Monday, September 18, 2006

New rankings, same as the old rankings

It's been a long while since I posted on this blog, and there have already been three editions of FIFA's rankings for men's national sides, so it is probably time I share my two cents. Not only that, but it will help bump some of my ill-considered and incomplete World Cup projections off the top of this page.

I was optimistic when, earlier this year, press releases and articles began to appear indicating that FIFA recognized the flaws in its ranking procedures and had developed a new system. Before the first set of rankings were published following the World Cup finals in Germany, I posted indicating some of my reservations about the whole project.

Now it is time for me to take a swing at some of the more obvious faults from the first three editions of the rankings:
  1. They are extremely volatile. The inaugural July edition had Canada in 54th, probably a fair reflection of the country's performance and certainly a ranking which falls more in line with some of the other rating systems I refer to from time to time. Then in August, a 28 spot drop, having something to do with old results dropping out of the equation. And now, an 11-point jump on the strength(?) of a 1-0 friendly win over Jamaica in September. This was the only match for Canada since March (source).
  2. Expected victories -- that is, victories over relative minnows -- are given too much credit. One of the biggest movers and shakers in the September edition of the rankings is Cuba, who jumped 31 places from 100 to 69. The results that precipitated this jump were 6-0, 6-0 and 7-0 victories over the Turks and Caicois Islands, Bahamas, and Cayman Islands, ranked 170th, 138th and 177th respectively. Obviously the large margin of victory will have factored into the mix, but such scorelines are to be expected when such weak teams are involved.
That's all I have for now. Needless to say, in reforming their old ranking system, FIFA has not entirely solved the old problems and may have introduced some new ones.

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