Stats Predict World Cup Winner But “Soccer Reserves the Right to be Unpredictable”
With the recent kickoff of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, soccer fans across the world are dying to know: Who will capture the coveted trophy?
Shanay Wadhwani ’19 has an idea.
As an avid soccer fan and a mathematics major, he’s taking on the FIFA World Cup for his Emerson research project. Using his own statistical model, Wadhwani aims to predict the outcome of the soccer tournament.
Hometown: Bombay, India
High school: Jamnabai Narsee School
Under the guidance of Associate Professor of Mathematics Chinthaka Kuruwita, Wadhwani set out to study each of the 600 players participating in the tournament. Out of the 32 teams, he determined which teams have the fastest rate of scoring goals and can score the most goals in the duration of a 90-minute soccer game.
Based on his results, Wadhwani predicts that Brazil, Belgium, and Germany are the top favorites to win the World Cup—with Brazil as the expected winner.
He adds that other teams still have a decent shot at making it far into the tournament, including Denmark, Iran, and Spain.
To narrow down his top teams, Wadhwani took three months sorting through statistics such as fitness level, time per goal, assists, and yellow cards. “Through my experience in statistics, I’ve learned that choosing the right variables to analyze is as important as the analysis itself,” he said.
This project has been a long time coming for Wadhwani. “Ever since I can remember, I have spent hours watching soccer games to see who will emerge the victor,” he said. “The passion that goes into soccer is intense and the variables at play in a soccer game seem infinite. The purpose of my research is to examine the extent to which statistics can accurately model something as seemingly unpredictable as the passion involved in sports.”
Even with all of Wadhwani’s facts and figures, he warns not to think too far ahead. “Soccer is not math,” he said. “While the numbers shed some insightful light on what is likely to happen, soccer reserves the right to unpredictable and interesting.”