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2018 World Cup Qualification Chances

October 3rd, 2017 · No Comments

Whoops, I took a quick nap there. I’m up now so I’m back. Let’s see what time it… HOLY CRAP! SIX YEARS???!!!

Well yeah, that’s a little too long a layoff. Anyhow, curiosity got the best of me and I decided to fire up the old soccer neurons and use a bunch of my new found skills and technology to update my soccer ratings and projection system.

To recap, I generate ratings for all the National Soccer teams based on past results, and then use these to predict future results. I then simulate the remainder of qualifying 10,000 times to estimate the chances of various teams qualifying for the World Cup. Same thing I did back in the day, but I’ve updated the technology and my own skills a bit.

The new rating system uses something called a Cumulative Link Model which essentially works as a custom distribution allowing increases in units/levels that are not equidistant. For our purposes, the reasoning is that in soccer goals the difference between zero goals scored and one goal scored is effectively not the same as the difference between one goals and two goals and so on. Yes it’s ‘one goal’ either way, but the ways and reasons teams score those goals differ in the two scenarios.

There actually are other ways to get at this (like poisson distributions with an additional parameter), but for now I’m using this way. In the future I’m going to experiment with others.

I won’t go too much into further detail now, especially since the model will undergo significant adjustments from here. But I wanted to get this out since the crucial games happen in just a few days.

 

