Friday 4 July 2014

The ODD mathematics of The World Cup

The recent second round playoff matches of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil have been very exciting,  with many of the deciding goals scored in the very last minutes of the matches, and often during overtime.

Two of the eight matches were decided by penalty shoot-outs, which were by themselves nail-biting. This included the match won by Brazil where Neymar scored the decisive penalty against Chile.

As a compulsive analyst, I was intrigued by the mathematical probabilities of the results of the playoff  games. Here are some of my observations:

    1. Using the pre-game betting odds as the indicator of the favorite team to win each match, I found that every match was ultimately won by the favorite team. What is interesting, however, was how the matches were won. 
    2. Of the eight matches played in the second round, five of them were won by the strong favourites as per the pre-game betting odds indicated in the table. These five winning teams were Argentina, Germany, France, Brazil and Belgium. But surprisingly, only one of the five matches (France versus Nigeria) was won during the 90 minutes of regulation (plus injury) time.  You would have thought that all the heavy favourites would have been able to win after 90 minutes. 
    3. By contrast, of the three matches where the odds were more balanced – meaning no clear favourites -  two of them were won during regulation time. The exception was the match between Costa Rica and Greece, which went into the exciting (for fans) but dreaded (for players and managers) penalty shoot out. 
    4. In the eight matches played, the average time to score a goal was 68 minutes during regulation time. Interestingly, it took only 13 minutes to score during extra time.
    As betting odds and payouts are different for the scores at the end of the 90 minutes regulation time, and for the final outcome - including extra time or penalty, if any – I wonder if the results of the second round matches can be a useful betting guide for the remaining matches of World Cup 2014.

    Looking at the pre-game odds for the quarter-finals, will the match between Brazil and Columbia and the one between Holland and Costa Rica go into extra time since both Brazil and Holland are strongly favoured to win?

    Well, as football fans are happy to say, the ball is round and anything can happen.

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