Predicting the 2022 World Cup

The plan

During the 2018 World Cup I was messing about with a simple prediction model based on the Elo ratings (which I prefer to the official FIFA ones) and came up with graphics like this and this which people quite liked, so ever since then I’ve rolled them out for every major tournament.

For every team there’s an individual graphic summarising their chances of reaching each stage the tournament and who they’re most likely to face. There are also two graphics covering the knockout matches: one for the Round of 16 and another for the subsequent rounds.

What I’ll be aiming to do throughout the World Cup is update these graphics after every round of matches, showing the revised prospects for the teams who just played and also how the latest results have impacted their potential paths through the knockout stages.

The model

This is a fairly simple model compared to some of the others out there: the Elo ratings are the only input which means it’s based on results. There are no expected goals, adjustments for missing players etc in there.

While it therefore may not be the most accurate, it’s given pretty similar outputs to more complex ones in the past and should still provide a reasonably good prediction of how far teams will go and when they’re likely to meet each other.

The team ratings are taken from this page, with the standard 100 points added to Qatar’s rating to reflect home advantage.

The model works by simulating the entire tournament 500,000 times (an upgrade from the original 100,000 as I’ve learned to code it more efficiently) and registering how frequently each outcome occurred.

How the knockout stages could pan out

Without further ado, here’s the probabilities look for the latter stages of the tournament. Brazil and Argentina are the favourites and their combined chances of winning would probably be higher if they weren’t likely to meet in the semi-finals. England‘s poor recent results mean that they are not currently among the favourites.

… and here’s how the Round of 16 fixtures are likely to be populated. The horizontal lines in the middle pair the matches up by which quarter-final game they feed into. Argentina are expected to qualify with ease, while England‘s group looks to be the most wide open due to the latter’s aforementioned recent struggles.

Team-by-team graphics

Below I’ve created a graphic for each team (in alphabetical order) breaking out their prospects and likely opponents at each stage in detail. One slight quirk to be aware of is that the spread of possible opponents in the final for the lowest-ranked teams may be a bit off, as there are so few scenarios in which they get this far.