rank team strength pace qualify%
1 Brazil 6.587 0.401 100.00%
2 Germany 6.197 0.630 100.00%
3 Spain 6.151 -0.108 99.98%
4 Argentina 6.045 -0.146 90.56%
5 Colombia 5.774 -0.386 98.42%
6 Belgium 5.651 0.328 100.00%
7 France 5.578 0.020 97.51%
8 Chile 5.535 0.277 55.27%
9 Portugal 5.498 0.147 93.49%
10 Uruguay 5.437 0.388 100.00%
11 England 5.356 0.234 99.91%
12 Netherlands 5.153 0.640 7.81%
13 Italy 5.070 0.331 71.24%
14 Ecuador 5.006 0.540 4.83%
15 Croatia 4.918 -0.191 59.22%
16 Mexico 4.909 0.300 100.00%
17 Peru 4.899 0.451 46.24%
18 Poland 4.849 0.710 94.46%
19 Serbia 4.722 0.483 97.18%
20 Ukraine 4.705 -0.610 28.12%
21 Sweden 4.697 0.591 50.17%
22 Switzerland 4.695 0.095 72.32%
23 Denmark 4.695 0.437 43.04%
24 Paraguay 4.448 0.328 3.36%
25 United States 4.444 0.477 88.95%
26 Wales 4.443 -0.127 19.59%
27 Costa Rica 4.442 -0.270 99.91%
28 Russia 4.435 -0.128 100.00%
29 Bosnia and Herzegovina 4.409 0.470 10.72%
30 Republic of Ireland 4.398 0.031 7.54%
31 Turkey 4.392 -0.109 13.18%
32 Iceland 4.359 0.522 42.53%
33 Slovakia 4.301 0.242 29.02%
34 Senegal 4.298 0.117 57.12%
35 Austria 4.264 0.344 0.00%
36 Japan 4.259 0.026 100.00%
37 Ivory Coast 4.252 0.554 70.47%
38 Egypt 4.245 -0.079 86.49%
39 Venezuela 4.167 0.552 0.00%
40 Iran 4.164 -0.471 100.00%
41 Scotland 4.155 0.426 4.67%
42 Czech Republic 4.139 0.454 0.00%
43 Ghana 4.129 0.262 4.29%
44 Romania 4.110 -0.312 0.00%
45 Nigeria 4.070 0.168 93.40%
46 Northern Ireland 4.040 -0.487 34.00%
47 Bolivia 3.989 0.311 0.00%
48 Montenegro 3.972 0.305 11.62%
49 Algeria 3.960 0.856 0.00%
50 Australia 3.927 0.708 39.79%
51 Morocco 3.883 -0.672 26.40%
52 Greece 3.877 -0.032 11.79%
53 South Korea 3.862 -0.076 100.00%
54 Slovenia 3.849 -0.237 0.87%
55 Panama 3.842 -0.043 53.21%
56 Cameroon 3.799 -0.203 0.00%
57 Democratic Republic of Congo 3.787 0.829 16.39%
58 Tunisia 3.785 0.441 83.61%
59 Hungary 3.732 0.447 0.00%
60 Albania 3.694 -0.446 0.00%
61 Burkina Faso 3.691 -0.140 29.68%
62 South Africa 3.621 0.396 2.14%
63 Guinea 3.438 0.748 0.00%
64 Bulgaria 3.429 0.447 0.02%
65 Israel 3.421 0.734 0.00%
66 Honduras 3.419 -0.005 12.87%
67 Finland 3.410 -0.036 0.00%
68 Uganda 3.378 -1.248 9.22%
69 Zambia 3.361 -0.126 6.60%
70 Libya 3.344 -0.104 0.00%
71 Cape Verde 3.321 0.176 11.06%
72 Mali 3.318 0.239 0.01%
73 Uzbekistan 3.309 -0.158 0.00%
74 Saudi Arabia 3.297 0.419 100.00%
75 Norway 3.297 -0.086 0.00%
76 Syria 3.266 0.237 5.27%
77 Jamaica 3.253 -0.231 0.00%
78 Armenia 3.224 0.474 0.00%
79 Georgia 3.197 0.189 0.00%
80 Zimbabwe 3.187 0.475 0.00%
81 United Arab Emirates 3.117 0.253 0.00%
82 Macedonia 3.114 0.334 0.00%
83 Gabon 3.110 -0.212 3.12%
84 Canada 3.107 -0.257 0.00%
85 Belarus 3.085 -0.130 0.00%
86 China 3.083 -0.157 0.00%
87 Iraq 2.985 -0.071 0.00%
88 Jordan 2.886 -0.024 0.00%
89 Congo 2.840 0.762 0.00%
90 Guatemala 2.826 0.110 0.00%
91 Sierra Leone 2.748 0.425 0.00%
92 Haiti 2.744 -0.218 0.00%
93 Angola 2.738 -0.088 0.00%
94 Togo 2.662 0.167 0.00%
95 Qatar 2.642 0.284 0.00%
96 Mauritania 2.617 -0.331 0.00%
97 Kuwait 2.607 0.200 0.00%
98 Benin 2.601 0.824 0.00%
99 El Salvador 2.592 0.506 0.00%
100 Cyprus 2.584 0.281 0.00%
101 Kenya 2.580 -0.087 0.00%
102 Oman 2.561 -0.210 0.00%
103 Equatorial Guinea 2.552 -0.099 0.00%
104 Reunion 2.538 0.117 0.00%
105 Trinidad and Tobago 2.531 0.413 0.00%
106 Azerbaijan 2.526 0.035 0.00%
107 Mozambique 2.458 -0.268 0.00%
108 Estonia 2.440 -0.853 0.00%
109 Madagascar 2.373 0.899 0.00%
110 Martinique 2.359 0.129 0.00%
111 Tanzania 2.348 0.236 0.00%
112 Guinea-Bissau 2.334 0.314 0.00%
113 Burundi 2.294 0.585 0.00%
114 Malawi 2.291 -0.592 0.00%
115 Kazakhstan 2.283 0.258 0.00%
116 Bahrain 2.232 -0.602 0.00%
117 Moldova 2.228 0.083 0.00%
