Sunday, January 22, 2006

Canada - U.S.

Very much in keeping with Canada's love for soccer, there is no television coverage of tonight's friendly against our neighbours to the south. There are, however, a few options for following the match.

Cash 1700 AM San Diego
live audio webcast

US Soccer's live matchtracker

The match starts at 5pm PT (8 ET, 7 CT). FIFA has the countries ranked 7th (U.S.) and 84th (Canada).

Much-later-date-upping: Canada drew 0-0 with Uncle Sam, a good result for them, but the type that doesn't really lead to a great deal of movement in FIFA's rankings. We'll see though. The US thrashed Norway a few days later, so they probably won't suffer at all.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Fifa rankings: Spotlight Bangladesh

FIFA today released its January rankings of men's national team sides. It hasn't been a particularly busy period, so not much change from the previous edition of the rankings. The new top 10 is:
1 Brazil 0 839 -1
2 Czech Republic 0 796 0
3 Netherlands 0 790 -1
4 Argentina 0 772 0
5 Spain 0 768 0
5 France 0 768 0
7 Mexico -2 767 -1
7 USA 1 767 0
9 England 0 757 0
10 Portugal 0 753 -1

The only movement in this group is Mexico dropping from a 5th place tie with Spain and France into a 7th place tie with the U.S.

The biggest movers upwards were India (9 spots) and Bangladesh (19). It reveals something of how the FIFA rankings work to see how the points were earned. In the ranking period (13 December 2005 to 12 January 2006), Bangladesh played four matches, as part of the SAFF Cup (a friendly tournament in Pakistan), and the Asian Nations Cup.

The results: A 1-0 friendly win over Pakistan, a 2-0 loss to India (SAFF Cup), a 0-0 draw against Pakistan in Dhaka, and a 1-0 win over Pakistan in Karachi (Asian Cup). In other words, Bangladesh jumped nearly 20 spots for 2 wins and a draw against a Pakistan team which in the December rankings was only 2 spots higher, and a 2-0 neutral site loss to an India squad which is harldy a world-beater.

Lesson: it pays to play 4 matches in a month, especially if you win a few.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Sacre bleu!

I knew that one day, knowing a few extra languages might come in handy. It helped me find mondfoot, a French-language ranking of 205 international men's soccer teams. Once again, I am slightly reluctant to include it in my combined ranking, although I don't have the built-in excuse I had with AQB.

My main reason is the existence of several bizarre statistical outliers (in comparison to the examined four, and to the AQB find as well). Some strange rankings (aggregate rank in parentheses):
  • Egypt at 5 (39)
  • Morocco at 15 (45)
  • Bangladesh at 54 (172)
  • Serbia & Montenegro at 75 (26)
  • St. Kitts & Nevis at 79 (144)
  • Austria at 128 (54)
There are many more examples. Canada at 110th seems rather low (66 on average), as does Scotland at 132 (46). The obvious reason is that the ranking formula (warning: French) doesn't really seem to take into account either strength of opponent or margin of victory in its calculations.

Lucky find

I discovered today another ranking of international sides: AQB Sports Ratings - International Soccer Ratings. I don't think I'll be using it in my combined table, mainly because AQB only lists the top 100 teams. Obviously, a more extensive ranking exists in a spreadsheet or database somewhere, because teams move in and out of the top 100 all the time, and matches against the 101 and worse set count towards the rank scores.

AQB gives the following top 10:
  1. Brazil
  2. Czech Republic
  3. Italy
  4. France
  5. England
  6. Argentina
  7. Spain
  8. Netherlands
  9. Denmark
  10. Germany
Mexico is 19th (pretty spot on), USA 21st (a bit low). Serbia & Montenegro, a test case I like to look at to gauge a ranking system's volatility (that is, a lot of weight is given to recent performance), is 34th, higher than FIFA (47), but lower than the other three full rankings I like to look at.

In any case, it is worth keeping an eye on this one. The mind(s) behind this soccer ranking also publish rankings for cricket, rugby, and the NFL. I find the latter a bit strange for a site based in New Zealand.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Group of death

Every time the World Cup rolls around, it seems there is one group where 3 or sometimes even 4 very strong teams have been drawn together. For WC2006 in Germany, I don't see there being any particular group of death, but no doubt some are stronger than others. Back when the groups came out, I made a post on another blog regarding the draw for the group stages, and remarked upon the apparent strength of Group E, based on the FIFA rankings. I put a little more work into it and came up with the following table, based on FIFA's rankings, and the where teams rank in an average of 4 rankings systems.

FIFA Aggregated

Group A
Germany 16 11
Costa Rica 21 28
Poland 22 20
Ecuador 37 32
Total weight 96 91

Group B
England 9 5
Paraguay 30 23
Trinidad & Tobago 50 56
Sweden 14 10
Total weight 103 94

Group C
Argentina 4 6
Cote d'Ivoire 42 42
Serbia & Montenegro 47 26
Netherlands 3 2
Total weight 96 76

Group D
Mexico 5 14
Iran 19 24
Angola 61 63
Portugal 10 8
Total weight 95 109

Group E
Italy 12 9
Ghana 50 57
USA 8 16
Czech Republic 2 3
Total weight 72 85

Group F
Brazil 1 1
Croatia 20 15
Australia 48 37
Japan 15 17
Total weight 84 70

Group G
France 5 4
Switzerland 35 27
South Korea 29 44
Togo 56 58
Total weight 125 133

Group H
Spain 5 7
Ukraine 40 29
Tunisia 28 35
Saudi Arabia 33 48
Total weight 106 119

Using the FIFA rankings, the groups ranked from strongest to easiest are: E (72), F (85), D (95), A and C (tied with 96), B (103), H (106) and G (125). The combo-rank gives a different order: F (70), C (76), E (84), A (91), B (94), D (109), H (119) and G (133). All of a sudden, my boys (that is, the Dutch, in Group C) don't seem to have such a cushy group. Perhaps because FIFA, whose rankings factor in a team's performance over 8 years, undervalue up-and-coming teams like Serbia and Montenegro (47th) in comparison with the other three ranking systems examined (24th, 19th, 18th). Group D ranks much weaker by the 2nd method because the historical performances of a team like Mexico are given far more weight by FIFA (5th) than the rest (16th, 20th, 16th).

Still, I stand by my quick picks to advance: Germany and Poland (Group A), England and Paraguay (B), Argentina and the Netherlands (C), Mexico and Portugal (D), Italy and the Czech Republic (E), Brazil and Japan (F), France and Switzerland (G) and Spain and Tunisia (H).

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Fun with tables

Here's a little table I put together. The FIFA rankings don't always tell the whole story about the relative strength of the world's soccer teams, so I put together an aggregate ranking including the Elo Ratings (January 3rd snapshot), Elephant Rankings (19 November 2005), and Mark Ziaian's own personal ranking system (31 December 2005). If you know of any other rankings being published, please leave a comment.

Look for more of these and some comparative analysis of the ranking systems to come. Here is the top 20, check here for the full list.


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