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Forecasting the FIFA World Cup

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4 June 2010 13:42

One of the more off-beat features of the build-up to sport's most important international event is the release by the big investment banks of their forecasts for the competition, in which they encourage their analysts to meld football with quantitative analysis. Here are three examples, from JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, and UBS. 

The most surprising forecast: JP Morgan has England winning the World Cup by beating first the Netherlands in the semi-finals, and then Spain in the final. A bold enough prediction, you might think, but actually that wasn't what caught my eye: rather it was the call that England are forecast to win both games on penalties! 

For anyone who can remember this, and this, and this (warning: upsetting for those of an English disposition), it seems like a brave forecast. 

Indeed, JP Morgan's penalty model even ranks England ahead of Germany – a result which flies bravely in the face of Gary Lineker's famous description of the game: 'Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end the Germans win on penalties.' I guess the Morgan analysts are taking seriously the standard financial disclaimer that past performance is no guide to future performance.

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