The World Cup is an Uneven Playing Field

Global Development

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A country’s chance of winning the World Cup is strongly related to the size of its population and how rich the population is. Countries with bigger populations have a larger pool from which talented players can be sourced and richer countries are better able to nurture their players. All, except two (Uruguay and Colombia), of the top 15 ranked World Cup teams are from countries that have populations over 8 million people and income per person over US$12,000 a year. These countries have among the highest incomes and largest populations in the world and appear in the top right of the chart below.

Final World Cup Graph

Between the World Cup countries, an uneven playing field still exists. The richest qualifying country, Switzerland, has around 80 times more income per person, than the poorest qualifying country, Cameroon. While the largest country in terms of population, the United States, has almost 100 times more people…

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