What can previous World Cups tell us about what to expect in Qatar?
Is this year’s World Cup tougher? Should the teams that qualified through the playoffs be removed now? Is it convenient for some countries to play in Asia?
We look at these factors – and many more – to see which teams may be well positioned for a successful World Cup.
There have been six previous tournaments with the same format of 32 teams divided into eight groups of four and these six tournaments have offered 384 games to look at and see if a pattern emerges.
In the analysis below we will analyze these six championships – from 1998-2018 – unless otherwise indicated.
How much does location affect the performance of group travelers?
In the last three tournaments to be played in Europe, 10 of the 16 qualifying places were filled by European nations. When the finals have been played outside of Europe, this number drops to an average of seven.
South American teams have benefited the most from this decline, with twice the number of Asian teams reaching the playoffs when the finals are not in Europe.
Is there a link between qualifying and how far teams progress in the semi-finals?
Five of the last six World Cup winners have been European, and with the exception of 1998 champions France, who automatically hosted the tournament, all had excellent qualifying campaigns.
The other four champions – Italy in 2006, Spain in 2010, Germany in 2014 and France in 2018 – were unbeaten or lost only once in their 10 qualifying matches. These winning percentages (where draws count as half a win) were 80% or more.
To qualify for this year’s event, a number of European nations met the 80% threshold: Denmark (95%), England and Germany (90%), Serbia and Belgium (87.5%), Spain, Switzerland and France (all 81.3%) and Croatia and the Netherlands (both 80%).
How good is this year’s lineup based on world rankings compared to previous tournaments?
Using the Fifa world team rankings at the start of a tournament, we can see how competitive a tournament can be. Here are the rankings of the 32 teams in each tournament:
As Fifa rules dictate the number of teams per continent, there are teams that are not in the finals that are ranked higher than some.
The most obvious absentees this time are Italy – sixth in the world – but Colombia (17), Peru (23), Sweden (25), Ukraine (27), Chile (29) and Nigeria (32) would participate. the world ranking decided the ranking anywhere.
While the seven lower-tier teams taking part this time may seem like a large proportion, the 32 teams are an all-time low. In some finals there have been 11 foreign teams in the top 32.
So this time the tournament is difficult to achieve success.
And the combined rankings suggest that England and Wales are in Qatar’s toughest group; it is the only one where all teams are in the world’s top 20 as of October 30.
|A – Netherlands (8), Senegal (18), Ecuador (44), Qatar (50)|
|B – England (5), USA (16), Wales (19), Iran (20)|
|C – Argentina (3), Mexico (13), Poland (26), Saudi Arabia (51)|
|D – France (4), Denmark (10), Tunisia (30), Australia (38)|
|E – Spain (7), Germany (11), Japan (24), Costa Rica (31)|
|F – Belgium (2), Croatia (12), Morocco (22), Canada (41)|
|G – Brazil (1), Switzerland (15), Serbia (21), Cameroon (43)|
|H – Portugal (9), Uruguay (14), South Korea (28), Ghana (61)|
How well do play-off winners usually do?
Wales, for the first time in 64 years, qualified for the European qualifiers along with Poland and Portugal.
At first glance it may seem like a backdoor route, but recent history shows that teams that qualify this way can make a big impact.
If you compare European teams, 67% of play-off qualified teams reach the playoffs, compared to only 57% of directly qualified teams.
Two of the last six World Cup semi-finals have been played by European teams that reached the knockout stage – Germany in 2002 and Croatia in 2018. In addition, Croatia (1998) and Turkey (2002) reached the final four and three more. the qualifying teams reached the quarter-finals.
Why do champions fight?
The World Cup holders have won a knockout match in five tournaments since the 1990s, with Brazil beating Ghana in 2006. In fact, the cup has not been kept since 1962 and in the 14 championships since then, only two holders have gone. beyond the quarter-finals.
Problems for the starters often start in one game. In the 12 tournaments since England won their opening match against Romania in 1970, only three have been crowned champions. And four of the last five champions have not even made it out of the group.
Why? Well, four years is a long time in football. On average, only 50% of the players who start the winner’s final will start the first match of the next tournament group.
Italy only included three members of the squad for the 2006 finals, when they started defensively in the 2010 draw against Paraguay.
How often does an inferior team cause an upset?
If you expect the top two teams from each group to always come out on top, you’re in for a surprise.
It is normal for six of the 16 knockout places to be taken by the teams that finished third and fourth in their groups. This is a 32% disturbance rate. In those six tournaments, 34% of the teams with a lower qualification level have won.
|Year||Winner (level)||loser (level)||the difference|
|2002||South Korea (40)||Italy (6)||34 places|
|2002||Senegal (42)||Sweden (19)||23 places|
|2002||South Korea (40)||Spain (8)||32 places|
|2018||Russia (70)||Spain (10)||60 places|
Three of the four biggest upsets have been caused by the hosts: twice on penalties and once with the golden goal.
Whatever happens over the next five weeks, there’s likely to be more upheaval, drama and controversy.