In 2010, when the FIFA world cup was held in South Africa, there was this animal called Octopus that had accurate predictions of most matches – and thanks to her predictions Spain was able to carry the day. Sadly, the beloved (by Spain) and equally hated (by Netherlands) animal passed on not long after the world cup but her predictions gave way to several animals to predict the 2014 FIFA world cup.
This year, animals such as Donkeys, Penguins, Elephants and Turtles have accurately predicted the outcome of some matches. But these animals both in Europe and South America haven’t been accurate all the way; probably because they don’t have the advantage of big data and that’s where Google comes in.
Since the beginning of the 2014 FIFA world cup, Google has been doing predictions too. With help of big data retrieved from previous matches, Google has been able to accurately predict the winning teams by “using touch-by-touch data from Opta which had covered past World Cup games where the athletes competed to study how behaviour in past games affects performance in future matches. It also included a power ranking developed by BigQuery engineer Jordan Tigani and admittedly a subjective judgment of support for teams as measured by enthusiasm of followers and number of fans who went to Brazil to root for their national teams”, writes International Business Insider. But the reliance on Google ended when it predicted a France win over Germany in the quarter final stage.
That’s when Cortana comes in. Similar to Google, IBI explains that Cortana “uses predictive models that assess the strength of reach team using several factors such as past win or loss, record in qualification matches and other global competitions and margin of victory in those games.” “So far, Cortana has come up trumps in predicting the winners of all eight last-16 matches, all four quarter-finals and both the semi-final matches”, explains Mobile Choice.
It is with the reliance on its predictive models that Cortana predicts a Germany win on Sunday the 13th of July. If the Artificial Intelligent assistant by Microsoft accurately predicts the outcome of both the third place play out and the finals, then it will have unbeaten record of predicting all world cup matches from the 16 knock out stage upwards.
The popularity that Cortana is enjoying has made Apple jealous and this has forced it to also let its AI assistant, Siri, to join in the prediction spree, but without giving surety on who will win in any particular match. The Verge humorously writes:
If you now ask Siri variations of who will win a particular game, she offers up some noncommittal responses. “It’s a tossup (if you’ve got a coin, heads says France win, tails says Germany),” is Siri’s France vs. Germany “prediction,” while “I don’t have the line on this one, but Colombia has a better record than Brazil” is the estimate for today’s other game.
“No one is offering a prediction on that game, but Netherlands has a better record than Costa Rica,” is another response, suggesting that Siri tried to use its vast data sources to find predictions, but fell back to previous game stats to pick a winner. All of Siri’s responses aren’t quite as solid as Cortana, but they do represent yet another fun feature for Apple’s personal assistant. Meanwhile, Google Now has not yet started offering its own World Cup predictions, leaving Cortana and Siri to battle it out head-to-head.
Back to the prediction that Germany will win the world cup final, Cortana is not alone. In a blog post on Washington Post, Des Bieler previews the Germany vs Argentina showing strengths and weaknesses of both teams and concludes,
[Germany will win 3-1]. There is simply no objective basis for picking against die Mannschaft. Germany entered the tournament as FIFA’s second-ranked team, and with top-ranked Spain crashing and burning in the group stage, it is hard to argue that Germany isn’t the best side in the world. The team gets scoring from a variety of sources, excellent goaltending from Manuel Neuer and its defense has been less shaky than it occasionally looked during qualifying matches. Then there’s the fact that the Argentina had to play 30 extra minutes before deciding its semifinal match on penalty kicks, while Germany played the day before and could almost coast through the second half of its destruction of Brazil.
How I long for Argentina to prove Cortana and Bieler wrong. After all, in the last 20 International matches including FIFA world cup finals against Germany, Argentina has won 9, drawn 4 and lost 7.
PS. I am not a football fan.