Thirty-two countries will be represented in South Africa when the World Cup final starts. Five-time champions Brazil are joint favorites with Spain to lift the Jules Rimet Cup.
But while attention will be on the pitch, economists and analysts at Goldman Sachs took the chance to assess the economies of the participants. Does gross national product have much to do with success on the pitch? Not really, Goldman concluded, pointing to a -0.17 correlation between GNP and Fifa's current world rankings.
But being "big is definitely an advantage for countries when it comes to football. The fact that Germany and Italy are the most successful European nations, followed by England and France, almost definitely has something to do with the size of their populations."
And as for stock market performance, that looks like even less of a reliable predictor, Goldman said. Still, those willing to use that as a guide for 2010 should put their money on Brazil, Chile, Mexico, South Africa and South Korea.
By Kim Khan, CNBC Europe
Posted 9 Jun 2010
FIFA world ranking: 30
Global GDP rank: 47
"Following years of strong economic performance on the back of high oil prices and a massive public infrastructure program, Algeria entered the global recession in a relatively good position," Goldman said.
If oil prices average around $100 per barrel through 2010 and 2011, "the outlook for the Algerian economy should also be bright" with planned capital expenditure by the state oil company, Sonatrach, rising.
FIFA world ranking: 7
Global GDP rank: 23
During the first half of 2009 the economy "was severely challenged by the global economic and financial crisis, as well as the decline in commodity prices," Goldman said. But the "real business cycle reached an inflection point during (the third quarter of 2009) and the economy is now experiencing a solid rebound on the back of firming commodity prices, recovering global trade and real activity (particularly in Brazil, the main trading partner), the impulse from lax fiscal and monetary policies, and a supportive balance of payments due to the slowdown in private-sector capital flight."
FIFA world ranking: 20
Global GDP rank: 18
"Four years ago we pointed tongue-in-cheek to the historical coincidence of Australia’s performance on the football pitch and commodity prices," Goldman said. "The 2006 World Cup coincided with a surge in Australia’s terms of trade to a high last seen in 1974. In fact, the 1974 World Cup marked the peak in Australia’s terms of trade. After a short and sharp dip in 2009, 2010 coal and iron ore prices threaten to take the terms of trade to a new high, delivering an economic catalyst in excess of 3 (percent) of GDP."
FIFA world ranking: 1
Global GDP rank: 9
"Most analysts forecast Brazil's GDP growth at around 5 percent per year during the next decade, driven by a strong domestic market," Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes wrote in the research note for Goldman. "By 2040, according to Goldman Sachs, Brazil could be among the five largest economies in the World, surpassing Germany and Italy, our biggest rivals in football (with three and four World Cup titles, respectively)."
"If Brazil’s performance on the field turns out to be as good as our relative economic strength, the next World Cups will tend to be uninteresting, as we already have five cups in our hands," Paes said.
FIFA world ranking: 19
Global GDP rank: 94
Since 1994, "Cameroon’s economy has recovered slightly, but in per capita terms it remains 30 percent poorer than in 1986 (in aggregate terms, it is richer, as Cameroon’s population has roughly doubled over this period)," Goldman wrote.
"In 2007, four in ten Cameroonians lived in poverty. Dealing with inadequate infrastructure and tackling the country’s chronic underemployment rate (three-quarters of the labor force) are key challenges."
FIFA world ranking: 18
Global GDP rank: 45
Chile "is arguably the best-managed economy in the region," Goldman said. But Chile "tends to exhibit a high beta to global growth."
The Feb. 27 earthquake will impact activity during the second quarter of 2010, but "given the resilience accumulated in recent years and broad policy flexibility, that should be followed by a strong reconstruction-led recovery during (the second half of 2010, which should extend well into 2011."
FIFA world ranking: 27
Global GDP rank: 99
"Côte d’Ivoire has largely insulated itself against the effects of the global downturn," Goldman said. "As well as being the world’s largest producer of cocoa, a marked increase in oil production has coincided with an escalation in commodity prices. With two-thirds of the population engaged in agriculture, the economy remains exposed to falls in international prices and, to some extent, climatic changes."
FIFA world ranking: 36
Global GDP rank: 52
"To boost productivity, Denmark needs to rely on its large Diaspora," Goldman wrote in its research note.
