Monday, July 23, 2007

What were they thinking?

Is it just me or is this the lamest celebration ever?
If I had just won the World Cup, I don't think my first instinct would be to play ring-around-the-rosy with my teammates.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Evolving Ranking #2: Keeping it simple, stupid

Last time, in this quest to create the perfect system of ranking soccer teams, I ordered CONCACAF's member nations on the basis of the number of points accrued in a two year period, based on 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw and 0 for a loss. I'm keeping it simple for now.

In order not to reward teams, like some Caribbean nations, who play an inordinate number of games against minnows, I've divided the total points gained by the number of games played, which produces the following:

Rk Country Pts/Gm
1 Guyana 2.64
2 USA 2.32
3 Honduras 2.11
4 Haiti 1.82
5 Mexico 1.69
6 Costa Rica 1.65
7 Barbados 1.62
8 Canada 1.58
9 Cuba 1.50
10 Jamaica 1.50
11 St. Vincent/Grenadines 1.43
12 Suriname 1.40
13 Trinidad and Tobago 1.40
14 St. Kitts and Nevis 1.33
15 Antigua and Barbuda 1.27
16 Bermuda 1.25
17 Panama 1.09
18 Bahamas 1.00
19 Dominican Republic 1.00
20 Turks and Caicos Islands 1.00
21 Guatemala 0.92
22 El Salvador 0.79
23 Nicaragua 0.75
24 Grenada 0.50
25 Netherlands Antilles 0.33
26 Anguilla 0.00
27 Belize 0.00
28 Cayman Islands 0.00
29 Dominica 0.00
30 St. Lucia 0.00
31 US Virgin Islands 0.00
32 Aruba n/a
33 British Virgin Islands n/a
34 Montserrat n/a
35 Puerto Rico n/a

While Mexico's position comes closer to there actual strength relative to the rest of CONCACAF, Guyana (!) tops the rankings due to strong results in all matches except those that would have qualified them for the regional championship, the Gold Cup.

If any problems are solved by taking this step after the first one, just as many are created. So, back to the drawing board, I suppose.

See also:
Evolving Ranking #1: The Straight Dope

Friday, July 20, 2007

FIFA U-20: Travelogue

The FIFA U-20 World Cup will wrap up this Sunday, with the 3rd place and final matches to be played in Toronto. Last night's ugly incident involving, among others, the German referee, Argentinian and Chilean players, and the police, has marred the tournament somewhat, but it has been a success, setting an attendance record.

Hosting a nationwide event in Canada is different from most other countries of the world. In the last edition of this tournament, which took place across 6 cities in Holland, the largest distance between two cities (according to Google Maps) was the 308 km between Emmen and Kerkrade. By contrast, only Ottawa-Montreal and Burnaby-Vancouver were shorter commutes in the Canadian tournament, while the haul between Victoria and Montreal was near 5000 km.

Some countries had an arduous travel schedule. Austria, for instance had an itinerary of Edmonton - Toronto - Edmonton - Toronto - Edmonton - Toronto, a whopping 17330 km, with 5 cross-continent flights around 7 games.

Disregarding, for the time being, travel from the home country to Canada for the tournament, here is a table of travels for the participating nations.

Country Gms Itinerary Km
Austria 7 Edmonton -> Toronto -> Edmonton -> Toronto -> Edmonton -> Toronto 17330
Chile 7 Toronto -> Edmonton -> Toronto -> Edmonton -> Montreal -> Toronto 14939
Czech Republic 7 Ottawa -> Montreal -> Victoria -> Edmonton -> Toronto 9683
Mexico 5 Toronto -> Edmonton -> Montreal -> Ottawa 7631
Brazil 4 Montreal -> Ottawa -> Burnaby 5002
Nigeria 5 Victoria -> Ottawa -> Montreal 4965
Zambia 4 Burnaby -> Victoria -> Ottawa 4885
Gambia 4 Toronto -> Montreal -> Edmonton 4541
Portugal 4 Toronto -> Montreal -> Edmonton 4541
Uruguay 4 Burnaby -> Victoria -> Toronto 4447
Congo 4 Edmonton -> Montreal 3996
Canada 3 Toronto -> Edmonton 3466
New Zealand 3 Toronto -> Edmonton 3466
Argentina 7 Ottawa -> Toronto -> Ottawa -> Toronto 1356
Spain 5 Burnaby -> Edmonton 1147
USA 5 Montreal -> Ottawa -> Toronto 651
Poland 4 Montreal -> Toronto 545
Panama 3 Ottawa -> Montreal 199
Costa Rica 3 Victoria -> Burnaby 118
Scotland 3 Victoria -> Burnaby 118
Japan 4 Victoria 0
Jordan 3 Burnaby 0
Korea DPR 3 Ottawa 0
Korea Republic 3 Montreal 0

It should come as no surprise that Austria, Chile and Czech Republic who, along with Argentina, all played 7 matches, should make up the top 3. However, Argentina managed to record any significant travel, putting on under 1400 km. Spain played 5 matches, but only had to travel once, and USA made the final 8 only traveling 651 km.

