FIFA World Cup 2018: Why prosperous nations are more likely to play and win

More than a seventh of humanity watched the 2014 final, where Germany became the champions with a lone goal in the extra time. Unarguably, this makes the 2018 World Cup the most to-be-watched sport tournament, and a question that becomes central to discussion in the office, over tea or lunch, and at parties, is this: Who will win this time? 

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Income, represented by gross national income per capita; health, represented by life expectancy at birth; and freedom to make one’s choices, represented by an index published in the World Happiness Report are the development indicators used. Though the oil-rich kingdom of Saudi Arabia has the highest per capita income among the 10, the top-five probables have better incomes (see Chart 1) than the least popular teams. It also turns out that the healthier the country, the better is its chance of winning (see Chart 2). 

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The more a country and its society give liberty to its people to make choices for their lives, the more likely it is to be a World Cup winner. It must be noted that all these are correlations and not causal relations. 

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Interestingly, only two of the 32 teams that are playing the finals are low human development countries, while a majority, 18, are highly developed (see Chart 4). The top-five probable winners are richer and developed than the average of the tournament’s 32 nations, which, in turn, are more prosperous than the global average. India, however, has a long way to go (see Charts 5).

StatsGuru is a weekly feature. Every Monday, Business Standard guides you through the numbers you need to know to make sense of the headlines: Compiled by BS Research Bureau