"In the short term, it’s up to (Manager) Morten Olsen’s squad of internationals—the Olsen gang—to show the way; in the longer term, it’s up to the Danish parliament to realize that Denmark will succeed."
FIFA world ranking: 8
Global GDP rank: 6
"The long housing boom may not have reduced net financial wealth, for example, but it’s certainly redistributed it, from young to old (the former, who’ve been moving up the housing market, have the debt, the latter, moving down it, the cash)," Goldman said. "Undoing that requires both generous parents and hard-working children."
Still, "UK banks, which lost far more on securities and on assets outside the UK than in it, are contracting their balance sheets and paying significantly more for their own funding than they did before the credit crunch."
FIFA world ranking: 9
Global GDP rank: 8
From "an economic standpoint, France has fared pretty well throughout the crisis, beating its neighbors thanks to uninterrupted growth in household consumption, even during the worst quarters of GDP contraction," Goldman said. "If this tells us something about the population’s deeply-rooted optimism (the French are always happy, have long lunch breaks and spend money, whatever happens), then at the current juncture, happiness and football performance do not seem to be as correlated as they might have been in the past."
Was the so-called ‘1998 World Cup effect’ (whereby the French economy would have boomed because Les Bleus won the Cup) based on a spurious correlation?
FIFA world ranking: 6
Global GDP rank: 5
"Owing to its relatively strong exposure to the global industrial cycle, Germany was hit particularly hard by the collapse in global trade after the default of Lehman," Goldman said.
"GDP declined by 5 (percent), more than in most euro-zone countries. The economy stabilized during the summer of 2009, largely due to the various fiscal policy measures, and recorded a quite lively rebound over the next two quarters. At the end of last year, however, the recovery stalled again and economic activity remained broadly flat at the beginning of this year."
FIFA world ranking: 32
Global GDP rank: 98
"Ghana has access to oil, and policymakers and the public hope that oil revenue (from 2011 on) will help the country achieve middle-income status. Although Ghana has issued a 750 million Eurobond and foreign investors are present in the domestic market, Ghana still relies on foreign aid of about 5 (percent) of GDP," Goldman said.
But oil revenue could prove a blessing or a curse, Goldman said. "If managed prudently and with long-term goals in mind, oil should be a source of investment in both physical and human capital, especially if followed up by development of a petrochemical sector that would lead to exports of higher value added products."
FIFA world ranking: 13
Global GDP rank: 33
"The Greek economy has been on a multi-year convergence course to core European living standards as lower real rates allowed for significant leveraging of the economy in the private and public sector" Goldman said.
"Without the capacity to inflate its economy (through loose monetary policy or FX depreciation) and with the tight scrutiny of market participants on Greek bonds, Greece will need the help of off-market financing by the IMF and its European counterparts as its economy embarks on a deflationary adjustment."
FIFA world ranking: 38
Global GDP rank: 102
"The government is focusing on consolidating political stability, internal security and investing in education," Goldman said. "Advancement and improvement in these areas will promote foreign investment and further development of tourism in Honduras."
"Participation in the World Cup can serve as a platform to showcase tourism potential through the promotion of its rainforests, pristine beaches, coral reefs and Mayan archaeological sites."
FIFA world ranking: 5
Global GDP rank: 10
While the team if facing problems in its World Cup defense, the silver lining is that Italy is doing very well economically, said a team of foreign exchange traders writing for Goldman.
"This is surprising and exciting: Italy, we read everywhere, is actually an EXAMPLE for Southern Europe! Maybe ‘example’ is a bit rich but thanks to great savings and cautious attitudes, good choices by our government and a reasonably solid banking system, we have come through the credit crunch reasonably unscathed."
FIFA world ranking: 45
Global GDP rank: 3
"The economy is on a recovery path, largely thanks to foreign demand," Goldman said. "In addition to strong exports to Asian countries, capex appears to have bottomed out. Also, fiscal stimulus is helping to boost global consumption of durable football-related goods, including large digital high-definition high-refresh-rate flat-screen LCD televisions."
"The government stance of preferring a weaker currency is also providing a moderate tailwind to the economy," Goldman added.
"However, not everything is coming up roses: the output gap is still very wide at around 8 (percent), non-football-related unemployment continues to be a problem, and further fiscal stimulus is not very likely given that the government debt-to-GDP ratio is approaching 200 (percent)."
