World Cup 2014 predictions: does housing hold all the answers?

With the World Cup getting under way today, there’s a good chance you’re currently mulling over the dozens of office sweepstakes, prediction competitions and fantasy leagues that friends and colleagues have spent the last few weeks filling your inbox with.

If you’re anything like me, you’re currently still staring blankly at these. You’ll be wondering with increasing bewilderment how to war game it all out, and make sense of where to put your money.

So what is the best guide by which to judge your sweepstake draw, or predict results? Domestic form of individual players? Not reliable enough. Qualifying form? Banging them in past Lichtenstein surely can’t hold the answers. Past World Cup record? Four years is a long time in Football.

With Paul the Octopus now sadly deceased, the field has cleared for an authoritative voice on these matters. Professor Stephen Hawkins and Nate Silver have both recently come up with their clever clever prediction models, but at Shelter think we can go one better than both of those plucky upstarts.

Thanks to the incredible work of Liam in our research team who looked at the figures over the weekend, we can now give you the official housing guide to the World Cup. This makes perfect sense if, like us, you think housing is at the centre of the universe – which it surely is.

Below are predictions based on two widely available metrics only – new housebuilding per 10,000 people (UN  stats here) and owner occupation rates (collated here). We’ve chosen these metrics as they are the simplest to find – it’s no endorsement of all the policies of countries who come out top, many of who have other housing problems. The data is also incomplete, so this is just based on what we have (if anyone knows the Algerian rate of owner occupation, do write in).

With those caveats out the way, here are the answers you have been waiting for, and the tips the bookies don’t want you to know. Enjoy.

England’s prospects

  • In terms of housebuilding, England are a sorry 12th out of the 16 teams where comparable data exists. Assuming the World Cup plays out according to housebuilding records (which it almost certainly will, probably), that means England are going home early.
  • Still taking housebuilding as a guide, if we were drawn against Australia, Japan, Spain, Belgium, France and Germany, we can expect to lose to all of them. Everyone’s second favourite team Belgium can be expected to make the quarter finals.
  • Our prospects are not much better viewed from other angles. Despite our reputation for loving home ownership, England are in fact 15th out of 23 World Cup nations on percentage of home-owners – at 67%, and that has fallen over the last 10 years. If rates of owner occupation are anything to go by, England are set to lose out to Italy in our first group game: 80% of Italian homes are owner-occupied, compared to 67% of ours. Uruguay could be a tough going for us too – data only exists for urban areas there, where 59% of units are owner-occupied. Though our overall rate of owner occupation is higher, the comparable urban figure for England is only 50%. Oh dear.
  • On the plus side, when we do go crashing out and the national inquisition begins at least we’ll know where to focus our attention. The FA will surely need to visit and send a copy of Building the homes we need to the government as part of their long-term plan for getting English football back on its feet. (It’s also not like we don’t have anywhere to build the houses. According to the Wall Street Journal, if the World Cup were decided on percentage of land used for agriculture, we would make the final)

Best of the rest

  • If the World Cup final were to be contested by countries with the best housebuilding record, it would include Japan. The actual odds of Japan reaching the final are 80/1, which now looks extremely generous. Worth a punt?
  • Alternatively, assuming the final is between the two nations with the highest recorded rates of owner-occupation, it would be contested by Croatia and Russia. The real odds on this are a suddenly attractive looking 800-1.
  • Group winners, based on rates of home ownership would include: Croatia (90%), Portugal (75%), and Russia (84%). England would struggle to get out of any of the groups where we have data for 2 or 3 teams.

So there we go. An authoritative guide of who to plump for, and no need to despair if you got a lesser team in your sweepstake after all. All we ask is you don’t blame us if things don’t quite work out – it’s just a bit of fun. Naturally, though, if you win big, I’m sure you’ll consider sharing your winnings with us.

The full numbers are below. Happy World Cup.

Housing guide to World Cup 2014