While this ridiculously complex analysis might appear a little counter-intuitive, especially to a girl (how exactly does one score a fraction of a goal?), it is undoubtedly very, very cool. But, it does beg the question, has Goldman Sachs scored a bit of an own goal here? Clearly, they have used very competent (and highly paid) resources with very good technique. But they seem to have applied them in the wrong direction. Consider for a moment that the average annual salary for a Goldman Sachs employee is $367,564 per annum . Let us assume Goldman took three of their very average employees and assigned them 10 days each to prepare the data, run the analysis and compile the findings, that would equate to over USD 42,000 (~R570,000) just in resourcing costs, excluding any other costs, such as the cost of the data and systems required to run their models. This is an especially pricey exercise to go public with if they are wrong, which is highly likely given the random nature of soccer. Indeed, it is this very characteristic that makes the game so interesting to watch (for some people at least).
At 71point4 we too like to predict the future, but without spending USD 42,000, or spending anything preferably. With no psychic octopuses easily accessible, and because, like Goldman Sachs, we like to base our predictions in data, we turned to the betting markets.
Betting markets can be a useful source of data that is easily accessible (and free!). Prices (or odds) in these markets essentially reflect the combined predictions of many people who vote with their feet using their own hard-earned money. A particularly fine feature of this data is that it updates immediately as more information becomes available. So, for example if a historically mediocre team suddenly appears to playing beautifully mid-game, the betting markets will update to take this into account. Of course, there are obviously limitations to this data set, but nothing is perfect.
We have therefore used the odds of teams winning their initial group matches to predict who will get into the round of sixteen. Then using the odds of which teams will make it to the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals and the odds of which team will win, we can see how teams will progress and who will win the tournament.
We pulled data from oddschecker.com on the 13th of June 2018 (one day before the start of the World Cup). Based on about 30 minutes of simple number crunching – mostly consisting of copying and pasting data out of an internet browser and into Excel – we came to the following results (in each game the winner is bolded).