I am more shocked by the Brazil defeat than Brazilians themselves. But then one has to move on.
Daniel Kaufman of Brookings has this post on what determines success at world cup? His analysis shows it is basic governance which matters:
Analyzing the statistical evidence provides some surprising insights. It turns out that in looking at what differentiates success from failure in advancing to the second stage (round of 16) of this year’s World Cup, money does not seem to make a difference. Neither the monetary value of a team, nor the salary of the team’s manager (nor whether the manager is a national or foreigner) matter statistically. Controlling for other factors, the size of a country’s population or economy does not make much of a difference either. In addition, whether the country is resource-rich or not has no impact on the performance of the national team whatsoever.
Some of these statistical results would not shock those who watched the modestly valued Costa Rica advance by sending wealthy Italy home, or those who witnessed highly paid powerhouses such as England, Spain and Portugal also exit the World Cup early.
Interestingly, the “luck of the draw” regarding the caliber of the rivals each country faced in their first stage groupings of the World Cup, does not matter statistically at all either.
So what does?
If none of these commonly mentioned factors make a difference in explaining World Cup success, then what does matter? Our statistical analysis points to two relevant determinants.
First, the quality of democratic governance of the country is significant. Whether the country exhibits high levels of voice and democratic accountability—namely protecting civil society space, media freedoms, and civil and political liberties—matters significantly, controlling for other factors. If, among its World Cup peers, a country rated in the top third in the voice and accountability indicator of the Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI), it had a 70 percent chance of advancing to the round of 16, while if it ranked in the bottom third it only had a 30 percent probability of advancing.
Second, we find that home field advantage and the extent of the fan base at the World Cup (number of fans traveling to the Cup to cheer for their national team) also matters, explaining part of the success of teams from North, Central and South America in advancing to the second stage (see Figure 1)
He has this interesting idea on penalty shootouts:
Beyond national governance and civic space, there are luck factors that make a difference. An injury like the Brazilian star Neymar’s (now out of the World Cup) may end up mattering for Brazil’s fate, and, conversely, for Argentina, so might one more of those inspired plays by Leo Messi. Another misstep by a referee can also make the difference.
Luck may determine who wins the Cup in other ways, unrelated to the “luck of the draw” in the first rounds’ group assignments (which we found doesn’t make a difference). Instead, what may still matter is the “luck of the coin toss” in penalty shootouts forced by tied games. Apaper by Apesteguia and Palacios-Huerta in the American Economic Review that draws on almost 3,000 penalty kicks over roughly 40 years of major international soccer and points to psychological factors, finds that the team that kicks the first penalty has a 60 percent probability of winning the penalty shootout! No wonder their paper also finds that the team that wins the coin toss always opts to kick first.
And no wonder that, so far during the current World Cup, the chance of the team kicking first during a penalty shootout winning is 66.6 percent. Costa Rica and Brazil—kicking first—won their respective shootouts against Greece and Chile in the round of eight, while the Netherlands won their shootout against Costa Rica in this weekend’s quarterfinals in spite of shooting second (but countered that by opting to substitute their starting goalkeeper with a penalty specialist, who blocked two shots!).
Soccer pundits tend to decry the penalty shootout, claiming that it is tantamount to a lottery. In fact, the above suggests that it is akin to loaded dice instead, where the lottery is actually in the coin toss, which then loads the deck in favor of the team that wins the coin toss.
But there is a fix, also drawn from the paper authors: If the penalty shootout is kept, at least FIFA authorities could organize it like the ordering of the respective serves in tennis tiebreakers. The fair penalty shootout option would be run like this instead: The first penalty is taken by the toss coin winner, then the next two penalties by the other team, then the next two by the coin toss winner, and so on, until 10 penalty kicks are completed. If they are tied at that point, they keep taking two penalties per team, alternating which team kicks first.
Should be tried rightaway. The authors say goalline technology was also adopted from tennis line technology. So this could be adopted as well.
It is much like the development story we keep hearing..governance matters whatever you do:
In addition, this work supports the implied message from successful soccer nations to FIFA: Democratic governance matters and so does the fan base of a country. But the odds of FIFA listening to this message are rather slim, because it would mean that the perennial top leadership in this autocratically run organization would have to exit, for starters, allowing for a semblance of democratic transition.
More broadly, we are reminded that just as we have learned that sending billions of dollars in foreign aid, or being rich in natural resources, doesn’t guarantee socio-economic development for a country and benefits to the people, neither oil riches nor money alone can “buy” national soccer success either. What makes the difference is good governance.
But one has to still end the post saying…Oh Brasilia how did it become this bad? :-(