I pick World Cup matches according to what the countries have done for my career as a scholar. The approach does ok because of a spurious correlation: populous & rich countries are likely to have both (1) good performances in international sports (including Soccer) and (2) strong universities. Countries with strong universities are more likely to produce co-authors I end up working with, or simply have the resources to invite me to share my research through presentations or teaching courses.
How does my silly decision rule perform? In the group stage of the Women's World Cup, there were 36 matches total. For two of them, my rule wasn't decisive because neither country had done much of anything to directly impact my career. And then there were 10 ties. (Purists will say that I should be able to predict ties, but I think it's a stretch for my ridiculous approach to even pick winners.) So what about the remaining 24 matches where my decision-rule was decisive? 16 wins, 8 losses. Not bad.
Now we move into the knock-out stage. Here are the matches coming up for the round of 16 (June 20-23):
China v. Cameroon -- I have loved my teaching experiences with Peking University's Guanghua School of Management. China!
Brazil v. Australia -- This match is a bit more competitive. My colleague Barry Williams hosted my visit to Australia's Bond University. But Brazil is a powerhouse. I've got my co-author José Cheibub and my co-teacher Fernando Limongi at USP. Brazil!
France v. South Korea -- I studied abroad in France and learned the language, but French universities have snubbed me ever since. I don't know what their problem is -- they have a great women's soccer team. Clearly they have the resources to do more for me! Meantime, I taught for 6 weeks at Korea University's summer campus back in 2009. Then I participated in a major conference sponsored by the Bank of Korea in 2011. I've got to root for Korea!
Canada v. Switzerland -- Oh boy. This one is tough. Switzerland has paid for many trips I've made to ETH Zurich. I even published an article about Switzerland, and so the Swiss press interviews me from time to time. But the co-author rule is supposed to trump everything (except maybe a job offer). And I've got a Canadian co-author, Eric Werker. With many regrets to CH, the rule predicts victory for Canada.
USA v. Colombia -- USA is all over my CV. Co-authors Raj Desai, Jennifer Gandhi, Jay Goodliffe, Darren Hawkins, Christian Holkeboer, James Hollyer, and Stephen Kosack. Plus my universities: Manhattan College, NYU, Yale, and Georgetown. USA! USA!
Japan v. Netherlands -- Another easy call, thanks to co-author Jan-Egbert Sturm: Netherlands!