The Eliminator: Who will win?
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By Paul Carr
ESPN Stats & Information
Some people consider picking a World Cup champion an art. Some
consider it a science. Some take the easy way out and always choose
Brazil. That isn't a bad strategy, since it has proven to be right
five times in 18 World Cups. But automatically picking the favorite
isn't the most entertaining way to prognosticate.
The Eliminator is.
The Eliminator doesn't pick a winner. It chooses 31 losers, using
historical statistics and trends to identify the traits of a champion
and apply those criteria to this year's teams, banishing countries a
few at a time until only one is left standing. Here we go ...
? We'll start with the minnows. Since FIFA began its world rankings in
1993, no country outside the top 20 has won the World Cup. The
rankings are often disparaged, and they will change before the
tournament, but we can safely knock out any country currently outside
the top 60. Goodbye to New Zealand (80th), North Korea (102nd) and
host country South Africa (81st).
? No European country has ever won after suffering more than one
qualifying loss. That eliminates Greece, Serbia, Slovakia and
Slovenia. No real surprises there.
? No country has ever won the World Cup after finishing fourth or
worse in its final qualifying group. This applies only to CONMEBOL in
this cycle, and the rule eliminates a pair of two-time champions in
Argentina and Uruguay.
? While we're in South America, let's point out that no country has
ever won after allowing more than one goal per game in qualifying.
Adios, Chile (22 goals allowed in 18 matches).
? Every champion except one (1958 Brazil, which played only two
qualifiers) has averaged at least 1.5 goals per game in qualifying.
Australia, Paraguay and Algeria may exit stage left.
? Aside from the first two World Cups, no country has ever won without
reaching at least the quarterfinals in a previous tournament. See ya,
Ghana, Honduras, Ivory Coast, Japan and Nigeria.
? Using this step earlier would have simplified the process but also
would have deprived us all of so much fun: No country from Africa or
Asia has ever won. Goodbye to Cameroon and South Korea.
? Brazil is the only country to win a World Cup in the opposite
hemisphere, from an East/West standpoint. Plus no CONCACAF country has
ever won. That's a double whammy for Mexico and the United States.
? As counterintuitive as this may sound, the only European country to
win following a perfect qualifying campaign was 1934 Italy, which
played exactly one qualifier. This drops a couple big guns:
Netherlands and Spain.
? Brazil is the only country to participate in every World Cup, and no
other country has ever emerged from Brazil's group to win the title.
That eliminates Portugal.
? Conversely, no country has ever come out of Portugal's group to win
the World Cup, which knocks out perennial favorite Brazil.
? Never has any country come out of the Netherlands' group to win the
title. Tot ziens, Denmark.
? In the past 50 years, no non-host country has won the World Cup
without having previously won a World Cup. The Swiss and their
neutrality lasted longer than expected, but the time has come for them
? The only first-time European winners in the past 60 years are France
and England. Both won as tournament host, but neither has ever won a
World Cup outside its own borders, let alone 5,000 miles from home.
? This leaves four-time champion Italy and three-time winner Germany,
which would be a rematch of the 1982 final in Madrid, which Italy won
Very little separates these two traditional powers, each of which has
recent and distant history working in its favor. Italy won in 2006 and
Germany took third. Italy is the only European country to win
consecutive titles, in 1934 and 1938. Germany won the ensuing World
Cup after its third-place finish in 1970.
Italy is grouped with Slovakia and has won the World Cup all three
times after playing Czechoslovakia or any of its descendents. Germany
won the 1974 World Cup, which was the only other time that Die
Mannschaft shared a group with Australia.
However, the bottom line is simple. Despite reaching the quarterfinals
in four straight World Cups, Germany hasn't won a title since the
country and its national team reunified shortly after West Germany won
the 1990 World Cup. Ciao, Germany.
Say hello to Italy, The Eliminator's 2010 World Cup champion.