Belgium 1, Goldman Sachs AI 0

An image for Goldmans' AI engine to analyse: Neymar after today's match (Getty)

Issuing predictions ahead of a major sporting tournament has become something of a PR standby for stockbrokers and investment banks.

It's easy to get a truckload of free coverage for your brand ... but then, of course, it can all go horribly wrong, as it did today for Goldman Sachs.

The investment bank had been predicting a Brazil - Croatia FIFA World Cup final, with Brazil lifting the trophy.

Today's Belgium - Brazil quarter-final dashed that hope.

Belgium's "golden generation" team, built around Tottenham Hotspur stars Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Mousa Dembélé, outwitted man-baby Neymar and the rest of his squad to prevail 2-1. 

Things are actually even ropier for Goldman than today's result suggests.

Before the tournament, the Wall Street powerhouse said its AI team, augmented by a team of top humans, analysed team-level data and player characteristics.

report saved for posterity on Goldman's website records, "After hours of number crunching, 200,000 probability trees, and 1 million simulations, some of the results are strikingly intuitive: England meets Germany in the quarters, where Germany wins; and Germany meets Brazil in the final, and Brazil prevails."

That model went off the rails as German crashed out in the group stage on June 28.

Undeterred, Goldman issued a revised forecast: Brazil would still triumph, but it now against England in the final.

But no sooner had the dust settled on that prediction when the investment bank changed tack again on July 3, shortly after England lost 1-0 to Belgium in the pair's final group stage game (a dead rubber as both teams were already through to the final 16. Both fielded second XIs. As NBR types).

Goldman re-revised its forecast to its duff prediction of a Brazil vs Croatia final. Which is where we came in.

The World Cup final may be fast approaching. But, this morning at least, the Singularity seems very far away.

Punters also wrong
The TAB also had Brazil as favourites to win the tournament ahead of today's quarter-final, paying $4.50.

France (who earlier today beat Uruguay 2-1 in their quarter-final) are now in pole position, paying $3, with Belgium ($3.50) jumping to second.

Source: TAB

Who will actually carry the day?

Some will say the real winner is already Tottenham Hotspur, given the club has so many players still in contention in their national teams.

England's squad features five Spurs players (captain Harry Kane, who leads the golden boot standings for the tournament with six goals so far, or seven including a penalty-shootout effort, Deli Alli, Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose and Eric Dier), Belgium three (the aforementioned Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Mousa Dembélé) and France one (captain Hugo Lloris), while a number of stand-out teams before the final eight also featured Tottenham stars including South Korea (Son Heung-min, who scored in the landmark win against Germany) and Colombia (Davinson Sanchez). 

[UPDATE: Croatia beat Russia and England beat Sweden in Saturday's quarterfinals.]

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4 Comments & Questions

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I am guessing you are a Spurs fan or you clearly haven't done enough research here Chris!

What do we think of think of Tottenham?

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Hi Jack, my analysis of Tottenham is simply that they had more players in the quarter-finals, and now the semi-finals, than any other team. CK

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Not to be a pedantic, but more out of curiosity, it was actually Manchester City (11) having more players in the quarters over Spurs (10). Hopefully it all works out for the Belgium England final!

Is football coming home Chris?

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Spurs had 14 players in the quarters, including ex-players - because no one really ever leaves, unlike City, whose ex-players cannot be counted.

Football *is* coming home. And despite qualms in some quarters about that phrase having imperialist overtones, it's simply a reference to Harry Kane's pool room.

Lastly, Tottenham totally dominates the player line up in the semis, as recorded by the no-doubt authoritative "Footy Accumulators" account: 

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