World Cup fever is burning high, spawning endless soccer-related memes (#believe) and heated discussion over the best food and beer of participating countries.

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog has thrown the full weight of its statistical analysis behind World Cup predictions, and has now turned its attention to the possible correlation between countries that have both delicious food and superior ball skills.

Silver noticed that the last four World Cup champions—Spain, Italy, France, and Brazil—all have great grub. To further investigate this phenomenon, Silver asked 1,373 Americans to rate the national cuisines of the 32 qualifying teams. Silver also threw eight additional “potluck” countries into the mix, all known for their food but not their soccer: China, Cuba, Ethiopia, India, Ireland (a questionable inclusion), Thailand, Turkey, and Vietnam.


Irish stew. [Photo:]

To simulate the actual World Cup, the countries were divided into groups where they faced off against three other nation’s cuisines. The results were far more predictable than the actual football has been: Mexico, Brazil, Spain, Ethiopia, Japan, Greece, Italy, Vietnam, France, China, Cuba, Argentina, U.S.A., Germany, Thailand, and Belgium all emerged victorious into the knockout round.

Like any good sporting tournament, there were a few upsets. India was booted despite a strong performance in a Group of Death that included Japan, Greece, Colombia and Ivory Coast. And the U.S. and Germany beat out both Portugal and Turkey in their group, which points to high levels of patriotism but low levels of taste among the American respondents.

Belgium drew with South Korea on points, but edged ahead on vote differential (average votes for a country in all four group fixtures, minus the average votes against). In short, respondents chose waffles over kimchi by a narrow margin. Harsh, but fair.

Check out the post for full match breakdowns and commentary. The Food World Cup continues with the Round of 16 next week, and matchups include Japan vs. Vietnam, Spain vs. Brazil, and Italy vs. Greece, where Nate Silver expects “a lot of olive oil will be spilled.”


[via FiveThirtyEight]