It has come down to four teams. I pick World Cup matches according to what the countries have done for my career as a scholar. And, surprisingly, it's not a bad way to pick winners. If your country is in the semifinals, I have co-authored multiple times with your countrymen...or you're from Japan (see below).
Overall in the women's World Cup, my decision rule has picked 24 winners and 12 losers. (There have been 48 total matches, but there were 10 ties, which I don't count. Yeah, purists will say I should be able to pick ties, but I think it's already a stretch to use this ridiculous approach to pick winners. There were also 2 matches where neither country had contributed much to my career, so I made no prediction.) While far from perfect, this silly rule does better than one might expect. The reason is 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.
Here are the predictions for the semifinals (June 30, July 1):
USA v. Germany -- This is the battle of the powerhouses: my top two ranked teams.
I've got a lot to thank Germany for. In addition to sponsored visits to Berlin, Göttingen, Heidelberg, Munich, and Tübingen, I've got 4 German co-authors: Axel Dreher, Martin Gassebner, Michael Lamla, and Stephan Klasen. But for once, the German record cannot compare to that of the opposing team: USA.
No country has done more for my career than the United States. My American co-authors include Raj Desai, Jennifer Gandhi, Jay Goodliffe, Darren Hawkins, Christian Holkeboer, James Hollyer, and Stephen Kosack. The universities I have had direct connections with include: Manhattan College (where I did my undergraduate education), NYU (where I did my PhD), Yale (where, over the course of a decade, I was an assistant and then associate prof), UCLA (where I had the most amazing fellowship ever!), and Georgetown (where I am currently a professor). Plus, I have been invited to present my research at so many other US institutions, including Binghamton University, Chicago University, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Emory University, George Washington University, Notre Dame University, Nova Southeastern University, Ohio State University, Penn State, Pittsburgh University, Princeton University, Tufts University, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UMASS Amherst, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Maryland, University of Minnesota, University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, University of Texas at Austin, University of Virginia, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Vassar College, and Villanova University. I thank them all so much and will wholeheartedly root for our team to make it to the final. USA! USA!
Japan v. England -- Once again, Soccernomics would pick mighty Japan. Japan's economy is substantially larger than England's. And England isn't doing itself any favors by parochially playing as only one part of the United Kingdom. Even if we added in the economies of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, Japan would still have the edge. This is why it continues to surprise me, year after year, that Japan does nothing for me! No co-authors, no visits. Meantime, look what the English have done... Three English co-authors: Alastair Smith, Matthew Rablen, and Matthew Gould. Plus I've had a visit to Oxford, which has a Blackwell's bookstore -- the only bookstore where I've actually seen my books for sale on the regular shelves! Furthermore, I have tremendous gratitude to the London School of Economics. England has come through for me a lot this World Cup, and I'm sticking with them. Go England!