Defending World Cup Champions Are Screwed if They're Old

With Spain out in the group stage this year, there will be no repeat champion in Brazil. Do any of the remaining four teams stand a good chance of repeating? The Economist compared the average ages of defending World Cup champions and found younger teams tend to do better.

Since teams can wildly vary in skill, defending champions were compared to assure that those in the sample were teams of similar quality. The chart above shows that after adjusting for home-field advantage, a one-year increase in age correlated with a four-place drop in the tournament.

Because only three substitutions are allowed per match, youth is valuable as younger players tend to have more endurance. The Score ran a similar study a few years ago and found no team has won the World Cup Finals or European Championship with a starting 11 with an average age below 26.09 or above 28.91.

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This year, Argentina have an average age of 28.9—just under The Score's cutoff—and Brazil 28.4. The Netherlands and Germany come in at 26.5 and 26.3. National teams age uniquely—getting Miroslav Klose off the books will do wonders for Germany, while Robben may well be around in another four years—but the Dutch and Germans seem in better position to repeat, if they happen to win.

[The Economist]