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    Researchers give Belgium 10% chance of winning World Cup

    © Belga
    © Belga

    Spain is the team with the best chance of winning the Football World Cup on the 15th of July in Moscow, according to researchers at the University of Ghent, who studied the issue with colleagues from the universities of Dortmund and Munich. The researchers, who used statistics to come to their conclusion, gave the Red Devils a 10% chance, ranking them 5th among the potential winners.

    According to their forecast, Spain has a 17.8% chance of winning the Russia World Cup, ahead of Germany (17.1%) and Brazil (12.3%). France is in 4th position with a 10.4% chance.

    While Spain has the best chance, statistically, Germany was most likely to win football’s most prestigious competition, according to the researchers. This may seem contradictory, but it is not, they noted. Germany has the strongest team along with Brazil and it therefore seems that it will be the winner in the “most probable course of events,” they said. “Nevertheless, Spain has a greater chance of winning the World Cup because Germany and Brazil may already play against each other in the final 16, while Spain has a simpler programme.”

    To come up with their forecast, the researchers used the international matches played by each team in the past eight years combined with a host of other data, including the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), host-country advantage, the number of players who belong to the same club team, the average age of the players, and the age and years of experience of the coach.

    In addition to statistical methods, machine learning methods (an artificial intelligence subset that allows computers to gradually improve their performance on a specific task) were also used to arrive at the most precise forecasts possible. These methods seek the best way to convert data into good predictions and are thus very appropriate in this case. The downside is that they are harder to interpret than traditional statistical methods.

    Maria Novak
    The Brussels Times