FIFA World Cup: Does sex equal success?

Contents

Athletes sex lives often make tabloid headlines or clickbait stories. But how does it affect their performance, and how it could impact tournament results?

Is it better to allow wives and girlfriends (WAGs) into the camp, or to forbid players from seeing their loved ones throughout the tournament, therefore keeping them focused on the competition?

We’ve also specifically looked at how England’s sex policy has impacted their Euro and World Cup tournament results.

Overall analysis

Permissive

Performance:
  • Good
  • Neutral
  • Bad

Balanced

Performance:
  • Good
  • Neutral
  • Bad

Restrictive

Performance:
  • Good
  • Neutral
  • Bad
Performance:
  • Good
  • Neutral
  • Bad

The above charts show how a permissive, balanced or restrictive sex policy impacts performance from 37 data points from the 2 most recent FIFA World Cups (2014 and 2018) – over half the teams taking part. It clearly shows a trend favoring permissive sex rules, with restrictive rules leading to worse performance.

The performance score was worked out by comparing the team’s pre-tournament outright odds to their finishing position. For example, If a team went into the competition as the 18th favorite and qualified for the round of 16 that’s a good performance.

The full data set can be found here.

Sex ban back story

Abstinence before sporting events dates back to the ancient Greeks. They believed sex was detrimental as it exhausted energy, reduced testosterone and lead to lower levels of aggression. This theory has carried through and is still believed by management teams to this day. In fact the greatest boxer of all-time, Muhammed Ali, would take a vow of abstinence for six weeks before any fight – and if it’s good enough for him, it’s surely good enough for the rest of us, right? Let’s look at some examples…

2014 FIFA World Cup

The WAGs were widely praised for their role in Germany’s 2014 World Cup win. Winning 6 and drawing 1 of their tournament matches, the Germans dominated the tournament and were deserving champions. Joachim Loew’s side were pre-tournament 3rd favorites, so outperformed the sportsbook’s expectations. And, of course, who could forget that 7-1 win against hosts Brazil.

Another team that catches the eye is Netherlands. Priced as 7th favorites ($26) pre-tournament, Netherlands performed beyond expectations by finishing 3rd. Before their huge opening group stage match against Spain, manager Louis van Gaal allowed his players to spend time with their significant other. ”My principle is the overall picture. The total person. The player”, he said. They went on to win 5-1.

Every side who banned sex were knocked out by the round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup. Spain, Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chile and Mexico all had a no-sex policy which didn’t pay off. Of course, some countries didn’t disclose their rules so it’s impossible to get a black and white result on this, however there is a clear trend here.

2018 FIFA World Cup

Despite a successful 2014 campaign, Germany manager Joachim Loew decided to change his team’s sex policy. The result was not as intended, as Germany crashed out in spectacular fashion. The holders lost to Mexico and South Korea, dropping out of a fairly routine group. This was a replica of what happened with the Spanish national team 4 years earlier. They went into the 2014 World Cup as holders, banned sex and were eliminated at the group stage.

Looking at the latter stages of the 2018 World Cup, you’re again greeted with teams who allowed sex. England, Belgium, Brazil, Uruguay, Russia, France and Sweden all made the quarter-finals with more relaxed rules. The only other quarter-finalists, Croatia, haven’t released information on their rules.

Prostitution and performance

So we far we’ve only looked at sex with girlfriends or wives, but footballers are notorious for promiscuity. Before the 2018 World Cup the Mexican team had a farewell party with 30 sex workers and 9 players. The Mexican FA responded with a laid back approach, not penalising any players and saying “A free day is a free day and those are the risks that one runs with freedom”. Their side went on to knock Germany out in the group stages, before losing to hosts Brazil in the round of 16. A decent campaign for Mexico, in part thanks to their relaxed rules.

Shortly before the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the France national team had an incident with underage prostitutes. Stars Hatem Ben Arfa, Franck Ribery, Sidney Govou and Karim Benzema were accused of involvement within a prostitution ring operating out of a Paris nightclub. Ben Arfa and Benzema were both left out of the World Cup squad, with manager Raymond Domenech citing “poor form” (although rumors suggest the scandal may have had an influence). France went on to have a dismal campaign, scoring 1 goal and being knocked out in the group stage. Clearly the controversy and negative public feeling towards the team took its toll.

Conclusion: Sex is good for performance!

The overall story seems to be that sex helps performance, it allows the players to relax. World Cup 2014 and 2018 in particular show that generally sides with lighter rules, or no rules, perform better. Often players and coaches blames WAGs as a distraction after an unsuccessful tournament – which now looks like a deflection strategy. It’s very difficult to get definitive results as many teams don’t release their rules, especially pre-2014. However, the trend from what we can see is obvious.

So if you’re looking at teams to back in the World Cup, be sure to check their sex policy first! Any team with draconian rules is, historical speaking, destined to underperform.

Complete data set

NationWCSexResultOddsOutcome
ARG2018PermissiveR1610.5Bad
AUS2014PermissiveGroup501Neutral
AUS2018BalancedGroup301Neutral
BEL2014BalancedQFs15Good
BEL2018Balanced3rd13Neutral
BOS2014RestrictiveGroup201Neutral
BRA2014BalancedR164.33Bad
BRA2018BalancedQFs5.5Bad
CHI2014RestrictiveR1634Neutral
CRC2014BalancedQFs1001Good
CRC2018BalancedGroup301Neutral
DEN2018BalanceR16101Neutral
ENG2014PermissiveGroup29Bad
ENG2018Balanced4th19Good
FRA2014BalancedQFs21Neutral
GER2014PermissiveWin6.5Good
GER2018RestrictiveGroup5.75Bad
ICE2018BalancedGroup201Neutral
ITA2014PermissiveGroup26Bad
MEX2014RestrictiveR16101Good
MEX2018PermissiveR16101Neutral
NLD2014Permissive3rd26Good
NGA2014PermissiveR16201Good
NGA2018BalancedGroup201Neutral
PAN2018RestrictiveGroup1001Neutral
POL2018BalancedGroup81Bad
POR2018PermissiveR1629Neutral
RUS2014RestrictiveGroup51Bad
RUS2014PermissiveQFs51Good
KOR2018RestrictiveGroup501Neutral
ESP2014RestrictiveGroup7.5Bad
ESP2018PermissiveR167Bad
SWE2018BalancedQFs151Good
SWI2014PermissiveR1681Neutral
URU2014PermissiveR1626Neutral
URU2018PermissiveQFs26Neutral
USA2014PermissiveR16151Good

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