Looking back to 2005, the theoretical maximum travel itinerary would have been only 1848 km (the actual number is probably much lower), which would have placed only halfway up this list.

In the end, it seems rather uneven, but Austria and Chile, who had the most difficult travel itineraries, still managed to make the final 4 so it might not have been so significant a factor. I suppose these are just numbers, a testament to the vast country that hosted the tournament.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Evolving Ranking #1: The Straight Dope

My obsession at one point with this blog was discussing the FIFA rankings for men's world cup teams and their many shortcomings. The latest edition of the rankings were released today. Here are how the CONCACAF teams stack up:
101Mexico Mexico114216Up276
142USA USA10362Up58
503Costa Rica Costa Rica567-4Down-74
524Canada Canada5624Up23
575Panama Panama518-5Down-77
636Honduras Honduras485-8Down-67
657Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago4618Up28
758Guatemala Guatemala4256Up32
909Cuba Cuba360-12Down-56
9210Haiti Haiti3473Up9
9311Jamaica Jamaica343-25Down-112
10012Guyana Guyana328-2Down0
10313St. Vincent and the Grenadines St. Vincent and the Grenadines3163Up12
11814Barbados Barbados245-2Down1
12515Suriname Suriname224-5Down-7
13016Bermuda Bermuda194-3Down-1
13117Antigua and Barbuda Antigua and Barbuda192-2Down0
13418El Salvador El Salvador176-4Down-14
14019Dominican Republic Dominican Republic1490Equal0
14220St. Kitts and Nevis St. Kitts and Nevis146-4Down-6
14821Bahamas Bahamas1110Equal0
15322Nicaragua Nicaragua96-2Down-7
15623Grenada Grenada91-1Down-4
15724St. Lucia St. Lucia873Up9
16625Turks and Caicos Islands Turks and Caicos Islands640Equal0
17426Netherlands Antilles Netherlands Antilles41-1Down-2
17927British Virgin Islands British Virgin Islands33-2Down0
18428Dominica Dominica21-5Down-7
18529Cayman Islands Cayman Islands20-1Down0
19430Puerto Rico Puerto Rico10-1Down0
19631Anguilla Anguilla40Equal0
19932Belize Belize00Equal0
19933US Virgin Islands US Virgin Islands00Equal0
19934Montserrat Montserrat00Equal0
19935Aruba Aruba00Equal0

This ordering of teams should form a good reference point as I attempt to find out what makes a ranking tick.

Here's how it will work:
Using a step-by-step process, I'll be using data from matches between CONCACAF sides only, from the period between 1 July 2005 and 1 July 2007. Focussing on a two-year window (FIFA uses a 4-year window) is mostly to cut back on the amount of data I have to deal with. Each successive post will impose, hopefully, a greater degree of accuracy to an ordering of CONCACAF teams.

Step 1: The Straight Dope
The easiest way to rank teams is the way leagues all around the world do it, by assigning points to each result: 3 for a win, 1 for a draw and 0 for a loss. Using this incredibly simple method, we come up with the following:
Rk Country Points
1 USA 51
2 Haiti 40
3 Honduras 38
4 Guyana 37
5 Costa Rica 28
6 Trinidad and Tobago 28
7 Panama 25
8 Cuba 24
9 Guatemala 22
10 Mexico 22
11 Barbados 21
12 St. Vincent/Grenadines 20
13 Canada 19
14 Jamaica 18
15 Antigua and Barbuda 14
16 El Salvador 11
17 Bermuda 10
18 Suriname 7
19 Bahamas 6
20 Dominican Republic 6
21 St. Kitts and Nevis 4
22 Grenada 3
23 Nicaragua 3
24 Turks and Caicos Islands 3
25 Netherlands Antilles 1
26 Anguilla 0
27 Aruba 0
28 Belize 0
29 British Virgin Islands 0
30 Cayman Islands 0
31 Dominica 0
32 Montserrat 0
33 Puerto Rico 0
34 St. Lucia 0
35 US Virgin Islands 0

Despite the simplicity of this method, the discrepancies in the ordinal rank of teams from their positions on the FIFA table aren't great: the largest are Mexico and Canada, which both rank 9 slots lower by this method, and Haiti and Guyana, which are 8 spots higher than in the FIFA rankings.

Obvious drawbacks of this system:
  • A simple points system rewards teams playing a greater quantity of matches. Possible solution: Divide by number of matches to obtain a points-per-game (PPG) statistic.
  • Does not account for quality of wins, that is, wins over a stronger opponent.
  • Does not account for strength of wins, that is, a 1-0 win receives the same score as a 7-0 blowout.
Stay tuned to see which direction I go next with this Evolving Ranking (EvoRank).

Feel free to leave a comment to tell me what steps you think should be taken.