Thursday, August 23, 2007

Rankings spotlight: AFC

At the beginning of the month, I wrote saluting Iraq's victory at the Asian Cup, and promised to write again to comment on the consequences of the result for the FIFA rankings. Since those were released yesterday, I can complete my analysis.

At the time, I ordered the teams crudely based on wins, losses and draws in the tournament, and speculated that only the bottom quarter of that table would see a drop in their rankings over the two-month window during which the tournament was played. I've checked up on things and I was wrong, but still close.

This table contains the data:
Country June August


Rk Pts Rk Pts Rk Gain Pts Gain
Iraq 84 388 64 474 20 86
Saudi Arabia 62 484 51 580 11 96
Iran 47 623 44 692 3 69
Japan 40 703 41 724 -1 21
Korea Republic 51 597 50 613 1 16
Uzbekistan 58 534 58 508 0 -26
Australia 48 618 49 627 -1 9
Thailand 122 225 109 283 13 58
China 76 422 85 378 -9 -44
Vietnam 142 145 124 222 18 77
Bahrain 100 323 92 362 8 39
Indonesia 143 143 129 198 14 55
UAE 94 341 96 347 -2 6
Oman 74 432 76 418 -2 -14
Qatar 85 386 83 389 2 3
Malaysia 149 106 156 91 -7 -15




Total 68 436

In total, 6 countries out of 16 (Japan, Australia, China, UAE, Oman and Malaysia) saw a drop in their position on the FIFA tables, with China's at 9 spots being the largest. The most upwardly mobile were champions Iraq (20 spots), Vietnam (18), Indonesia (14) and Thailand (13).

There was an overall gain in FIFA "points" by the contending nations, an obvious consequence of a points system that doesn't award negative points, but only de-values and discards points as older results lose weight in the calculation. But that overall point gain also means that, according to the rankings, the Asian Football Conference, or at least the sixteen countries which competed in the Asian Cup, are an average of 4.25 places "stronger" than before the tournament.

To make the point clearer, imagine two countries playing weekly matches throughout the calendar. Because points are only awarded for wins (and no penalty assessed for losses), if Country A and Country B were to split the matches evenly, they would both rocket up the rankings past nations they have never played.

Unfortunately, I don't have the statistical know-how to do much more than complain, so I'll simply continue to regard the FIFA rankings as something less than the gospel truth.

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