Want to Play in the World Cup? The Math Says, Move to South America"

Written By: Dave Martin

In Part 1 of our look into World Cup results, we found that in the Group Stage of the tournament:

Let’s dive in to examine more results by Confederation (location) with PTC Mathcad!

Soccer ball on field

I’ll start with some error checking. When I was compiling results in spreadsheets, I noticed that some countries that qualified in the past might not exist anymore, or that I might have called them something else that what my source spreadsheet calls them.

I write a program that compares my matrix of the seeds with the matrix of Confederations using a lookup and nested try – on error functions:

Program to find missing confederations

After correcting a handful of discrepancies, I’m assured that I have accounted for all countries.

Corrected program showing no missing Conferacies

Now let’s add the Confederation data to the Upsets matrix using a lookup function. Here’s the program:

Confederation data and upset data combined

And here are the results:

Results of Confederations and upset data

I’ll do the same with my Seeds matrix. Here’s the program:

Seeds matrix added

And the results:

 Results of seeds matrix

The first thing I want to look at is the breakdown of World Cup appearances by Confederation.

 World Cup appearance by Confederation

Here’s what I surmise:

I wonder how that compares to the number of countries in each Confederation. I have a matrix that lists that:

Countries in each Confederation

I write a program that copies the Appearances matrix and divides the number of appearances by the number of countries in that Confederation:

Appearances divided by number of countries

About a quarter of the teams in the European Confederation make it to World Cup. For Asia, Africa, and North America / Central America / Caribbean, it’s usually just under 10%. But wow, on average, half the teams in South America make it to World Cup.

Now let’s get to analyzing upsets by Confederation.

Upsets by Confederation

Now we’re starting to see some interesting information.

How do these upsets fare when you look at Confederation versus Confederation? Now I’m really starting to get into some tricky programming.

 Confederation vs. Confederation

What will help me predict outcome of a given match is knowing the differential. A simple program will copy the matrix and calculate the differential between upsetting and being upset. Negative values within a column are bad for that confederation, and the more negative the number, the worse off it is for them.

Why Africa, Asia, and South America most likely to upset Europeans

What does this tell me? I’m favoring African, Asian, and South American teams to upset European teams.

That’s all for now. For those of you who like International Football as much as I like American Football, you should have lots here to digest.

What I find interesting is that I know relatively little about FIFA and World Cup, but with PTC Mathcad, I can still mine data and uncover interesting results.

Getting More Out of Data with PTC Mathcad

Do you have data you want to crunch? Numbers you’re trying to make meaning from?  Download PTC Mathcad Express , your free-for-life copy of PTC’s engineering math software.

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  • Math Software

About the Author

Dave Martin

Dave Martin is a former Creo, Windchill, and Mathcad instructor and consultant. After leaving PTC, he was the Creo specialist for Amazon; and a mechanical engineer, Creo administrator, and Windchill administrator for Amazon Prime Air. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and currently works as an avionics engineer for Blue Origin. 


Martin is the author of the books Design Intent in Creo Parametric and Top Down Design in Creo Parametric--both available at www.amazon.com. He can be reached at dmartin@creowindchill.com.