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Predicting the World Cup 2010 Winner


									What does predicting the economy got to do with predicting the World Cup
winner? A lot if you listen to Swiss Bank UBS.In the World Cup 2006, the
economists and analysts at the Wealth Management Research at UBS used the
statistical model that enabled them to predict market trends and
investment decisions and applied it to predict the World Cup winner.They
correctly predicted that Italy would be the champion. They also succeeded
in getting six of the eight quarter-finalists correct. Their track record
also included correctly forecasting three of the four semi-
finalists.UBS's model is a purely quantitative analysis and the criteria
used are past performance, home advantage and teams' strength. Now let's
discuss the model:For past performance, so far seven nations have won the
championship. (Brazil five times, Italy four times, Germany three times,
Argentina and Uruguay two times, France and England one time each). So
according to UBS, if you pick one of these seven teams, it appears to be
a safe bet.As for the home advantage, a third of the past world cups was
won by the host country. Now:# The weather is mild winter in South Africa
and it appears that the host nation may not have the climate advantage.
This applies similarly to the African nations in the finals.# Some
matches will be played at venues at high altitude. This is a clear
advantage to the host and the South American teams like Brazil.# In every
tournament, there is speculation of referees favoring the Home team. Will
there be many controversial calls helping the host?# This being Africa's
World Cup, there are many who wonder if an African nation will advance
past the group stage into the quarter-finals for the first time. In every
tournament, there will always be a team which will be the surprise
package. Will this team come from Africa?# And lastly, there is this
"outside-of-Europe" syndrome. So far every World Cup had been won by
either an European team or a South American side. No European team has
won outside the comfort of their own continent. Now in South Africa, many
pundits believe that the South American teams will have so-called ground
advantage.Regarding the strength of the teams, UBS took into
consideration the FIFA ranking and the bookmakers' odds.So which team has
UBS picked to be WC 2010 champion? Brazil.Well, your guess is as good as
mine on which team will win. My trusted crystal ball tells me it is
Spain.In every World Cup, betting wise, it is a true challenge. The
tournament is held every four years and qualification ends months before
the ball is kicked in the first game of the finals. During this time, a
lot can change in the football world.World Cup means patriotic fervor
comes into play. We all have passionate feelings for a certain team or a
certain player which will determine our decision.There are 32 teams in
the finals so technically there are 32 potential winners. It is
interesting to note some characteristics of these teams:* Some teams have
a good striking department with tons of firepower, but lacking everywhere
else.* Some teams have great talented players but have insane coaches.*
Some are perceived as perennial underachievers like Spain and England who
seem to choke on the big stage.* Some are tournament teams like Germany
and Italy who may be underrated before the finals, but know how to grind
out the results. Well this is according to past performances.* Experts
have expected Spain to win the last two World Cups - but they never
have.* England are going to win it every time according to the English -
but they never do.And there are some interesting statistics:# No team has
successfully defended the WC for a long while. Would the 2006 winner
Italy be the exception? But Italy has an aging squad and may not be
expected to last all the way. It is easier to reach the top, but much
harder to stay there!# Only once in the last 21 group games has the WC
host lost, so would South Africa be the surprise package?Why Spain will
WinWith one loss in their last 46 matches, Spain arrived at South Africa
as one of the best teams. They are the favorites to lift the World Cup on
July 11. They are ahead of Brazil in the eyes of the bookmakers and
pundits.Spain (Rank 1) play in Group H against Chile (Rank 17),
Switzerland (Rank 18) and Honduras (Rank 38).They have been dubbed by the
media in the past as "perennial underachiever". But the faith of their
fans may be justified this time as they have completely turned the corner
after winning Euro 2008. They had built on this success and thereafter
had won all of their qualifying games for WC 2010, the first team to
achieve such a record.The TalentsSpain is a team with polished gems. They
boast the talents of Fernando Torres and David Villa up front, Xavi and
Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso and Cesc Fabregas in the middle, Carles Puyol
and Gerrard Pique at the back, and Iker Casillas in goal. The reigning
European champion look a formidable bunch.They are stacked with players
from the elite leagues in Europe like Barcelona and Real Madrid. The
squad has so much depth that even the impressive Arsenal captain
Fabregas, whom many consider as one of the best midfielders around, has
to warm the bench as a substitute.A well balanced team is needed to have
the consistency to get through such a high level tournament. Look at
Argentina. The hope of the entire nation rests on the shoulders of young
Messi. But Messi does not perform for his country like he does for
Barcelona because he does not have the midfield marshals like Xavi and
Iniesta behind him to pull the strings. And I shall leave the Argentina
manager alone.The Spanish squad has been largely unchanged from the team
that won Euro 2008. Playing together for years can only foster better
understanding on the pitch. The Spain of today exude calm and confidence.
Wearing the European crown does such things to you.InjuryOf course injury
is a concern but this is the same for every team. Torres and Fabregas
missed playing the tail end of the league due to injuries. To look on the
bright side, this could actually be a blessing in disguise as they are
totally rested for the World Cup.Spain has a deep squad with
comparatively able replacements. They are not a one or two men team like
Ivory Coast relying on Drogba.If injuries are inflicted on play-makers,
any team will suffer like Rooney for England, Lucio and Kaka for Brazil,
Messi for Argentina, Sneijder for Holland, etc. Serious injuries are a
disaster for every team.PressureBeing ranked No. 1 and as hot favorites,
expectations are high. Will Spain crack under the pressure?Much was made
out of their 2-0 defeat in the Confederations Cup semi-final to USA last
June. This ended their 35 match streak without a loss. Some said Spain
buckled under the pressure in that match because they wanted so much to
break Brazil's 35 match streak of not suffering a loss. To many this is
considered a great weakness to cave in to pressure.A lot of teams lose
matches that they should win. Most important is to learn a lesson from
the loss. I believe the Spanish had indeed learned a valuable lesson.
From then on, they had not lost again.Mental StrengthPsychologists often
stress that half of the battle is won in the head. Unfortunately, Spain
have the unwanted tag of perennial choker on the big stage. In the past
when the going gets tough, they have gone missing.But now all the players
pledged that they know their biggest enemy is themselves and they have
developed greater self belief.ComplacencyThere is a great threat of
complacency when facing the likes of Honduras, Chile and Switzerland. I
am confident that with an experienced coach in del Bosque, the players
will know in no uncertain terms that a place in the second round is not a
formality.Assurance and over-confidence is divided by a very fine line.
The last thing they will think is they have already won the match even
before the ball is kicked.How To Beat SpainSome said the way to beat
Spain is to follow the tactics of Jose Mourinho whose Inter Milan
succeeded where virtually everybody failed by knocking Barcelona out of
the Champions League. The tactic is to have the players defend deep in
their own half, soaking up the pressure thrown at them and rely on swift
counter-attack to score. Well, I am not sure whether there could be
another "Special One' around.ConclusionIf Spain keep their heads they
will win World Cup 2010. If they don't, they are simply beaten by

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