Predict the unpredictable
Football never ceases to surprise us, and this World Cup has been no different. The early eliminations of Spain and Germany have been in keeping with a tournament that has been much more competitive than many thought.
When we published our pre-tournament forecast last month, like everyone else we made Brazil, Germany and Spain among the favourites, and probabilities of 92%, 89% and 87% respectively to reach the second round reflected this status. However, implicit in this prediction – time to dust off your calculator and recall your high school statistics classes – was that there was a 29% chance that at least one of these teams would not make the last 16. In other words, there was a reasonable expectation that one of the major nations would fall early.
The same applied in the second round. Brazil (83%) and Spain (72%) were both favourites to go through, but there was only a 60% chance both would make it. It was almost a coin flip that one wouldn’t.
We see this all the time in club football too. In the Premier League last season, of the ten matchdays without a match between the ‘big six’, only one of them saw all these sides win their matches. Even when there are many high probability events, someone somewhere is likely to come up tails rather than heads. And if it is us who happens to be on the receiving end: while it’s important to understand the reasons for it, we shouldn’t underestimate the role of luck, which was one factor behind Germany’s exit.
In football, you can always predict the unpredictable. Be ready for it, and don’t overreact.