FIFA world ranking: 105
Global GDP rank: 96
"Living standards have stagnated, if not deteriorated, over the past decade, while North Korea’s once worse-off socialist peers (China, Vietnam and even Mongolia) have already improved their living standards by embracing markets," Goldman said.
"The command economy appears to be in tatters, with the private sector still at an embryonic stage. The leadership underwent a confiscatory currency ‘reform’ in November 2009 to reduce monetary overhang and restore state control over the economy but the initiative has apparently failed amid severe trade disruptions and acute supply shortages."
FIFA world ranking: 47
Global GDP rank: 13
The Korean economy was one of the earliest OECD countries to exit recession, overcoming pressure "from the sub-prime crisis through a deft mix of fiscal stimulus, monetary easing and countercyclical financial policies."
"We expect exports to remain strong, supported by recovering global demand and a competitive" won, but monetary policy should "remain accommodative," it said.
FIFA world ranking: 17
Global GDP rank: 12
"We think Banxico will keep interest rates unchanged in 2010 as the recovery has not been driven by expansionary domestic demand management policies, and despite the increase in headline inflation resulting from the fiscal adjustment measures contained in the 2010 budget," Goldman said.
"In addition, it will take at least until mid-2012 for the output gap to close, given the depth and length of the recession."
FIFA world ranking: 4
Global GDP rank: 21
"The strongest beam of light comes from the manufacturing purchasing manager's index readings," Goldman said.
"The PMI has risen to 57.8, a shave higher than the euro-zone average, and its highest reading since the first half of 2007. The recovery in business sentiment is feeding through into hard industrial sector data, with a rebound in IP and manufacturing orders."
"This bodes well for activity going forward and we expect the economy to expand by 2.1 (percent) and 2.3 (percent) in 2009 and 2010, respectively; we are more optimistic than the consensus."
FIFA world ranking: 78
Global GDP rank: 61
"While it pains a New Zealander to admit it, NZ currently has much to thank Australia for," the note said.
"Not only was NZ's road to the World Cup arguably made easier by Australia's acceptance into the Asian Football Confederation (as opposed to Oceania) in 2005. But from an economic perspective, Australia has proved to be a critical pillar of support for the local economy over recent times. Rather fortuitously, a largely Australian-owned banking sector insulated NZ from the full effects of the global financial crisis."
"The NZ economy is slowly finding its feet after an extended period of recession," it continued. "While pockets of the domestic economy remain sluggish as de-leveraging has persisted, this is coming at a time when some positive factors have emerged offshore (strong global growth and high soft commodity prices)."
FIFA world ranking: 21
Global GDP rank: 31
"According to new finance minister Olusegun Aganga (a former managing director at Goldman Sachs), fast-tracking the development process is currently the most important task for Nigeria," Goldman said.
"Macro stabilization has generally been delivered and the higher oil price environment has benefited this energy exporter in terms of its foreign and public debt profiles."
FIFA world ranking: 31
Global GDP rank: 107
"Paraguay is still one of the poorest countries in South America, with 40 percent of its total population living below the poverty line," Godlman said.
"After almost six decades of dominance by the Colorado Party, in April 2009, Fernando Lugo was elected President, promising land reform and better socioeconomic conditions," it added.
"His popularity has been undermined by successive scandals about his personal life and by the recession. Political stability is likely to remain elusive, given that the opposition parties will continue to control Congress, blocking the government’s attempt to implement social reforms."
FIFA world ranking: 3
Global GDP rank: 49
"For the past decade, Portugal has failed to muster economic growth worthy of all the determined talent at its disposal," Goldman said.
"A combination of sluggish productivity growth and declining competitiveness have led the country to chronically underperform its euro-zone neighbors (annual growth since 2000 has averaged a mere 0.9 percent compared with 1.4 percent for the euro-zone), and in the context of this poor structural backdrop, the latest recession dealt a particularly heavy blow."
The "same activism and vigor that has served the football team so well was not as kind to the budget, as public spending ballooned and drove the deficit to an all-time high of 9.3 (percent) of GDP, and debt to nearly 80 percent."
FIFA world ranking: 15
Global GDP rank: 76
Growth rates of more than 6 percent prior to the recent global downturn led to the nickname "Balkan Tiger."
