Photograph — Complete Sports Nigeria

Predicting a football game is the shortest walk to disappointment most times; but maybe, as humans, our predictions are mostly clouded by our emotions, which makes us highly subjective. So, we decided to try out animals, but the late legendary Paul the Octopus also failed us. Maybe it’s time to try a far more objective approach to World Cup predictions.

Making use of data mining, machine learning and econometrics, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., an investment bank in the United States, predicts Brazil will take home the World Cup trophy in Russia while Nigeria, the Super Eagles, will not even make it past the group stages in the tournament. The Goldman Sachs data was published on Monday.

The New York-based investment bank used 200,000 statistical models, from data on individual players and recent teams’ performance to one million simulations of the tournament. The group stages predictions’ table showed that Nigeria ended with only 2 points gained from draws with Croatia and Iceland.

Goldman Sachs gives the Super Eagles, knocked out by France at the last World Cup in the Round of 16, a 17.1 percent probability of reaching the same stage; while African peers like Egypt, making its first World Cup appearance in 28 years, and Morroco had 34.4 and 21.6 respectively. Also, Croatia and first-timers Iceland, both in Group D, Nigeria’s group, earned 42.8 percent and 45.2 percent respectively.

The major characteristics that standout for rating teams according to the investment bank are recent team performance, individual players, recent momentum—as measured by the ratio of wins to losses over the past ten matches. Also, to gauge the success in each simulated game, the number of goals scored in recent games and the number of goals conceded by the opponent team are considered.

Not only Goldman Sachs has employed statistical methods in World Cup predictions, a rival bank UBS last month tipped Germany to retain the title, using a similar model. Austrian mathematicians revealed in May that Germany and Brazil are neck-and-neck favourites to lift the trophy.

Historically, Nigerian teams have gone to the World Cup to do relatively well defying the odds, always riding the wave of unpredictability that defines the football game and makes it beautiful to watch. The present Eagles team showed some of it already by defying the odds to qualify from a tough group enroute this World Cup. The main tournament could be no different when it begins on June 14.

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