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Was this for me? I seem to remember requesting a statistician's view on the likely World Cup winner.

I think the approach ought to be:

1. Find a set of statistics about soccer
2. Look at what they seem to tell you blind
3. Extrapolate whether they in turn describe a given style

The one major mind shift I would make here, is to not look at the probability of a team to beat another team, but instead look at the probability of a team to execute against a given game plan. Treat it like a chess match where a perfect game by white should always lead to victory. The statistic should show us which team is more likely to approach the perfect game. From there, maybe we could extrapolate the most likely winner

There are a two general tactics that are very effective in soccer: moving the ball by passing and challenging possession of the ball. Passing is important because it moves the ball up the field faster than players can run; players can always beat another player, but they can never beat the ball. Challenging is important because it doesn't give the other team time to set up or think; you force your opponent into sub-optimal decisions.

For forwards and mid-fielders, attempts on goal is also important; the more attempts you make, the more you'll score.

Since, as you note, there are very few opportunities to collect stats on the national teams, it seems that we might do well to collect stats on individual players and then aggregate them to compare teams.

Some naive possibilities for player-level stats: passes complete per game; passes received per game; attempts on goal per game; fraction of goals to attempts. Measuring "challenges" at the player level seems more difficult. Perhaps average distance and speed while defending. Maybe also average duration of possession, with less being better.

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