6. France — SPI: 86.1, 4 Percent Chance of Victory
5. Chile — SPI:
86.7, 4 Percent Chance of Victory
How can both teams have an equally low likelihood of making it all the way to victory when Chile has the better team per their SPI rankings? Is it a rounding error? Not quite — it’s a testament to how the World Cup works, especially in the early rounds. In the beginning of the tournament, each team is seeded into one of eight groups. The only way to make it into the round of 16 is to finish in the top two of the group round, which is a round robin against each team in a given group. Make sense? Of course it does.
Silver and company have helpfully broken down each group’s likelihood of making it through to the next round, so we can see exactly where the disparity lies. France, in Group E (along with Switzerland, Ecuador, and Honduras), has a 79 percent chance of making it to the round of 16, and the remaining percentages per round break down as 45, 24, and nine. Chile, meanwhile, in Group B (with Australia, Netherlands, and Spain — which we’ll get to below) has a slightly better score but a rougher time making it into the round of sixteen and onward, with percentages breaking down from 16 to the final as 70, 33, 21, and 11. Essentially, Silver’s model is predicting a harder road for Chile until the Final, and the inverse for France.
4. Spain — SPI: 89.1, 8 Percent Chance of Victory
La Roja provides a perfect example of the ways that Silver’s Model can lead to unexpected conclusions. For the first two rounds, Spain has the same predicted likelihood of making it through as France. That is, a 79 percent chance to make it to the round of 16 and a 45 percent chance to make it to the quarter finals. The differences, though, crop up shortly thereafter, with Spain’s chances of making it to the semis and the final round coming in at 30 and 18 percent, respectively. Actually, Spain has a higher SPI score than the next team on our list, because a large part of what makes the World Cup so interesting (and so hard to predict) are the matchups.