By Elzio Barreto
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Rivals Brazil and Argentina are set to meet in the World Cup final in July, with the host country winning the title for a record sixth time, U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs have predicted in a report.
Goldman sees a 48.5 percent probability that Brazil will win the July 13 final, with Argentina and Germany the next most likely teams to succeed with a 14.1 percent and 11.4 percent chance respectively.
The predictions were based on a statistical model that analyzed about 14,000 competitive international matches since 1960.
"Of course, it is hardly surprising that the most successful team in soccer history is favored to win a World Cup at home," the Goldman report, written by Chief Economist Jan Hatzius, Sven Jari Stehn and Donnie Millar, said.
"But the extent of the Brazilian advantage in our model is nevertheless striking."
South American teams have won all four previous World Cup tournaments held on the continent.
Goldman's predicted a 3-1 victory for Brazil would add to the decades of rivalry with neighboring Argentina, who have won the World Cup twice previously.
Brazil are predicted to reach the final after overcoming the Netherlands, Uruguay and Germany in each of the knockout phases, while Argentina is forecast to beat Ecuador, Portugal and Spain.
Goldman's model though is not foolproof.
Using data ahead of the 2010 World Cup, it had predicted Brazil, with a 26.6 percent chance, would win in South Africa. They crashed out in the quarter-finals.
Eventual winners Spain, however, were second favorites with a 15.7 percent probability of winning.
Andres Iniesta's extra-time goal gave Vicente del Bosque's side a 1-0 victory over the Netherlands in the final and their first World Cup title.
(Reporting by Elzio Barreto; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)