Saturday, February 18, 2006

To be fair...

As much as I like to be critical of FIFA's ranking methodology, and the results that it often yields, I should point out that steps are being taken to improve the situation a little. A FIFA meeting in late 2005 resulted in the following:
Furthermore, the executive body agreed that the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking should be revised. The new system will come into effect after the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ and will include data from the previous four instead of eight years for evaluation purposes.

Dropping the 5-8 year old results is a good first step. However, another article reveals more details (in French):
De points seront attribués pour tous les matchs internationaux des équipes A, suivant qu'il s'agit d'une victoire (30 pts), d'un nul (10) ou d'une défaite (0). On tiendra compte également de l'importance du match (amical, continental, mondial), de la valeur de l'adversaire (son classement Fifa), de son classement régional (ex : Uefa), du nombre de buts marqués ou encaissés, du fait de jouer à domicile ou à l'extérieur.

For those among you who aren't familiar with the Gallic tongue, this paragraph sketches the outline of a system where a team earns 30 points for a win, 10 for a loss and 0 for a draw. Adjustments are to be made based on type of match (friendly, contintental, World Cup), strength of opponent, goals scored and allowed, playing home or away, and the regional coefficient, all of which are more or less part of the picture under the current system.

So, while I like the 4-year window, I still see a few problems with the proposed new ranking. 1. 30-10-0. You see there are no negative numbers. All other factors being relatively equal, a team could play 15 matches in a month, and win 1, and earn nearly as many points as a team that plays a single match and wins. 2. The regional coefficient. If strength of opponent is taken into consideration when calculating the value of result, then the coefficient is entirely useless. If a European match has a higher coefficient (it does), it is because European teams are perceived to be tougher opponents. But the opponent's ranking should itself be an indication of how difficult the match will be.

We'll see how it all plays out. A more detailed explanation of the new system is scheduled during Germany '06, with the first edition of the new (and hopefully improved) rankings to come out in July.

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