As the World Cup kicks off in Moscow on Thursday, we decided to take a look at the 32 countries competing in Russia to see how they perform off the field. When it comes to statistics, who’s leading their group, and who’s crashing out on penalties?


Brazil might be a powerhouse on the pitch, but it ranks 24th out of the countries represented in Russia when it comes to GDP per person (a rough measure of living standards), at around £11,000. Leading the charge down the field is Switzerland with £46,000 per person, while Senegal is caught offside at £1,900.

Seven of the competing countries’ governments raise more money than they spend, with South Korea heading the table at +2% of GDP. The rest all have a negative goal difference, economically speaking: Egypt has the largest budget deficit, at 11% of GDP.

Of course, money in the economy is no good if you can’t get to it, and it’s here that Denmark shines: almost 100% of its population aged 15 or above has a bank account, far ahead of bottom-of-the-table Morocco with 29%. If you want to get some cash out (to celebrate your win or drown your sorrows), South Korea is the place to go, with its 276 ATMs per 100,000 people; you’ll have rather less luck in Senegal, with five.

If you want to make your money go further you’ll need to go where the prices are low. If that’s your aim, you probably want to avoid Switzerland, where average prices are over twice as expensive as the global average. Egypt may be more to your liking, with prices at only around a third of the global average.


Almost all the competitors are involved in international aid in some way: 14 of the competing countries gave a total of £4.8 billion per year of aid to 15 of the others in 2016, as seen in the below grid (with the UK standing in for England, due to a lack of England-specific statistics).

Of the 32 competing countries, only Croatia, Russia and Saudi Arabia neither give nor receive any international aid, at least by its formal international definition; it is very likely that these countries do give out money to other countries on their own terms.

People and parliaments

The largest population represented at the World Cup is that of Brazil, with a staggering 208 million people. At the other end of the scale, you could comfortably seat every one of World Cup debutants Iceland’s 335,000 people in the 12 tournament stadiums dotted across Russia.

 That many Icelanders all together would probably make their ‘Viking clap’ chant even more terrifying, though.

Four-time World Cup winners Germany are also the winners of the ‘largest Parliament’ award, with 709 MPs in their lower chamber, far ahead of Costa Rica’s 57. In terms of MPs per person, Nigeria comes out at the bottom with 1.9 MPs per million people, while the top three are all small European countries (Iceland, Croatia and Serbia). Just as in football, England languishes in mid-table obscurity with 9.1, only counting MPs for constituencies in England.


Costa Rica scores a hat-trick of statistics among the 32 competitors: not only does it have the highest proportion of women MPs (46%), it also has the most mobile phone subscriptions per 100 people (172) and the highest number of registered footballers as a proportion of the population (an amazing 27%). If that sounds like far too many footballers in one place, Saudi Arabia may appeal – it has the lowest proportion of footballers, at 2%.

Saudi Arabia also has the lowest alcohol consumption per person of any of the competitors. If all these statistics are making you thirsty, you’ll want hosts Russia instead, who get through the equivalent of nearly 15 litres of pure alcohol per person per year.

Russia will see a lot of visitors over the course of the tournament, but it should be used to that – it receives the sixth highest amount of tourist arrivals per year of all the competing countries. France has the highest number (at 83 million per year), and Serbia the lowest (one million).

The safest roads out of the competing countries can be found in Sweden, with 2.9 road traffic deaths per 100,000 people. The most dangerous are in Iran and Senegal, tied at 28.0, closely followed by Saudi Arabia with 27.5.

During the 32 days of the World Cup…

  • Nigeria will have the most babies born, at more than 600,000.
  • Iceland will have the fewest, at about 350.
  • On average, you could get through the whole process of starting a business in 30 of the competing countries. (You’d manage it fastest in Australia, at 2.5 days.)
  • However, you’d only manage to register a property in 20 countries, and you’d get electricity to a new property in only three of them.
  • The only countries where you could do all three before the World Cup ended are Iceland and South Korea; the only country where you wouldn’t get any of them done in that time is Poland.


Philip Brien is a House of Commons Library researcher specialising in public spending, EU funding and overseas aid and Daniel Harari specialises in UK and international economies.