World Cup: France, Brazil or Argentina? Plus Messi and Ronaldo's chances – Stats Perform AI predicts the finals

Fans' wait for the World Cup has, of course, been a little longer than normal this time around.

Nevertheless, the big kick-off is closing in with Qatar 2022 now just a couple of days away.

As with any major tournament, predicting a winner in the build-up is just a natural part of being a football fan, even if it can often be a fool's errand.

But considering how integral statistics are to football these days, using data might just give you the edge, and that's where Stats Perform come in.

Our Artificial Intelligence team have used Opta's extensive data reserves to quantify each team's chances of being crowned champions.

Every match has been run through the Stats Perform World Cup prediction model to calculate the estimated probability of the outcome (win, draw or loss). This uses odds from betting markets and Stats Perform team rankings, which are based on historical and recent performances.

It takes into consideration the strength of each team's opponents as well as the difficulty of their respective paths to the final, plus the make-up of the groups and any relevant seedings heading into the knockouts.

Then, the rest of the tournament is simulated 40,000 times and analysed, providing the AI team with a percentage for each nation, showing the probability of them lifting the trophy at the Lusail Stadium on December 18.

Let's check out the results…

FAVOURITES: Brazil (15.8 per cent)

Suspend your disbelief! Brazil, the tournament's most successful ever side, have the greatest probability of winning the World Cup this year, with our model giving them almost a 16 per cent chance of clinching a sixth title.

Tite's side qualified with ease and clearly have an extremely talented group of players – the problem is getting them all on the pitch at one time while retaining a cohesive and balanced shape.

If Tite can find the magic formula at the World Cup this time, at the very least you'd expect them to get beyond the quarter-finals, the stage they crashed out to Belgium four years ago in Kazan.

Failure, however, will mean Brazil's World Cup drought will stretch to 24 years by the time the 2026 edition comes around, and that would make it their joint-longest barren run in the competition since claiming their first title in 1958.

 

2. Argentina (12.6 per cent)

Argentina have climbed from eighth in June, with a 6.45 per cent chance of winning, to second on the eve of the World Cup. That is down to their continued excellent form, which has seen them go 36 matches since last tasting defeat.

Lionel Scaloni's men ended their major final hoodoo last year when winning the Copa America, though it should be noted that no reigning champion of South America has gone on to win the subsequent World Cup.

Still, those aforementioned factors, coupled with Lionel Messi returning to something close to his best form at Paris Saint-Germain, highlights exactly why Argentina are so heavily fancied to add global glory to their Copa crown.

World cup stat
World cup stat

3. France (12.2 per cent)

Reigning world champions they may be, but injury-hit and out-of-form France are not considered the favourites to lift the trophy in Qatar – at least not according to our data, which gives them just over a 12 per cent chance of triumphing.

Should they do so, it will make them only the third side to retain the trophy after Brazil in 1962 and Italy way back in the 1930s.

France were the favourites heading into Euro 2020 but were ultimately disappointing – they'll need to do significantly better here otherwise their fate could be sealed by the dreaded winners' curse.

Each of the past four European winners of the World Cup have been eliminated in the group stages, a trend that began with Les Bleus in 2002.

world cup stat
world cup stat

4. Spain (9.1 per cent)

La Roja aren't the force they were as recently as 10 years ago, when they won a third successive major international tournament with victory at Euro 2012.

However, Luis Enrique has turned them into a side that is easy on the eye and capable of carving open the best teams – their main issue in recent years has been finding a reliable striker, and that'll likely be what determines how far they get in Qatar.

Either way, we can surely expect a better showing than they managed in Russia, where they were hindered by the sacking of coach Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the World Cup as a result of accepting a post-tournament role at Real Madrid.

 

5. England (8.7 per cent)

The Three Lions almost won their first major international trophy since 1966 last year at Euro 2020, only to fall at the final hurdle against Italy.

Either way, few can deny it was a sign of progress: they reached the Russia 2018 semi-finals, the final at Euro 2020, so surely Qatar 2022 is theirs already?

Gareth Southgate has made England an effective tournament side, even if doubts remain over his ability to impose a style of play that sees the Three Lions take the initiative against the biggest teams.

Similarly, relegation from the Nations League earlier this year left a lot to be desired, but that won't stop expectations from soaring in Qatar, especially with prolific striker Harry Kane leading the line.

 

THE REST OF THE FIELD

Germany are just outside the top five in our predictor table with a 7.8-per-cent chance of winning a record-equalling fifth title, while the Netherlands (7.2 per cent) – remarkably still yet to win a World Cup, having lost in three finals – are next on the list.

Both sides possess incredible squads, while for Portugal (5.8 per cent) their hopes may come down to how star man Cristiano Ronaldo performs as he aims to become the first player to score in five separate World Cups.

For many years considered dark horses, this is arguably Belgium's final chance to turn potential into success, and they have been given a 5.4-per-cent chance of going all the way in Qatar.

Denmark (3.5 per cent) complete the top 10 after a near-faultless qualifying campaign, with fellow Europeans Croatia (1.8 per cent) not fancied to go one better than four years ago when finishing as runners-up.

World Cup predictor
World Cup predictor


17. Poland (0.8 per cent)
18. USA (0.8 per cent)
19. Wales (0.6 per cent)
20. Ecuador (0.6 per cent)
21. Morocco (0.4 per cent)
22. Canada (0.3 per cent)
23. Qatar (0.2 per cent)
24. Japan (0.2 per cent)
25. Tunisia (0.2 per cent)
26. Cameroon (0.2 per cent)
27. Ghana (0.2 per cent)
28. South Korea (0.2 per cent)
29. Iran (0.2 per cent)
30. Australia (0.1 per cent)
31. Saudi Arabia (0 per cent)
32. Costa Rica (0 per cent)