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World Cup: Holland to win, Spain to slump

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Knowing whether his forecasts have been any good should be obvious, but as a statistician McHale has got other measures to consider, and is going to write a paper on it. “There's only going to be one winner, so the statistics will be clever. I've got all these probabilistic forecasts before the World cup happened," he said. "I'll know all the results from the tournament, so how do I test whether my forecasts were any good."

Here's Dr McHale's top 10 (prior to start of tournament)

1.Holland

2. Spain

3. Brazil

4. Argentina

5. France

6. England

7. Germany

8. Nigeria

9. Portugal

10. Slovenia

Meanwhile, back to Spain's predicament. Stats-crunching sports analysis firm Bettorlogic has revealed that Spain are the 14th Top 10 ranked team since 1970 to lose their opening group match. The bad news is that only one of those teams (Germany in 1982) have won the group. Of the six teams who managed to qualify (46 per cent), two did so in third place, not current qualifying positions.

Should Spain qualify but fail to win the group, they are likely to meet Brazil in the next round. Oh dear.

Spain were in a similar position 12 years ago when they lost to Nigeria and then drew their second group match but a win against Bulgaria in the final match wasn’t sufficient to qualify. Eight years ago, France, Croatia and Portugal all failed after losing their opener, even though Portugal and Croatia won their second group matches.

If Spain win their other two group matches, they will join Germany and Argentina (both in 1982) as the only teams of the 14 to do so. Of the six teams that did qualify, three went out in the second group stage (none won their first match of that stage and two lost); England lost in the quarter-finals in 1986; but Argentina (1990) and Italy (1994) both finished as runners-up. ®

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