With the eyes of the world on Brazil for the start of the World Cup tonight, we thought we’d take a look at how the 32 competing teams compare off the pitch. Who wins the cup on different economic, parliamentary and social indicators – and who’s knocked out at the group stage?


The 32 countries in the World Cup represent over half of the world’s economy (55%), helped massively by the qualification of the US which accounts for almost 20% of the world’s total output. The smallest economy is that of Bosnia and Herzegovina (at its first World Cup as an independent nation), which accounts for just 0.04% of the global total.

The US also has the highest GDP per capita (a measure of living standards), followed by Switzerland and then Australia. The four nations with the lowest GDP per capita are all African countries, with the Ivory Coast last, followed by Cameroon, Nigeria and Ghana.


European footballing heavyweights dominate the top of the charts for the number of MPs in the country’s lower chamber. If the UK were competing it would come top with 650, but England and its 533 MPs only makes it to the semi-finals behind Germany (631), Italy (630) and then France (577).

Bosnia and Herzegovina has the fewest MPs with 42, followed by Costa Rica (57) and then Uruguay (99). This is not surprising given that these are three of the four countries with the smallest populations that made it to the tournament.

On a per capita basis, Croatia has the largest number of MPs, with 35.4 per million of population. The US has the fewest at just 1.4.

Ecuador has the highest proportion of women MPs in its lower chamber at 42%, followed by reigning world champions Spain at 40%. Colombia fails to make it out of the group stage being the only nation with no women at all in its lower house of 165 MPs.


The Netherlands has the highest proportion of its population using the internet at 93%, with the UK (used here to represent England) second at 87%. In 12 out of the 32 countries less than half the population uses the internet.

Top of the pile when it comes to mobile phone subscriptions is Russia, with an amazing 182 per 100 people. Italy is next at 160 followed by a South America trio of Argentina (152), Uruguay (147) and Chile (138). Cameroon comes bottom with 60.

Japan is unlikely to win the World Cup, but as a consolation, it has the highest life expectancy of all countries at 83.1 years.

Daniel Harari

Sources: IMF, World Economic Outlook April 2014 database; World Bank, World Development Indicators; Inter-Parliamentary Union, Parliaments at a glance