‘Oh captain, my captain’: Breaking down World Cup quarterfinals unconventionally

Over the course of the past 2 years, there have been countless breakdowns and predictions for the 2022 world cup. So, approximately two weeks ago, my sister and I decided to get what the people really want: a ranking of the Fifa World Cup’s Men’s Soccer Captains. We created a google form with pictures of every world captain and asked people to rank them from 1-10. We also gathered everyone’s age (on average, 27), as well as if they wanted to add any comments on the form. While I did collect data on every captain, I will only be creating a bracket for the final eight. 

Now, before I go into the final predictions, I need to set some things straight: there are clear biases in my data. One friend submitted the form ranking every world cup captain a “1” except for Tyler Adams, who he ranked a ten. He then resubmitted the form, with the same rankings, this time with the comment “ADAMS SO NICE, HAD TO TAKE THE SURVEY TWICE.”  

When this was created my sister, who put the form together, did not know how this data would be used. Thus, there are not always the most equally representative photos from one team to another, and this definitely had some effect on our data. Also, our top-ranked captain Simon Kjaer was ranked a whopping 7.97, while the worst-ranked captain, Uruguay’s Diego Godín came in at 2.60. While that is a big gap, the 10th-ranked player to the 22nd-ranked player are only separated by 0.83, meaning that there are some very close matchups in the greater picture.

So, with that in mind, if we were to look at the attractiveness of the Fifa world cup Final eight, here’s who would win! 

Croatia vs. Brazil: Friday, Dec. 9, 10 a.m. EST on FOX

Croatian captain Luka Modric against Brazil’s Thiago Silva is a tough first match. Modric has some key components that give him an edge; specifically his blond flowing hair that he has to pin back for games. Modric is on the smaller side but uses that to his advantage through the brackets. While Modric was ranked in the top half, he ultimately fell in the middle of the pack at 15. However, we have seen underdogs come on top in these tournaments. 

However, Modric is up against a heavy hitter in Thiago Silva. Silva comes in at 5-foot-11 and 174 pounds. He is large, with a strong square jawline compared to Modric’s thinner profile. Also, Silva is a favorite, coming in at fifth in the total pre-tournament rankings. 

Ultimately, Silva wins this matchup with 6.70 to Modric’s 5.30. 

Netherlands vs. Argentina: Friday, Dec. 9, 2 p.m. EST on FOX

The Netherlands is represented by defender Virgil Van Dijk. Standing at 6-foot-5, Van Dijk is on the larger side of this tournament. He is typically seen with his hair pulled into a slick bun with a strong jawline. However, Van Dijk is going up against a tournament favorite, Lionel Messi. Although Messi’s attractiveness might not be his calling card, his memorability (especially with an American audience) definitely pulled some weight. 

But, his name was not enough, and the Netherlands will pull ahead with a slight advantage of 5.04 over the eighth worst Argentina’s 5.00. 

Morocco vs. Portugal: Saturday, Dec. 10, 10 a.m. EST on FOX

Portugal, again, has a big name to help them in this tournament in Christiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo is not only known for being one of the best soccer players of all time, he is also an international heartthrob. But, as we have seen in this tournament, a name is not always enough to pull you ahead. 

Ronaldo is going against Romain Saïss. The 32-year-old has quickly become a favorite in the tournament, assisting Morocco in becoming the first African team to win a penalty shootout and make it to the final eight. But, we retrieved this data before Morocco’s victory, and sadly he does not get this edge against Ronaldo. 

Ronaldo ranked seventh heading into the tournament, he takes the win with a 6.39 to Saïss’ 5.14. 

England vs. France: Saturday, Dec. 10, 2 p.m. EST on FOX

Probably one of the most anticipated matchups of the world cup: Harry Kane against Hugo Lloris. Kane has some recognition within American soccer fandom, although not comparable to Messi and Ronaldo. It is also interesting to see how his being British will affect the final results. 

Kane has spiked blonde hair and striking blue eyes, but ultimately he still looks British (if you catch my drift). Lloris has a dark set of hair and a dark beard to cover his face. But, Lloris looks drastically different from photo to photo, and that might have had an effect on his rating had respondents known him beforehand or not. 

The tenth-ranked Englishman at 5.87 wins against the Frenchman at 4.99. 

The Remainder of the Bracket 

Now knowing how each round of eight plays out, we will look toward the rest of the tournament. 

The Netherlands will then face the Brits, followed by a highly contested Brazil vs. Portugal match. 

The Dutch in Van Dijk will not be able to surpass the tenth place Kane, and England will move on to the finals.  On the other side of the bracket, seventh-ranked Portugal represented by Ronaldo will lose to fifth-ranked Silva of Brazil. 

Finally, my bracket predicts Silva taking Brazil all the way, dominating Kane and the rest of the Brits in the final. 

Not the best (but not the worst) metric

While I had a lot of fun collecting and sorting through this data, it is clear that this is not the best way to create a world cup bracket. Out of my top ten six did not make it past the group stage (No. 1 Simon Kjaer of Denmark, 7.97, No. 3 Ehsan Hajsafi of Iran, 7.74, No. 4 Dusan Tadic of Serbia 6.8, No. 6 Enner Valencia of Ecuador, 6.53, No. 8 Eden Hazard of Belgium, 6.26 and No. 9 Atiba Hutchinson of Canada 6.19).  And, No. 2 Tyler Adams (7.74) only took his team to the round of sixteen. 

However, even with all of this, the remaining three of the top 10 are representing their teams as they fight to bring a trophy home to their country.  So … maybe it isn’t the worst way.

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