Soccer balls during World Cup
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Since the World Cup in South Africa began several weeks ago, investment bankers have been amusing themselves predicting the outcome of the soccer matches using economic models. And it looks like, even before next Sunday's final, the analysts' approach is somewhat lacking.

Four of the big banks tapped Brazil and England as the ultimate World Cup champions, but both have already been sent packing.

The banks applied criteria such as the economic strength of the teams' home countries, the size of their populations, the results of prior matches and existing rankings.

J.P. Morgan's analysts, who relied on the market value of the various teams and the value at which they were pegged by betting agencies, gave the best odds to England to win the championship, forecasting that the English would beat Spain in the final. As the world already knows, however, England was unceremoniously eliminated, and Spain is still in contention - at least until tomorrow's game against Germany.

Italy's UniCredit bank picked Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Portugal as the teams with the best shot at the championship, because their players were seen as at the least risk of injury.

The bank may be right about Germany and Holland, but the Italian and Portuguese teams are already home from South Africa.

Swiss-based UBS and the biggest bank in Denmark, Danske Bank, pegged Brazil as the likely world soccer champs, forecasting that the South American country would beat Germany in the final, but Brazil is already out of contention.

Brazil also got the vote of Goldman Sachs, which predicted that the Brazilians would compete with England, Argentina and Spain in the semifinals, though only the Spaniards have made it to that stage.

In its World Cup projections developed in May, Goldman Sachs pointed out that it's all in fun, and begged: "Whatever the outcome this time, to all participating politicians and their nations, please accept our ideas in the right spirit - especially if we don't select your country. As we showed in 2002, occasionally we do get it right!"