The Geopolitical World Cup: Group Stage Part II

As we stated yesterday, we here at Rational Policy are putting together our own version of the 2018 World Cup, where instead of the nations battling it out on the soccer pitch, they battle it out in the realm of geopolitics. Imaginatively, we’re calling this series ‘The Geopolitical World Cup’! If you missed yesterday’s introduction to the series and rundown of the first 3 groups in the Group Stage, be sure to read it here before continuing with this Part II.

In today’s post, we’ll be breaking down the rest of the Group Stage, including groups D, E, F, G, and H. The outcomes are somewhat surprising in these groups and this part of the bracket definitely has some of our clear favorites, but you’ll have to read on to find out who advances to the Knockout Stage.

World Cup Groups
2018 World Cup Groups.        Image Credit: Fox Sports

Group D: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria

Group D, comprised of nations from South America, Europe, and Africa, is the lowest-ranked group in the entire Group Stage, with an average score of only 72.6125 (the next worst score is Group E at 63.9625). This group includes a soccer powerhouse in Argentina, but that nation is far less dominant when it comes to our geopolitical rankings. Argentina is still the top-scoring country in the whole group, buoyed by its solid scores in overall GDP, military strength, and population size. Its geopolitics score of 37.975 is by far the worst for a group winner, but Argentina is greatly assisted by the low relative quality of Group D. Unsurprisingly for a contest based on global power, Iceland finishes dead last in the group with a score of 109.475; the tiny island nation simply has too small a population, military, and GDP to qualify for advancement. It would have been even worse off if not for its stellar per capita figures and high Human Development Index. The two teams battling it out for the second spot in Group D are Croatia and Nigeria, two countries that couldn’t be more different. Nigeria’s huge population (7th highest globally) and solid GDP boost its candidacy, while Croatia’s strengths lie more in well-roundedness (their stats cluster around each other, in the mediocre range). In this fight, Nigeria prevails, but only by a hair (Nigeria score: 70.7; Croatia score: 72.3). Its incredibly poor HDI and per capita GDP figures could very well handicap it in the Knockout Stage. In the end, Nigeria and Argentina move on from this sorry lot.

Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia

Group E isn’t much of a ‘Group of Death’ either, with two clear favorites and two nations which just can’t keep up. Costa Rica and Serbia are both small countries population-wise, with middling economies and the exact same HDI score (66th). Serbia beats out Costa Rica for 3rd place in this group, mainly due to its more powerful military (78th globally versus Costa Rica’s 190th). That leaves the two favorites to vie for top spot in the group: Brazil and Switzerland. If this were a soccer competition, I think we’d all know that the South American nation would be favored, but in a contest of geopolitics, the far smaller Switzerland packs a major punch. The strengths and weaknesses of the nations couldn’t be more disparate: Brazil has a large population, strong military, and high overall GDP (due to the country’s size and resource base), while Switzerland excels at per capita economic figures and Human Development (ranked 2nd overall). In this battle of the Alps versus the Amazon, the Alps squeak out a victory. Switzerland’s small population is counteracted by its good economy, relatively strong military, and (as stated above) spectacular per capita numbers. Brazil is weighed down by its low per capita economic figures and frankly awful HDI ranking (79th worldwide), and thus loses to Switzerland. The two squads moving on from Group E to the Knockout Stage are Switzerland (score: 28.825) and Brazil (score: 33.575). They will be interesting nations to watch in the next round.

