Monday, June 23, 2014

Looking Ahead to the Knockout Stage

Last night I posted all of the scenarios in play for the last round of Group Stage games in the World Cup. There are 27 teams still in play to advance to the Knockout Stage. I'll update this post as the games progress and teams secure their place in the Knockout Stage. The first place team from each group faces off with the second place team from another group and the teams from an individual group are placed on opposite sides of the bracket. I used Nate Silver of 538's World Cup Probability Predictor to generate the probabilities of each team landing in each spot.

Matchup 1: 1A vs 2B
1A: Brazil
2B: Chile

The most likely result here is Brazil vs Chile, which is how the teams currently stand in their groups. Chile lost their final game to the Netherlands, locking them into second place in Group B. Coming into their match with Cameroon, Brazil had a 92% chance of winning Group A and they did not disappoint, returning to their Jogo Bonito style as Neymar netted two goals to take the lead for the Golden Boot.

Matchup 2: 1C vs 2D
1C:  Colombia
2D: Uruguay

Colombia was almost a guarantee to win the group with a 98.5% probability heading into the last game. They didn't disappoint and striker James Rodriguez is becoming a star right before our eyes. Uruguay overcame their 36% probability of landing here thanks to Luis Suarez going Mike Tyson on an Italian defender. No word yet if FIFA will actually have the guts to suspend Suarez for biting.

Matchup 3: 1E vs 2F
1E: France 99.6%, Ecuador 0.3%
2F: Nigeria

All 4 teams in Group E are still alive but only France and Ecuador can win the group. Nigeria held their own against Argentina, answering both of Messi's goals but couldn't prevail. They got the help they needed from Bosnia against Iran and the Super Eagles advanced to the knockout stage for the first time since 1998.

Matchup 4: 1G vs 2H
1G: Germany 86.1%, USA 13.9%
2H: Algeria 60.0%, Russia 36.1%, Belgium 3.3%, South Korea 0.6%

The winner of Germany-USA will win Group G. Germany wins the group if the teams draw. After dissecting South Korea, Algeria has a great chance to advance with a win or draw against Russia. Russia can advance with a win and a South Korea loss. The Koreans need a win and a ton of help on Goal Differential to slide in here, but the door is not completely shut. In all likelihood the Algeria-Russia game will decide who lands here.

Matchup 5: 1B vs 2A
1B: Netherlands
2A: Mexico

Netherlands beat Chile 2-0 to win Group B. Mexico advanced with a 3-1 defeat of Croatia as El Tri found they way through the Group Stage and into the knockout round for the 6th consecutive World Cup. 

Matchup 6: 1D vs 2C
1D: Costa Rica
2C: Ivory Coast 75.0%, Greece 19.5%, Japan 4.0%, Colombia 1.4%

Costa Rica played to a boring 0-0 draw against England, securing their spot atop the Group of Champions. What a story. This game was almost the convergence of two incredible storylines as Ivory Coast carried a tie game into stoppage time, but a terrible dive by the Greeks earned them a penalty kick in the 92nd minute that they converted into a victory. The Greeks had only a 19% chance of advancing, but thanks to the penalty kick are moving on to face Costa Rica while the "Golden Generation" of Ivory Coast soccer has likely had their last ride.

Matchup 7: 1F vs 2E
1F: Argentina
2E: Switzerland 60.8%, Ecuador 37.0%, Honduras 1.8%, France 0.4%

Lionel Messi scored twice against Nigeria, bringing himself into a tie with Neymar for the Golden Boot with 4 goals through 3 games. Argentina looks lethal offensively but has some serious questions on the defensive end. While Ecuador is currently 2nd in Group E, they face France in the final game which gives Switzerland the advantage in Nate Silver's predictive model. This is the only spot where Silver's model predicts a likely change in the standings from their current alignment. 

Matchup 8: 1H vs 2G
1H: Belgium 96.7%, Algeria 3.4%
2G: USA 61.7%, Ghana 19.7%, Germany 13.6%, Portugal 4.9%

Belgium has secured a spot in the knockout stage and a win or draw against South Korea puts them in first place in Group H. Only a loss and an Algeria win could drop Belgium to the second spot in the group. The US is the most likely team to land here with a draw against Germany, though if Germany and Ghana both win things could get interesting on the tiebreaker front. Portugal needs a big win over Ghana and the US and Germany not to tie to have a chance here.

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