task is tall. Do not be surprised if this team gets to 4 points in the group.


Why the Numbers are Wrong

The man in charge. If we only looked at results from the recent 12 months, Tunisia may be a stronger contender in our model. As they showed against Portugal, they will not be a pushover by any means. A draw against England or Belgium could be enough to move on. This team also has a lot of young talent and certainly looks to be on the rise.

Why the Numbers are Right

Tunisia has never gotten past the group stage in any World Cup. Belgium and England, while not at the top of our rankings, are clear favorites out of UEFA. This team also has not performed well even at AFCON when it mattered most. Unproven does not necessarily mean the team has no chance, but this team needs to continue to display the consistency it has over the past year.


27. Senegal

WGF Odds to win: 1 in 1,562 – 0.064%
Betting Odds to win: 1 in 195 – 0.453%

This is one of those where you look at the results and think… Really?!?!? Sadio Mane, Keita Balde, a strong team at the back. This team has a ton of talent, so to see Senegal down at #27 is a bit of a surprise. The last time Senegal lost a match (officially)… October 2015. That’s 24 consecutive matches, when you exclude the South Africa match that had to be replayed. So what gives, WGF? Team of studs, on fire. Why aren’t they higher in your projections?

While all of the above is true, no team in the field has played a weaker schedule than Senegal. Despite their fine form, the highest ranked team they defeated over that stretch was #69 Tunisia at AFCON 2017. They’ve drawn teams ranked higher, but #69 is the highest they’ve defeated since beating Ghana in March 2015. We weight strength of schedule heavily, which hurts the Lions of Teranga. We still give them about 34% to advance out of the group, but we’re not as bullish as others.


Why the Numbers are Wrong

Our formula is trash. Strength of schedule means little. This team is on a ridiculous unbeaten streak. That may all be true. And we really love Senegal and rooting for this team. Poland, Colombia, and Japan is definitely not overwhelming for this team, and once you’re out of the group, you never know. Of all the teams down this low in the rankings, gut feeling says Senegal is going to be a dangerous team. The betting odds certainly suggest that.

Why the Numbers are Right

The rankings are intended to dissect the performances at a deeper level to understand how teams really will perform. We’ve consistently found strength of schedule to be a huge predictor of future performance. Forgetting the SOS metric, we can’t get over this team not defeating a team in our Top 65 since March 2015. To expect that team to get out of the group, and then beat 4 teams in a knockout stage would just be a huge surprise from a numbers perspective.


26. Panama

WGF Odds to win: 1 in 1,471 – 0.068%
Betting Odds to win: 1 in 1,500 – 0.059%

We’re probably one of the only places to have 6 teams below Panama for odds to win the World Cup. Panama suffers from the same problem that a lot of the teams near the bottom of the rankings face: they get smoked by good opposition. The one thing Panama does have going for them is that they are a battle tested team, frequently coming up against the best in the world. That doesn’t help, however, when the results aren’t there.

There are some telling stats about Panama once you start to filter matches out of their history. Over the past 24 months, against WGF top-75 opposition away from home, Panama has 1 win, 4 draws, and 11 defeats. 7 points from 16 matches with 7 goals scored and 32 conceded. That’s exactly what they’ll face in Russia. At this level of competition, it just doesn’t make much sense to see Panama even this high.

But wishing Panama all the best in their first ever World Cup. We’ve watched guys like Blas Perez and Luis Tejada in CONCACAF for years. To see them finally get a shot and to experience the World Cup is great.


Why the Numbers are Wrong

If anything, we’re too kind. Panama is a team that handles their business at home, but performs so different away from home. Playing Belgium in Sochi, Russia is quite a different experience. Panama has a lot of guys that have been around for a LONG time. They won’t be pushed around easily, but the quality is just not at the same level of the other teams in this tournament.

Why the Numbers are Right

Ultimately being in this spot or a little bit lower doesn’t make all that much difference. They will have to be at their best to get through the group stage. 1 in 1,500 is consistent with the oddsmakers as well, despite being a bit higher up on our list. Panama could shock Tunisia, and then a draw could be enough. It seems a bit absurd to have them much higher.


25. Morocco

WGF Odds to win: 1 in 1,190 – 0.084%
Betting Odds to win: 1 in 600 – 0.148%

Like Tunisia, Morocco has seen a resurgence under a new coach. The beautiful African genius Herve Renard is back at it again. He’s won AFCON with Zambia and Ivory Coast, and now has Morocco in the World Cup for the first time in 20 years. But Morocco is also finally getting the most out of their talented side with talisman Medhi Benatia leading the way. It was his goal at Ivory Coast which put Morocco up 2-0, stunning the Elephants on the way to Russia.

Morocco is one of those weird “post-hype” teams for us like Poland was for awhile. We’ve had Morocco ranked in our top 45 for 2 years. They were one of the best in Africa and are just finally getting their due. The thing Morocco does so well is defend. In their past 38 games, they’ve conceded 2 goals just once. Once!!! They’ve only allowed 16 goals over those 38 games. That’s unbelievable.

For awhile, Morocco got lost in the shuffle after pulling out as hosts of AFCON 2015. They didn’t play meaningful matches for a long stretch of time, so to come back strong and qualify for Russia is awfully impressive. This is a good team.


Why the Numbers are Wrong

Morocco defends. When you don’t concede, you’re always going to be in games. That can be frustrating to a team especially like Portugal. If Morocco stays disciplined and follows the formula which got them to Russia, nobody is going to want to play them. Benatia plays at Juventus. Hakimi is at Real Madrid. Quite the resume for the back line. If they can find a goal scorer, this team can be really dangerous.

Why the Numbers are Right

They drew Spain and Portugal, who are two of the best teams in the world. You can be sure that the matches against those teams will be low scoring. But overall, they’ve got tough sledding ahead. We only give them a 12.9% chance to make it out of the group. Had they gotten a better draw, they’d likely be a good deal higher on the list. Either way, Morocco should have a very respectable campaign.


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!