118 Kosovo 2.223 0.229 0.00%
119 Latvia 2.221 0.191 0.00%
120 Namibia 2.221 -0.640 0.00%
121 North Korea 2.221 0.379 0.00%
122 Lithuania 2.188 -0.079 0.00%
123 New Zealand 2.169 0.103 1.32%
124 Rwanda 2.152 -0.266 0.00%
125 Botswana 2.139 0.130 0.00%
126 Luxembourg 2.114 0.438 0.00%
127 Swaziland 2.104 -0.267 0.00%
128 Central African Republic 2.090 0.582 0.00%
129 Niger 2.081 -0.181 0.00%
130 Lebanon 2.032 0.068 0.00%
131 Sudan 2.021 -0.220 0.00%
132 Liberia 2.013 0.220 0.00%
133 Ethiopia 2.004 0.835 0.00%
134 Gambia 1.996 0.079 0.00%
135 Palestine 1.993 -0.002 0.00%
136 Nicaragua 1.880 0.343 0.00%
137 Faroe Islands 1.874 -0.098 0.00%
138 Comoros 1.840 -0.395 0.00%
139 Thailand 1.712 0.505 0.00%
140 Mayotte 1.659 0.234 0.00%
141 Malta 1.640 -0.316 0.00%
142 Chad 1.623 0.114 0.00%
143 Lesotho 1.604 -0.052 0.00%
144 Zanzibar 1.554 0.437 0.00%
145 French Guiana 1.516 0.732 0.00%
146 Antigua and Barbuda 1.251 0.329 0.00%
147 Belize 1.227 0.218 0.00%
148 Bermuda 1.212 0.064 0.00%
149 Turkmenistan 1.171 1.089 0.00%
150 Vietnam 1.114 0.592 0.00%
151 Guadeloupe 1.022 0.760 0.00%
152 Curacao 1.008 0.284 0.00%
153 Philippines 1.002 0.568 0.00%
154 Cuba 0.989 -0.583 0.00%
155 Indonesia 0.979 0.231 0.00%
156 Saint Kitts and Nevis 0.919 0.354 0.00%
157 Guyana 0.898 0.905 0.00%
158 Mauritius 0.863 -0.015 0.00%
159 Sao Tome e Principe 0.817 0.119 0.00%
160 Liechtenstein 0.812 -0.678 0.00%
161 Suriname 0.790 0.175 0.00%
162 Dominican Republic 0.789 0.514 0.00%
163 Yemen 0.788 -0.304 0.00%
164 Andorra 0.775 -0.859 0.00%
165 Hong Kong 0.724 -0.535 0.00%
166 New Caledonia 0.706 0.220 0.00%
167 Kyrgyzstan 0.588 -0.634 0.00%
168 Tajikistan 0.299 0.807 0.00%
169 Singapore 0.252 0.295 0.00%
170 Seychelles 0.217 -0.243 0.00%
171 South Sudan 0.215 -0.418 0.00%
172 Puerto Rico 0.190 -0.066 0.00%
173 India 0.161 0.304 0.00%
174 Afghanistan 0.000 0.000 0.00%
175 Barbados -0.029 0.050 0.00%
176 Malaysia -0.050 0.205 0.00%
177 Eritrea -0.147 0.684 0.00%
178 Grenada -0.148 0.748 0.00%
179 Cayman Islands -0.266 -0.534 0.00%
180 Myanmar -0.285 -0.266 0.00%
181 Netherlands Antilles -0.357 0.218 0.00%
182 Guam -0.455 -0.918 0.00%
183 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines -0.459 1.394 0.00%
184 Tahiti -0.469 0.106 0.00%
185 Fiji -0.473 0.455 0.00%
186 Saint Lucia -0.557 0.493 0.00%
187 Gibraltar -0.627 0.506 0.00%
188 Solomon Islands -0.672 0.086 0.00%
189 Papua New Guinea -0.683 1.328 0.00%
190 Montserrat -0.742 1.670 0.00%
191 San Marino -0.857 -0.212 0.00%
192 Maldives -0.866 0.410 0.00%
193 Dominica -0.929 -0.001 0.00%
194 Aruba -1.051 -0.466 0.00%
195 Pakistan -1.116 -0.138 0.00%
196 Vanuatu -1.143 0.740 0.00%
197 Somalia -1.218 -2.216 0.00%
198 Taiwan -1.306 1.080 0.00%
199 Nepal -1.447 -0.542 0.00%
200 Cambodia -1.496 0.311 0.00%
201 Djibouti -1.651 -0.289 0.00%
202 Bonaire -1.958 1.554 0.00%
203 Laos -2.106 1.202 0.00%
204 Bangladesh -2.276 -0.248 0.00%
205 Bahamas -2.387 -25.571 0.00%
206 East Timor -2.433 0.067 0.00%
207 Macao -3.090 0.336 0.00%
208 Brunei -3.162 0.489 0.00%
209 Saint Martin -3.344 1.845 0.00%
210 Sri Lanka -3.344 0.093 0.00%
211 Bhutan -3.388 0.233 0.00%
212 US Virgin Islands -3.454 -0.176 0.00%
213 Anguilla -3.546 -1.098 0.00%
214 Mongolia -3.568 0.014 0.00%
215 British Virgin Islands -3.867 0.099 0.00%
216 Turks and Caicos -4.089 3.935 0.00%
217 Tuvalu -4.182 1.099 0.00%
218 Sint Maarten -4.243 0.424 0.00%
219 Samoa -6.590 0.315 0.00%
220 Saint Barthelemy -6.712 2.237 0.00%
221 Cook Islands -6.720 -0.878 0.00%
222 Eastern Samoa -6.805 1.189 0.00%
223 Northern Mariana Islands -7.002 1.312 0.00%
224 Saint Pierre and Miquelon -8.253 0.968 0.00%
225 Tonga -9.294 0.109 0.00%
226 Kiribati -11.831 0.288 0.00%

