Numbers at play – Science predicts Confederations Cup success for Russia

A team of top boffins from the Strategic Research in Sport Center (SRSC) have determined that Russia will reach the Final of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup Final.

It’s scientific so it must be true. But how did the SRSC reach such a finding? And who will Russia play in the showdown on July 2 in St. Petersburg?

Confederations Cup

The state of the pitches in St. Pete’s Zenit Arena and Spartak’s Otkritie Arena will be of interest. Better known locally as ‘expensive potato patches’, questions remain over both.

In Moscow, a local resident and Spartak club member requested a police investigation into how bid for the pitch was won in 2013.

His evidence, and subsequent interview to local media, was filled with bribe accusations against the stadium company and the ‘middle men’ who relayed funds between parties.

The trial run for 2018’s World Cup will be interesting for how well it is attended.

The scare tactics used by foreign media, especially disgruntled English masses, have had a desired effect – with former Ireland striker-turned-pundit Tony Cascarino and Irish broadcaster Alan Green just two of many refusing to attend.

Add in Sid Lowe, Rod Liddle and there will be a shortage of talking heads and journos in Kazan and Moscow this year. They shall not be missed.

What won’t be in doubt is the local hospitality. The Russian capacity to be wonderfully welcoming, helpful and open is matched only by their fear of foreigners, discrimination and closed nature.

Yet I am 100% sure that only the first half of that last sentence will be on show this year and next. Having lived here for over ten years, having first visited in 1991, I know first hand Russian hospitality comes close to Irish.

The locals are going to make sure everyone visiting will have a party.

But that’s just preamble, let’s talk about why Russia are going to make the Final of this year’s competition.


The SRSC used the following mix of criteria to come up with their results. A mix of alternative and relevant National and football statistics that, when run through their modelling process, gives Russia hope.

  • Landmass – Size matters, according to many, and bigger is better. Since the competition takes place in Russia, this is going to be even more important.
  • Gross Domestic Product – The financial power of a nation is important insofar as it can support every last effort to get the National Team over the line.
  • Average Temperature – Hot weather is nice for the beaches and pina coladas, but cold weather fashions toughness and the wherewithal to survive.
  • Gas reserves – A small nod to something all the competing nations have in common, though Russia gets a little boost here.
  • Number of clubs per 10,000 citizens – Access to clubs equals access to coaching and competitions.  Some will have better quality and less quantity, though again, size.
  • Percentage of population playing football – This is the registered number of footballers. More players equals bigger selection. Bigger is….well, you get where we’re going with this.
  • Major events hosted – You have the eyes of the World on you, can you handle the truth?  Germany couldn’t in 2005 and 2006, can Russia in 2017/18?

Okay, so bigger is better, in one sense. In last year’s European Championships Iceland proved that they would punch above their level; Wales and Ireland too, while standard predictors would have had England at least reaching the last four.

No matter what criteria, tendencies or factors we use, anything can happen, and quite often does.

Science in action

Predictably Russia leads the way in landmass with Australia next and Portugal the smallest.

The host nation also have the most gas reserves, with Australia again in second place and Mexico in third, tiny Portgual finish last again.

Finally, Russia has the coldest average temperature – a balmy minus five degrees Celsius;  Chile and Germany are on eight and nine degrees respectively, and in last place is Cameroon with an average 25.

Russia was nipped into second place for GDP by Germany, with Mexico in 3rd. Australia sit 4th with New Zealand and Cameroon in 7th and 8th respectively.

Chile are number one for clubs per 10,000 citizens (3.22), 2nd are Germany (2.77) and little Portugal 3rd (2.63).  Australia (1.58) beat Russia (0.98) into third with football mad Mexico (0.026) last.

Now for a shocker, top for registered players. Those damn Kiwis (23%), beating the organised Germans (20.8%) into 2nd.  Chile (14.6%) are 3rd, Russia (3.96%) are a lowly 7th, with the Indomitable Lions last on 3.4%.

For most recent Major events, 2014 Sochi still counts (despite Doctor ‘Death’ Rodchenkov’s best efforts), as does New Zealand’s questionable 2011 Rugby World Cup win.

Chile hosted and won the 2015 Copa America, Portugal choked against Greece in the 2004 European Championships, Australia won the AFC, Germany limped in with a bronze in both their hosting of the 2005 Confederations Cup and subsequent 2006 World Cup.

With points awarded from eight to one, the SRSC played the nations against one another and came up with a surprise winner of the 2017 Confederations Cup.

Group stuff

In Group A New Zealand will show fight under their 36 year-old English coach Anthony Hudson, but just being in the competition is a good experience for a nation which needs to balance out the “natural” super sizing in domestic rugby.

Propping up the table, Mexico will confirm that their 1999 Confederations Cup win was an aberration. Losing only to Russia, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal (as described on BBC Radio 5 Live last week) will finish second.

Even with Zenit’s Luis Neto in the side, Portugal will be happy to sneak into the semi-finals. Russia will win all three matches, defying belief and odds.

Unbeaten Chile will justify their lofty FIFA rating and top Group B. Copa America Champions for the first time in 2015, retaining the title in 2016, they are on track to qualify for Russia next year.

Germany, as always, will do enough to escape the group, beating Australia and Cameroon. In the battle of the bottom two, Australia will have too much fight for the West Africans.

Final countdown

Russia will do what England seem destined not to – beat Germany on penalties. And that will be the highlight of the Russian summer.

Chile will skip past Portugal, Cristiano Ronaldo’s back finally giving in having carried Real Madrid and Portugal for the past few seasons.

Chile will have too much guile, pace and power for Russia.

The fact that they’ve a top flight club team named in honour of an Irishman, O’Higgins must surely give them an edge.

Brazil won’t have the chance for a four in a row this year and, despite their dreams, Mexico will fall well short, meaning a new winner of the FIFA Confederations Cup in its 10th edition.

Should Chile triumph, as Nikita and Co. predict, next Summer will be the most open and exciting World Cup in history with, I reckon, England ending 52 years of hurt.

Like I said earlier, anything can happen, and quite often does!

My thanks to Nikita Osokin and the Strategic Research in Sport Center for giving valuable time to figure a way of getting Russia out of the Group Stage. While the use of their statistics I’ve made into a lighthearted article, coming soon will be something far more powerful, thanks to the SRSC.

The Author

Alan Moore

Russian-based sports journalist, commentator, radio host & consultant. Worked with major clubs including Hajduk Split, Eintracht Frankfurt, Lokomotiv and Spartak Moscow. Current host of Capital Sports 3.0, former international boxer and semi-professional footballer and FIFA World Cup commentator.

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