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Iceland crowned as champs of economic World Cup

The number crunchers' favourites
AFP

London (AFP) – The World Cup has only just kicked off, but a surprise winner has already emerged: Iceland.

That’s according to a study looking at which of the countries competing in Russia scores most on an array of indicators of economic and financial health.

The report released Friday by Denmark’s Saxo Bank amounts to a yellow card to Latin America’s footballing powers, warning that yawning levels of inequality hamper their efforts to translate on-field success into the real world.

In contrast, according to the evaluation by eight number-crunchers led by the bank’s senior quantitative analyst, the match-ups would see Iceland defeat Denmark in the economic World Cup final.

Saxo chief economist and chief investment officer Steen Jakobsen laughed off suggestions that the study showed a pro-Nordic bias.

“I’m no big Denmark fan, in economics or football, but we did it entirely as a mathematical exercise,” he told AFP by phone from Copenhagen.

The study measured the World Cup competitors by analysing their inflation; unemployment; stock market (or oil market, for Iran); spread of credit default swaps; and Gini coefficient, a measure of economic inequality.

Iceland may be a footballing minnow but caused a shock at Euro 2016 by knocking out former world champions England, and is recovering strongly from its collapse in the 2008 financial crisis.

On Saxo’s measures, Japan would beat Germany in the third-placed playoff. Other teams in the top 10 were South Korea, Switzerland, Australia, Sweden, Poland and England.

Brazil, Argentina, Spain would all be knocked out in the group stage, hurt in part by poor readings for the Gini coefficient. 

“Footballing culture is almost inversely correlated with the economics,” Jakobsen said. “The greater lesson is we have to be in this together.” 

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