AI Has Run 100,000 Simulations And Predicted This Year's World Cup Winner


James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

clockJun 15 2018, 15:55 UTC

The World Cup has begun, and everyone is making their predictions.


There are things that are very easy to predict, like the fact that England will win one game and draw two, make it through to the next round, and then crash out on penalties, just like every World Cup, and then there are more difficult things, like the overall winners.

Enter Artificial Intelligence (AI), looking smug.

At the moment, the bookies' favorite to win the tournament is Brazil at 4-1, Talk Sport reports. However, AI developed by academics from three universities has crunched the statistics from previous tournaments and run over 100,000 simulations of what could happen in this year's competition, finding that Brazil might not be the best team to back.

The team of scientists – from Technische Universitat Dortmund, Ghent University, and the Technical University of Munich – analyzed the statistics using three different techniques, in the end concluding that Germany or Spain will most likely win the competition.


As reported in a paper available on arXiv, the team used several mathematical models in order to reach their conclusions, settling on the random forest approach as the most effective. Quick explainer of random forests here:

Using the random forest approach, they tried out hundreds of thousands of scenarios for how the World Cup could play out. By stressing different factors within the algorithm, they were able to identify which variables were the most important. For example, they discovered that the number of Champions League players you have on your team is important for how well it will perform, whereas the nationality of the team's coach is relatively unimportant.

The researchers ran 100,000 simulations of the World Cup and predicted that Germany will likely get knocked out by tough opponents earlier on, but if it makes it to the quarterfinals, it will be the team most likely to win overall. If not, Spain is predicted to win.


"By analyzing the winning probabilities conditional on reaching the single stages of the tournament it turns out that the fact that overall Spain is slightly favored over Germany is mainly due to the fact that Germany has a comparatively high chance to drop out in the round-of-sixteen," the researchers wrote

"Actually, conditioned that Germany reaches the quarterfinals, it overtakes Spain and is (from this tournament stage on) the favored team."


The percentage chance of teams making it to each stage. arXiv

At the bottom end of the scale, the predictions found that Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Japan had a 0 percent chance of winning the competition.

Meanwhile, if your favorite team wasn't deemed likely to win, take comfort in the fact that this psychic pig made completely different predictions.


The pig, famed for predicting Brexit and Trump's election and wearing a little wizard costume, picked Belgium, Argentina, Nigeria, and Uruguay as the semi-finalists, the BBC reports.

  • artificial intelligence,

  • prediction,

  • AI,

  • soccer,

  • World Cup