Luck will only get you so far. And so will the benefit of suspect refereeing decisions, as Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement taught Manchester United fans.
We’ve reached the quarter-finals stage of the World Cup. In theory, the true cream has risen to the top and we’re left with eight teams of top quality. In reality, Costa Rica are still there, but they’re hardly to blame for England, Italy and Uruguay being a bit crap.
The point is, we’re left with four cracking matches, three of which look incredibly hard to call. Fine margins abound Are there any pointers we can take from previous World Cup quarter-finals to spare our hopeless fumbling around for a winning bet? Are there any indicators of better current form at the World Cup making progress to the semi-final more likely? The Paddy Power Blog has leaved through the history books to find out.
The answer is a resounding maybe. It looks like teams who have gotten to the quarter-finals with a better record do march on to the semi-finals more often than those with a poorer record, but the difference is far from a landslide. If it was any type of a slide, it would probably be one of those small slides that goes into a paddling pool.
In all the World Cups that have featured a quarter-final stage (14 of the 19 to date), 59% of the teams who have brought the better form in the quarter-final have qualified. And because we live in a world of instant consumer gratification and dwindling attention spans, I should point out that means 41% of teams with the weaker form progress.
The important thing to note is the abstract nature of ‘form’. It refers purely to the results rather than quality of the opposition or how arsed the opposition were about the particular match. In other cases, teams with matching Win-Draw-Loss records are separated solely by goal difference, meaning not being the ‘form’ side doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in bad form.
With all those caveats out of the way, we can see big variations in the numbers of ‘form’ teams going through on a year by year basis. Some years, all four form teams went through and others, it was just the one. Most of the time, it’s two or three. A slight difference, but a potentially helpful one when the margins are likely to be so tight.
Soooooooooo then …. that was nice, but what are the implications for these quarter-finals?
The form guide:
+FRANCE – W3 D1 L0 GD +8 Pts 10
GERMANY – W3 D1 L0 GD +6 Pts 10
BRAZIL – W2 D2 L0 GD +5 Pts 8
+COLOMBIA – W4 D0 L0 GD +9 Pts 12
+ARGENTINA – W4 D0 L0 GD +4 Pts 12
BELGIUM – W4 D0 L0 GD +3 Pts 12
+NETHERLANDS – W4 D0 L0 GD +8 Pts 12
COSTA RICA – W2 D2 L0 GD +3 Pts 8
(+ indicates better form and in this example, we have awarded points for all games played at this World Cup, even the knock-out stage games. Games won on penalties are counted as draws)
Based on that it suggests success for France, Colombia, Argentina and the Netherlands. Whether it’s through results and/or goal difference they’re nominally and marginally the form teams. The Netherlands looks nailed on to end Costa Rica’s fairytale, but the other games look closer than Luis Suarez to an opponent’s flesh.
Germany were run ragged by Algeria, but it’d be no surprise to see them revert to stereotype and methodically dump a more flamboyant France side out. But equally, Les Bleus may have enough Gallic swagger to overcome their more pedestrian neighbours.
Home and dry?
Going purely on form, Colombia are the pick against Brazil. Going purely on refereeing decisions and the other intangible benefits the hosts get from home advantage, it’s hard to go against Brazil. The Colombians look more solid – they’ve won all their matches, scored more goals and conceded less. Brazil have drawn two and came within the width of crossbar of crashing out against Chile. Form could easily trump local favours.
There’s basically nothing to separate Belgium and Argentina. They both won all their matches, looked good and then disappointing at times and made heavy whether of beating opposition they were expected to beat comfortably in the Round of 16. They’ve also got some excellent haircuts. The strict definition of ‘better form’ gives Argentina the nod, who have the better goal difference by one. It’s also possible that it could count for as much as an Arsenal player saying ‘I’ll never leave’ seconds before he hits the road to Manchester City, so backing Belgium also makes sense.
Going purely on the form teams of France, Colombia, Argentina and the Netherlands, that’s a 10/1 accum (BET NOW: MOBILE | DESKTOP). If you want to tone it down from the 100% of form teams going through and more towards the 75% mark we’ve had at the last two World Cups, swapping Belgium for Argentina sees the odds grow to 17/1 (BET NOW: MOBILE | DESKTOP). And even including the hosts in place of the Colombians pays tasty odds of slightly more than 15/2 (BET NOW: MOBILE | DESKTOP).