You want to bet on the World Cup even though you don’t follow women’s soccer. It isn’t easy with the media coverage that focuses on the United States but has less on other contenders.
Let’s look at the three step process I’ve developed to get an overview of the World Cup and identify a futures bet. It will involve analytics on the team level and wisdom of crowds on the player level.
Almost always, women get less than the men in sports. However, I will highlight one way in which women get an edge on the men. Let’s get started.
1 – World Women’s Rankings – For a quant like myself, I always start with a data driven approach.
Based on match results in top international competition since the last World Cup in 2019, I ranked teams by taking margin of victory and adjusting for strength of schedule (referred to as TPR for The Power Rank below). I did the same for xG, or expected goals based on shot quality, although the data was limited to the last World Cup and European Championship.
These were the results I shared in 5-Nuggets that had the United States as the favorite with England and France as strong contenders. I debated expanding this calculation and including friendly matches. However, injuries and player absences suggested that more data would only be so useful.
Except for Germany and Sweden, all the top contenders are dealing with injuries. For example:
- Mallory Swanson, United States, 32 goals in 88 caps, knee.
- Marie-Antoinette Katoto, France, 108 goals in 113 matches with club PSG, knee.
- Vivianne Miedema, Netherlands, 95 goals in 115 caps, knee.
While the rankings suggest value in France at 11-1, the injury to Katoto should make one cautious about this bet. With these changing rosters, it is more important to expand the set of metrics than make any one more accurate.
2 – FIFA Rankings – Women almost always get worse treatment than men in sports. The lone exception is the FIFA rankings.
While both the men and women use an Elo type updating, the women’s rankings uses goals and goal difference in the calculation. Even though this data enhances the accuracy of rankings, the men’s rankings do not use it.
The men’s rankings have Germany as the 14th best team in the world, behind the United States at 11th. That’s more of a joke than giving $25M per year to an NFL running back. In contrast, the women’s FIFA rankings actually make sense.
Let’s look at the top 10 teams by the markets to win the World Cup and compare with the three different rankings I’ve discussed. The market data is from FanDuel as of Wednesday morning.
- United States +240 (1st TPR, 1st FIFA, 1st xG)
- England +430 (2nd TPR, 4th FIFA, 3rd xG)
- Spain +550 (11th TPR, 6th FIFA, 5th xG)
- Germany +750 (3rd TPR, 2nd FIFA, 4th xG)
- Australia +900 with home advantage (12th TPR, 10th FIFA, 14th xG)
- France +1100 (5th TPR, 5th FIFA, 2nd xG)
- Sweden +1800 (6th TPR, 3rd FIFA, 6th xG)
- Netherlands +2300 (4th TPR, 9th FIFA, 11th xG)
- Brazil +3200 (7th TPR, 8th FIFA, 12th xG)
- Canada +3400 (8th TPR, 7th FIFA, 8th xG)
A team that stands out is Sweden, as they have the 7th best odds to win but have higher rankings by the numbers.
3 – Player rankings – With all the injuries to top teams, it’s also important to look at the top players for each team. Taking a wisdom of crowds approach, let’s look at a few different sources:
- Top 25 from ESPN – Spain has two of the top four players in Aitana Bonmati and Alexia Putellas.
- FIFA 23 rankings – The video game has 14 Germans in the top 100, most of any nation.
- 50 players to watch from The Athletic – The United States has eight players.
In addition, the two rankings have Sam Kerr of Australia as the top player. She will have home advantage in this World Cup.
These player lists also show a strong set of core players for Sweden:
- Fridolina Rolfo – full back for Barcelona but plays a more attacking role for Sweden (25 goals in 78 caps).
- Kosovare Asllani – a midfielder and play making #10 that plays for AC Milan.
- Stina Blackstenius – a striker for Arsenal that has 28 goals in 90 caps for Sweden.
Along with the lack of injured players, these metrics suggest value in Sweden at 18-1 to win the World Cup (available on FanDuel).
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