2014 World Cup Preview: Historical Analysis

In all kinds of sports, historical precedent always end up factoring into tournament or playoff results; upon looking back at the outcome in retrospect, a pattern or trend of some sort invariably pops up. Of course, the challenge of prognosticating sporting events in this way pertains to recognizing patterns from the past, and applying them to the present, before they manifest themselves on the playing field. Even before intricately analyzing each team and its players in a tourney, it’s worthwhile to devote some time to evaluate an upcoming sports event with knowledge of its preceding history in hand. In this current season that has the exposure and popularity of sports flourishing on several fronts–which is rarely the case in the summer period–with the NBA Finals, the NHL Stanley Cup Finals, and the World Cup all within 10 days of commencing, the concept of historical precedent has several potential applications. But the World Cup is not an annual tournament like the others, and thus this event–that garners more global spotlight than any other–deserves more of our focus for now.

Below is a look into the past: the number of teams in the World Cup from each qualification zone and their progress through the tournament since the first year of a 32-team expansion, 1998. In predicting the course of the tourney, perhaps the most pivotal crossroad lies in the first round–which countries, 16 in total, will collect the most/second-most points in their respective groups with all teams having three games to play? Therefore the table includes a few more figures concerning the first to second round jump.

*Note on abbreviations for qualification zones: AFC- Asia, CAF- Africa, OFC- Oceania, CONCACAF- North and Central American and Caribbean, CONMEBOL- South America, UEFA- Europe

1998

qualified 2nd round %advanced quarters semis finals

champion

AFC

4 0 0%

CAF

5 1 20%

OFC

CONCACAF

3 1 33%

CONMEBOL

5 4 80% 2 1 1

UEFA

15 10 67% 6 3 1

1


2002

qualified

2nd round %advanced quarters semis finals

champion

AFC

4 2 50% 1 1

CAF

5 1 20% 1

OFC

CONCACAF 3 2 67% 1

CONMEBOL

5 2 40% 1 1 1 1
UEFA 15 9 60% 4 2 1

 2006

qualified 2nd round %advanced quarters semis finals

champion

AFC

4 0 0%

CAF

5 1 20%
OFC 1 1 100%

CONCACAF

4 1 25%

CONMEBOL

4 3 75% 2

UEFA

14 10 71% 6 4 2

1

 2010

qualified 2nd round %advanced quarters semis finals

champion

AFC

4 2 50%

CAF

6 1 17% 1

OFC

1 0 0%
CONCACAF 3 2 67%

CONMEBOL

5 5 100% 4 1
UEFA 13 6 46% 3 3 2

1

 2014

qualified 2nd round %advanced quarters semis finals

champion

AFC

4
CAF 5

OFC

CONCACAF

4

CONMEBOL

6

UEFA

13

So in the past four World Cups, 25% of all Asian teams, 19% of all African teams, 50% of all Oceanian teams, 46% of all North-Central American/Caribbean teams, 58% of all South American teams, and 61% of all European teams advanced out of the group stage. If these percentages are applied to the teams in the 2014 tournament, the 2nd round will comprise one Asian team, one African team, two North/Central American teams, four South American teams, and eight European teams.

Now of course the tournament rarely follows such a set pattern, but nevertheless the layout of the final 16 teams in Brazil should look similar to what this historical trend would indicate, and gives a good idea of what to bear in mind when finalizing tournament predictions. As for what history would say is the probable champion? That might pertain to location on the globe: in all four of the previous World Cups held in South American venues, teams from the home continent won the tournament.

 

 

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