Simulations Pick the 2018 World Cup Winner

Simulations Pick the 2018 World Cup Winner article feature image

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Brazil fans rally before the match

The Highlights

  • While favorites tend to win the World Cup, Italy (+1000) was the biggest longshot winner since the tournament expanded to 32 teams. 
  • Since 1998, the champion has ranked in the top eight in the world.
  • Simulations predict these trends will continue in Russia.

Who is going to win the World Cup? The Action Network staff favors France and Belgium, but admittedly most of them have no idea what they are talking about when it comes to futbol.


I’m no expert either but I do know that favorites tend to come out on top. Since the tournament expanded to 32 teams in 1998, the biggest longshot to win the World Cup was Italy (+1000) in 2006. Over that same span, only teams seeded eighth or lower have gone on to win.

The seeded teams for this year’s tournament are Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland, France and Russia based on FIFA World Rankings released in October of 2017. Russia (66th in those rankings) is seeded because it is the host nation but should be disregarded as a possible winner.

By ignoring longshots and focusing on just the top teams in the world, we can shrink the potential list of champions from 32 to eight. We will consider only those teams that are +2500 or better to win the Cup, which includes eight of the top 12 teams in the world according to the most updated FIFA rankings.

Now to pick a champion we will turn to math. There are a number of World Cup simulations available on the internet, but which one can you trust? Instead of putting your faith in a single model, it is wise to compile many and create a consensus projection.

Here are the results from ThePowerRank, FiveThirtyEight, Goldman Sachs and NumberFire as well as the consensus prediction:

Brazil is the most likely champion with a 22.6% chance of winning the World Cup. At +415 (bet $100 to win $415), the implied odds that Seleção wins is 19.4%. This means there is value betting Brazil to win a record-extending sixth World Cup.

Sometimes betting is simple. As Chris Raybon said in The Action Network’s staff picks, “They have the best odds and the best player.” Don’t overthink this, Brazil is the play.

Note:  According to the consensus projections, the only other team with value to win the World Cup is Portugal (+2490).