PwC World Cup study confirms what we already know

Published: May 19, 2010


Gearing up for the upcoming World Cup? PwC has just released a report that may give you some tips when placing your bets. Or, it may just confirm what you already suspected, albeit with some hard statistics and complicated verbiage.

World Cup celebration

The study identifies the strongest predictors of a country's success in the tournament—home court advantage and a strong soccer (or footie, depending on your country of origin) tradition—while culling out those that don't seem to matter much, namely, GDP and population size. Sorry, folks, the US doesn't stand a chance.

These findings should come as no surprise. GDP wouldn't really be a factor since soccer is one of the cheapest sports to play, requiring no equipment other than a round object. And, if you have a country steeped in and devoted to the soccer tradition, scores of children grow up striving to excel in the sport, rendering the search for talent effortless. And home court advantage—who needs a Big Four consulting firm to explain the merits of that?

Still, the accompanying statistics are mildly interesting for those who don't know the numbers offhand: The host nation has won six out of 18 world cups, and even when they didn't win, those teams performed well. European countries have only won the World Cup when it was played in Europe, while Latin American teams have won all of the World Cups held in America.

A soccer-savvy colleague has illuminated some more enlightening statistics on this year's tournament, rendering the PwC study even less insightful. "This year’s World Cup is veering into uncharted territory because it’s never been played anywhere in Africa before. (And only once outside Europe and the Americas—in Japan and Korea in 2002, when it was won by Brazil.) Additionally, no African team has ever made it beyond the quarter-final stage, so home continent advantage could be huge. Perhaps less so for the South African team itself, though: it faces an incredibly tough challenge just to get out of the opening group round against France, Mexico and Uruguay."*

So what does this all mean for this year's predictions? PwC pushes Brazil as the favorite, recalling its No. 1 ranking and its status as the only country that has won the tournament outside its home region.

Seems like a safe prediction to me. My analysis of PwC's study: DUH!

*Addendum from the same soccer-savvy colleague: a couple of quants at JP Morgan in London crunched the numbers and came out with a completely different—and much more unlikely—outcome: England to win. Is anyone surprised that quantitative modeling can seemingly be influenced to get the results you want to see?