"Now firmly on a path to a free market economy, Serbia nevertheless faces numerous challenges, including: the ongoing war on corruption and organized crime; the still far-from-completed process of privatization; unemployment fluctuating in the high teens; a trade deficit of around $11 billion; and one of the lowest population growth rates in the world, which at -0.5 percent is putting stress on health and social systems," Goldman said.
FIFA world ranking: 34
Global GDP rank: 60
Strong economic performance and sound fiscal policy allowed Slovakia to join the euro in January 2009.
"Despite solid fundamentals, the economy was nonetheless hit hard by the collapse in trade once the financial crisis deepened after the default of Lehman Brothers," Goldman said.
"Exports plunged by around a quarter and GDP contracted by 6.6 (percent, quarter over quarter) in the first quarter of 2009. After a stabilization during the summer, the economy returned to healthy growth during the second half of last year on the back of stronger external demand."
FIFA world ranking: 25
Global GDP rank: 86
Slovenia has been one of the success models in the Central Europe region, with GDP per capita exceeding 90 percent of the EU average, Goldman said.
"Slovenia has avoided the shock therapy reforms applied in other former-Communist states, and has efficiently leveraged its central geographical position to develop export-oriented manufacturing," it added.
"Despite an overall successful record of deregulation and privatization, including eventually a greater openness to foreign capital, (foreign direct investment) inflows have remained relatively low, and state-owned entities still dominate several strategic sectors."
FIFA world ranking: 83
Global GDP rank: 25
The host nation is the most advanced economy on the African continent, according to Goldman.
"The spin-offs from the application of prudent economic policies were clearly evident during the global financial crisis," Goldman added. "The introduction of the National Credit Act coupled with the rigorous regulation of the banking sector meant that South African banks were fairly resilient to developments on international financial markets. Infrastructure spending related to the Soccer World Cup has helped to cushion the slowdown in economic activity in South Africa."
FIFA world ranking: 2
Global GDP rank: 12
If only the economic outlook was as promising (as its soccer team) and Spain’s economic managers as eager to introduce structural reform and develop best practices, Goldman said.
"After the collapse of the housing market, the Spanish economy has been mired in a long recession that has generated a sharp increase in unemployment and a significant increase in public deficit and debt," it said. "Tangled up in a general election in early 2009, the government failed to grasp the depth of the crisis in late 2008 and has since produced an amorphous string of anti-crisis measures that have avoided tackling the fundamental problems."
"After a market scare in February, the government rushed to present a vague reform plan on pensions and the labor market, but as markets have recovered, moral hazard seems to have taken over and reforms are again on hold," Goldman concluded.
FIFA world ranking: 24
Global GDP rank: 37
The team is the longest shot at winning the World Cup, but the economy looks set to rise at an annual rate of 1.8 percent in 2010, fueled by a Usain Bolt-like surge in the Manufacturing PMI in March (the largest jump ever recorded)," Goldman said.
"What is most remarkable about the Swiss recovery is that it has shrugged off a 15 (percent) appreciation in the trade-weighted franc and continued tightness in financial conditions," it said. "But it’s not all rosy. Over the pre-crisis period 2000-2007, a simple regression of Switzerland’s FIFA ranking on the level of CHF/EUR suggests that there is a significant negative relationship between the strength of the Franc and the fortunes of the national football team."
FIFA world ranking: 16
Global GDP rank: 91
"In 2009, real GDP grew 2.2 (percent), as Uruguay avoided recession thanks to large-scale foreign investment projects, strong trade links with Brazil and countercyclical fiscal policies," Goldman said.
"For 2010, real GDP growth should accelerate towards 4.5 (percent), driven by foreign direct investment and external demand (chiefly from Brazil and Argentina), as well as the agriculture and tourism sectors."
FIFA world ranking: 14
Global GDP rank: 1
"Despite a blowout fourth quarter (5.6 percent annualized real GDP growth), and recent encouraging news about consumer spending, near-term growth prospects are mixed," Goldman said.
"Even if growth turns out better than this, the US economy remains saddled with a huge overhang of unused resources," Goldman added. "Most painfully, the 'underemployment rate,' the share of potential workers who are either jobless or working fewer hours than they would like, remains at almost 17 percent, not far from an all-time high set in October."
"Put in simple terms, one out of six Americans is not working as much as they want to."