Thought Leadership

Performance powered insights: Previewing The 2022 World Cup Story


By Omar Chaudhuri

November 17, 2022

Thought Leadership

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This year’s World Cup in Qatar being the first ever in the middle of the European club season has brought an interesting new dynamic to the tournament, and as in previous World Cups and with all major tournaments there are stories and narratives that are set to underpin and define the tournament. With the help of data we can identify and explain these narratives, while for rights holders and broadcasters, telling these stories is a useful way to build deeper connections between fans and the competition. Data can help new and existing fans better understand a tournament with teams and players that might be new to them, building longer lasting connections that grow the fanbase, which for rights holders, sponsors, and broadcasters is critical to growing and realising long-term commercial value. 

We have used our performance intelligence models to analyse the data underpinning this year’s FIFA World Cup, identifying the potential winners, the players to watch, the games not to miss, and much more that could shape the story of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

What’s going to happen?

It’s the age old question: who will win the World Cup? According to our tournament projection model Brazil are the overwhelming favourites to win this year’s competition with a 23% win probability, which is almost double that of second favourites Germany at 12%. France (11%) are third favourites with Argentina and England joint fourth favourites with a 10% chance of lifting the trophy. Eight of the top ten favourites are European with Brazil and Argentina the only exceptions.

As favourites, Brazil also have a 33% chance of making the final, with Germany and France both at 21% to reach the final. Argentina and England both have a 20% chance of reaching the showpiece on the 18th December.

In another interesting sub-plot, Argentina are closing in on Italy’s record of the longest unbeaten run in international football. Italy’s record stands at 37 matches, with Argentina’s current run sitting at 35 matches, meaning that if they can navigate a group containing Mexico, Poland and Saudi Arabia unbeaten, they will break the record. Our projection model shows they have a 70% chance of being unbeaten through the group stage, so they have a very good chance of breaking the record.

How did the draw impact probabilities?

As with any sporting competition the draw has a significant influence on the potential success of the competing teams; a good draw creates opportunities and a bad draw can significantly hinder progression chances. Switzerland were the biggest losers from the World Cup draw along with Serbia, with both sides seeing their probabilities of qualifying for the last 16 fall by 25% and 17% respectively. This is a reflection of both teams being drawn in the same group as tournament favourites Brazil, meaning only one team is likely to go through as group runner up.

Senegal and Ecuador were the big winners from the draw, with their probabilities of qualification for the last 16 increasing by 21% and 19% respectively. This is a reflection of both teams being drawn in the same group as Qatar, with the host nation rated as the weakest side in the tournament, boosting both teams chances of qualification behind group favourites the Netherlands.  

Who are the players to watch?

With the help of our player ranking model we have identified what the best combined line-up would be from the players we can expect to see in action. 

Our TFG combined best XI appearing at the tournament is:

Assuming this team replaced one of the weaker teams in the competition, and would therefore face a challenging draw, our models predict this line-up would have a 13% chance of winning the World Cup, second to only Brazil. This is because the model also takes into account historical results as well as quality. Brazil’s good recent form coupled with having a high quality side still means they would be favourites.

While the line-up above may be the best line-up of players at the World Cup considering performance in the big picture, they aren’t necessarily the form players going into the tournament right now. Considering form we can identify who the players to watch could be heading into the tournament.

Our TFG combined Form XI appearing at the tournament is:

While there are several overlaps between both line-ups, there are some notable differences. Our player rating model rates Ederson as the best goalkeeper in the world, however, Alisson is currently rated as the form goalkeeper in the world, highlighting the incredible depth Brazil have in that department. Elsewhere, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s indifferent start to the season means that Benjamin Pavard is currently the form right-back going into the tournament, whilst Manuel Akanji’s impressive start to life at Man City sees him alongside Virgil Van Dijk as the two most in form centre backs. In midfield Fede Valverde and Jamal Musiala’s excellent starts to the season for Real Madrid and Bayern Munich means our models rate them as being in better form than Rodri and Joshua Kimmich who our models rate as two of the best midfielders in the tournament along with Kevin De Bruyne. As players in form these could be the players who are set to light up the group stage from the word go. 

Who’s missing?

Unfortunately there are no guarantees that all of the world’s best players will appear at the World Cup, whether it be through injury or their team not qualifying in the first place. George Best, George Weah, Ryan Giggs and Eric Cantona are just a few examples of high quality players in the past who never played in a World Cup. So, who are the best players who will not be appearing in Qatar this year?

According to our player ratings model the best combined XI from players not at the tournament is:

N’Golo Kanté and Saido Mané’s injuries see them become a part of our best line-up of players not at the World Cup. Italy’s surprise failure to qualify for the tournament means they are the only country with two players in the best missing XI in Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Nico Barella. The line-up is headlined by Mo Salah and Erling Haaland with Norway and Egypt failing to qualify for the tournament. 

According to our projection models we would predict this side has a 3.5% chance of winning the World Cup, which would make them ninth favourites.

What games should I watch?

Through the TFG Intelligence Engine we are able to identify the group stage matches not to miss based on quality, jeopardy and connection with the player match ups on show.

The highest quality clashes of the group stage are Group E’s Spain v Germany and Group G’s Brazil v Serbia. Spain v Germany also has the highest connection score with the battle for midfield likely to be key with Busquets/Rodri and Pedri vs Goretzka and Kimmich set to be key in deciding the outcome. Serbia have strong options up front in Dusan Vlahovic, Alexander Mitrovic and Luka Jovic, so have the potential to cause Brazil’s high quality defence of Eder Militao, Thiago Silva and Marquinhos problems, the match therefore scores highly on quality and connection. 

With Brazil predicted to qualify from Group G as winners, the game with the highest jeopardy is Serbia vs Switzerland which is likely to decide who qualifies from Group G behind Brazil as runners up. Another game to watch with high jeopardy is Croatia v Belgium which is likely to majorly impact who qualifies from Group F and in what order, with Kevin De Bruyne and Luka Modric facing off in midfield an additional sub-plot.

What about England?

England’s toughest group stage opponents are likely to be the USA. There is currently a decent crop of American players currently plying their trade in the Premier League with Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronsen (Leeds), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson (Fulham) all playing in the Premier League, with a handful of other players also having Premier League experience.

In addition to these players many of the USA squad also ply their trade in other major European Leagues, with Weston Mckennie (Juventus), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund) and Sergino Dest (AC Milan) some of the star names who are playing for some of Europe’s biggest clubs. This is a USA squad with plenty of experience in elite European competitions, playing against and with Europe’s best, making them potentially a very dangerous opponent for England.

Should England make it out of the group as group winners as predicted, a likely last 16 match-up against Senegal awaits, ahead of a potential heavyweight quarter-final clash against France (should both teams qualify as group winners).

We will continue sharing World Cup insights throughout the tournament so please keep an eye on our social media channels for more data driven World Cup insights.

If you would like to find out more about our performance intelligence and fan connection services please get in touch with Omar Chaudhuri.

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