Three of the most interesting major teams are the USA, Argentina and the Netherlands. Each has seen headlines that qualification may surprisingly be in danger. The data shows that the Dutch are in far worse shape than the other two and are major longshots to qualify at this point. While the Americans and Argentines still find their chances near 90% despite struggles.

In CONMEBOL, while 5th place only gets you a playoff, most CONMEBOL teams should handle New Zealand fairly easily, and that goes double for Argentina. Despite their struggles, Argentina still looks a very good bet to be there in Russia in 2018.

In CONCACAF the US situation is a little better than it looks on first blush. While wins in the final two qualifiers doesn’t technically guarantee qualification, effectively the tiebreakers are such that it would. Given the matchups, the most likely point total for them is 6, followed by 4, followed by 3. All of which give them good to decent qualifying chances. Furthermore, they would be either slightly favored over Australia in a potential playoff, or heavily favored over a Syrian team with no home leg in would would be a political nightmare of a playoff. And so their qualification chances are still a very good 89%.

In addition to the teams who have already officially qualified, Germany and Uruguay qualified in all 10,000 simulations. Uruguay finished 5th in 14 sims, but won all 14 matchups with New Zealand. Germany won their group every time except two, and won both playoffs. Would take a major miracle for either not to qualify now.

Finally some assumptions that aren’t necessarily safe, but are hard to otherwise model. Panama and Honduras will be facing Mexican and Costa Rican teams that don’t have much to play for. Under normal circumstances these would be challenging matchups, and they might still be under these. Players will still be playing for a spot on next year’s roster, so just laying down seems unlikely. So the assumption is that the ratings won’t be affected any more than normal variations affect them. Not a safe one, but hard to model.

Another assumption is that the South Africa v Senegal match that ended in a 2-1 win for South Africa will be replayed (as is currently scheduled by CAF). In case you don’t know the referee in that game has been banned for life for match manipulation of that match. A ball that struck a Senegalese player’s knee, was ruled a handball and the decisive goal in the match was scored by the resulting penalty.

If either of these assumptions prove inaccurate, qualification chances can change quite a bit, and drastically in the second case. If the match stands, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic and South Africa would all see their chances increase at the expense of the group favorites, Senegal.

Anyway, sorry for being away so long. More to come, including an explanation of what I’ve been up to.

— Voros

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