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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

I’m just going to run the raw numbers for you here, as calculated based on the Soccer Power Index. An article with additional explanation and analysis will be up on ESPN.com momentarily.

Most favorable draws — chances of advancement improved the most by the actual draw relative to all possible combinations:

1. Paraguay (F), +21%
2. Italy (F), +20%
3. Slovakia (F), +14%
4. USA (C), +6%
5. Nigeria (B), +4%

Least favorable draws, using the same formula.

1. Ivory Coast (G), -11%
2. South Africa (A), -10%
3. Switzerland (H), -8%
4. Chile (H), -8%
5. Portugal (G), -7%

Update: But which country has the toughest draw in an absolute sense — rather than relative to expectations going in? We can look at this by replacing each of the 32 teams in our program with an average World Cup side and seeing how often the average team would advance. The lower the number, the tougher the draw.

1. North Korea (G): 25.9%
2. Japan (E): 36.3%
3. Switzerland (H) 37.6%
4. Honduras (H): 38.2%
5. Portugal (G): 39.9%
6. Denmark (E): 40.2%
7. Ivory Coast (G): 41.1%
8. *South Africa (A): 43.4%
9. Australia (D): 44.1%
10. Algeria (C): 44.2%
11. Slovenia (C): 44.3%
12. Mexico (A): 44.6%
13. Ghana (D): 45.1%
14. South Korea (B): 46.2%
15. Serbia (D): 46.2%
16. Chile (H): 46.5%
17. Cameroon (E): 47.0%
18. Greece (B): 47.9%
19. USA (C): 48.3%
20. *Netherlands (E): 49.3%
21: *Brazil (G): 49.5%
22: France (A): 50.3%
23. *Germany (D): 50.3%
24. Uruguay (A): 50.7%
25. *Spain (H): 53.1%
26. Nigeria (B): 54.9%
27. New Zealand (F): 56.7%
28. *England (C): 57.1%
29. *Argentina (B): 59.9%
30. Slovakia (F): 61.3%
31. Paraguay (F): 77.8%
32. *Italy (F): 78.5%

Brazil’s draw, for instance, although unlucky relative to most of the other combinations they might ended up with, is not actually that bad because they don’t have to play themselves. South Africa wound up with the roughest draw from among the seeds and Italy — by far — the easiest. North Korea has the toughest draw of anybody, but considering how backward that country is and how lucky they were to qualify, I can’t say I have much sympathy.

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