ZURICH, May 17 (Reuters) - Every four years some economists turn their talent for making predictions about global finance to the topic of the World Cup. Will Iceland or Panama lift the trophy this year, or perhaps hosts Russia?
Forecasters at Swiss bank UBS on Thursday came up with a more, well, predictable choice: Germany.
UBS sees a 24 percent probability that Germany who won in 2014 will win the July 15 final, with Brazil and Spain the next most likely teams to succeed, with a 19.8 percent and 16.1 percent chance respectively.
"Germany and Brazil are set for an easy start, while Spain will have to hit the ground running if they are to beat Portugal, the current European champions, in their opening game," said Michael Bolliger, head of emerging market asset allocation in a report that used econometric forecasting tools.
"From there, the going will get tougher for Spain and Brazil, who will possibly face Argentina and England, respectively, in the quarter-finals," Bolliger said.
Host country Russia, meanwhile, is likely to make it to the round of 16 before losing to either Spain or Portugal.
As for Iceland and Panama: 0.2 percent and 0.0 percent respectively.
The predictions by the world's biggest wealth manager were based on a statistical model using the results from the previous five tournaments and controlling for factors such as team strength and success in the qualification phase.
UBS said that England, France, Belgium and Argentina could still provide some surprises in the World Cup.
"Argentina’s fate will strongly depend on the form of their star players in our view, which is an element of uncertainty and hard to capture with our quantitative model," Bolliger said.
France should be able to advance to the semi-final but could face Brazil, another top team, after the possible elimination of Portugal. England, just like Belgium, has a balanced team but would have to get past Brazil to reach the semi-final, he added. (Reporting by John Revill in Zurich and Maria Sheahan in Frankfurt Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)