Lies, damned lies and World Cup statistics
The boffins have come up with some interesting statistics that offer a numerical perspective on which teams are entitled to consider themselves among the favourites for this month's World Cup in Brazil.
The data, derived from a host of player variables such as salary, personal statistics, age and recent performances, reveal the market value of every player at the finals, allowing eggheads the opportunity to quantitatively answer such usually subjective questions as the best team and best player set to feature in Brazil.
The secretive formulae also provide some intriguing insights into the groups that will be hardest to exit into the knockout rounds, providing supporting evidence for Fifa's much maligned world rankings that were also released this week.
The best news is reserved for the hosts, whose World Cup squad is reckoned to be worth a mammoth $718,299,900 with stars such as Neymar ($88,297,440) and Thiago Silva ($58,879,040) taking top billing.
In addition, the data can help us determine the so-called Group of Death, by summing the market values of the four teams in each pool.
Hence, although Brazil may well have the strongest squad of the 32 teams, they are also situated in the third toughest group, with Group A (Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon) valued at $1,250,502,390 altogether.
Group G (Germany, Portugal, Ghana, United States), at $1,250,948,520, is numerically the second toughest, with the tournament's hardest considered to be Group D (Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy), with the four national teams combining for a total market value of a whopping $1,264,935,936.
This classification is supported by Fifa's own rankings for June 2014, which highlight that - statistically - Group D is the most difficult, as it has the lowest total ranking when the four individual rankings are added together as well as being the only group that features three teams currently in the top 10.
Although England might not be particularly pleased at having their tough assignment in Group D confirmed so specifically, they can take heart that in Wayne Rooney, who scored his 39th international goal in the friendly against Ecuador on Wednesday night, they have one of the most valuable players to feature at the finals.
While Rooney is determined as being worth $61,249,500, pool rivals and opening round opponents Italy's most expensive player Mario Balotelli is worth only a piddling $40,833,000.
However, Uruguay do have Edison Cavani ($81,666,000), who's rated as more expensive than Luis Suarez on the players' index and third overall behind Lionel Messi ($163,332,000) and Cristiano Ronaldo ($136,110,000).
The figures are by no means perfect. For example, Colombia are ranked 10th based on the presence of Monaco striker Radamel Falcao, who is valued at $81,618,000 but won't actually be playing in the World Cup after failing to recover from a serious knee injury.
Falcao scored nine goals in 13 matches in qualifying, but damaged an anterior cruciate ligament in January while playing in the French Cup.
Nevertheless, they provide a different slant for World Cup aficionados - even if they can't account for French star Franck Ribery injuring his back in training and missing the competition.
Top 10 teams
- Brazil ($718,299,900)
- Spain ($673,567,074)
- Argentina ($654,482,640)
- Germany ($621,815,994)
- France ($555,070,372)
- England ($493,232,648)
- Belgium ($467,856,476)
- Italy ($448,802,087)
- Portugal ($399,518,890)
- Colombia ($311,013,926)
© Marc Fox & Soccerphile.com