Group of Death
And now…..the GROUP OF DEATH!        Image Credit: The Olympians

Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea

If there was ever a geopolitical ‘Group of Death’, it’s Group F, which runs out some of the most advanced nations on earth and seriously powerful economies. All of these countries would be solid contenders in literally every other group, but being drawn together means only two will advance. A nation like Mexico, with a large population, strong total economy, and reasonable military prowess would move on in most other groups in the competition, but a poor draw relegates them to dead last in this brutal knife fight. The top spot in Group F goes (somewhat unsurprisingly) to Germany, Europe’s economic engine and one of the most developed nations on the planet. Germany’s strong military (10th overall), large population, and spectacular economic data give it the status of major contender in the Knockout Stage. In fact, much like in the actual soccer competition, Germany is the highest-ranked country in our entire 32-nation draw with a Geopolitics Score of 9.075 (the only country under 10). The second-place finish comes down to a battle between a Scandinavian country with a good economy, especially on a per capita basis, and an East Asian nation with one of the best militaries and strongest economies on the planet. In this fracas between Sweden and South Korea, only one can come out on top and join Germany in the Knockout Stage. Unfortunately for the Swedes, the South Koreans take the cake here, as Korea’s relatively large population and spectacular military (7th globally) help pump up its powerful economy to exceed the score of the Nordic nation. In the end, the ‘Group of Death’ tested its members, but the Germans and South Koreans survived the gauntlet and will be moving on to the Knockout Round.

Group G: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England (UK in our competition)

Group G is an eclectic mix of nations from Europe, Central America, and North Africa, all with widely varying ratings in our Geopolitical Score system. For our purposes, England (the soccer squad) will be translated to the United Kingdom overall, as the statistics don’t separate out the various constituent ‘nations’ within the UK. Even without the boost provided by inclusion of Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, England would have advanced from this group; its inclusion hereafter as the United Kingdom will grant them the status of one of the overall favorites in the competition, with a score of 12.45. The UK is supported by its exceptional economic statistics and its powerful military. Coming in last in Group G is Panama, largely due to its small size, poor military, and minor economy. That leaves us two quite different countries vying for the second advancement spot: Belgium and Tunisia. Tunisia is one of the most developed countries in Africa, and is a democracy in a sea of authoritarian states (not that that matters too much in our competition). Unfortunately for the North Africans, they are simply outclassed by the Belgians. Tunisia’s relatively small economy and low levels of human development cannot hold a candle to Belgium’s strong per capita economic data and moderate HDI ranking. Thus, both the United Kingdom and Belgium (score: 43.625) advance out of Group G.

Who will advance to the Knockout Round?         Image Credit: YouTube

Group H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan

Group H is likely our most geographically diverse draw, with nations representing Europe, Africa, South America, and Asia involved in the contest. This group includes both one of the best-scoring nations in the whole competition as well as the absolute lowest-scoring country in the draw. We’ll start with the worst country that made the tournament: Senegal. The Sub-Saharan African nation rates terribly in almost all factors under consideration, with a poor economy, almost non-existent military, and execrable level of human development. Senegal scores a miserable 148.55, the worst score by a large margin (Costa Rica comes in a sad second with a score of 113.525). The battle for second place in this group is between Poland and Colombia, two nations with wildly divergent politics. Colombia, coming off of one of the longest wars in modern world history (a civil war with the FARC rebel group), has a larger population than Poland, but trails it in every other category under analysis. Poland’s economy, military, and human development ratings carry it through to the next round and beat out the Colombians for advancement. That leaves us with one of the top overall contenders going forward, and the nation which takes the top slot in Group G: Japan. The Japanese take into the Knockout Stage a top-notch economy (highest-rated in the whole competition), a large population (11th globally), solid per capita numbers and HDI, and a very powerful military apparatus. The Japanese rank highly on all of these qualities and come second to only Germany in overall Geopolitics Score. At the end of the day, Japan breezes through its group and is joined by Poland in the Knockout Round.

So, now that we’ve gone all the way through the Group Stage of our Geopolitical World Cup, let’s recap what countries are advancing to the Knockout Stage. We have Russia and Saudi Arabia from Group A, Spain and Iran from Group B, France and Australia from Group C, and Argentina and Nigeria from Group D. Moving on from Group E are Switzerland and Brazil, from Group F (Group of Death) we have Germany and South Korea, Group G promoted the United Kingdom and Belgium, and from Group H we have Japan and Poland. The top 5 overall scores are from Germany (9.075), Japan (11.6), the UK (12.45), France (13.5), and South Korea (15.925). The lowest-scoring nation to advance is Nigeria, with a score of 70.7. We’ll be back next week with a rundown of the Knockout Round matches, which are one-on-one and will involve further analysis of historical power and mitigating factors such as alliances or group memberships. Join us then for more hypothetical fun, and enjoy the soccer action in the meantime!

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