Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Rankings redux: group of death

Yesterday's attempt at an aggregate zonal ranking has led to further pontification about the rankings and the upcoming qualifying cycle. The preliminary draw took place in November, with the process spelled out in a single page including all regions (.PDF)

In CONCACAF, barring any upsets in the knockout rounds, the qualifying groups look like so. Note the average ranking, with a lower number being an indicator of higher overall strength:
Country Rk
Group 1
USA 2
Guatemala 9
Trinidad and Tobago 11
Cuba 10
Average 8


Group 2
Mexico 1
Jamaica 8
Honduras 3
Canada 4
Average 4


Group 3
Costa Rica 4
Guyana 13
Panama 6
Haiti 7
Average 7.5

Using the average alone as an indicator, it is clear that Canada's Group 2 is the most challenging. Two other indicators underline this point: the strongest team is in the group (Mexico) and the group also lowest-ranked of the group (Jamaica) is ranked higher than the lowest in Group 3 (Guyana), and in fact is ranked above all of the teams in Group 1 except the USA.

In a post last year
, we questioned the assignment of teams to different 'pots'. CONCACAF, rather curiously, chose to use the May 2007 rankings to assign teams into pots, when more recent rankings from October and November were available. The cynic might guess that this was designed to help Jack Warner's T&T, who in May 2007 were still a Pot B team, but had dropped to 10th in the region by the fall.

So Canada's group is the group of death. Don't let anyone tell you any different. 3 of the top 4 teams in the region are in the group, and Jamaica is no slouch either.

(And don't think the 'aggregate ranking' approach is just a smoke screen to provide excuses for Canada. We could use the FIFA numbers, and might do so at a later date, and these produce the same results: Group 2 is by far and away the toughest, going by the numbers.)

Good stuff in the comments, good enough that we'll add it here.

From Sam:
Yeah. Note: The twelve teams there are ranked 1-13, with number 12 (St Vincent & Grenadines) excluded. And who has to play them?
A dose of reality (and optimism?) from JoeSoccerFan:
I agree that this is the worst of luck, and that the rankings used were suspect.

However, at the end of the day we need to beat Honduras to make it through...which we likely would have had to do in the hex round anyway!

On the positive side, once we make it through to the hex, the competition should be a little easier with Honduras and Jamaica gone.

3 comments:

Sam said...

Yeah. Note: The twelve teams there are ranked 1-13, with number 12 (St Vincent & Grenadines) excluded. And who has to play them? Jesus.

Joe Soccer Fan said...

I agree that this is the worst of luck, and that the rankings used were suspect.

However, at the end of the day we need to beat Honduras to make it through...which we likely would have had to do in the hex round anyway!

On the positive side, once we make it through to the hex, the competition should be a little easier with Honduras and Jamaica gone.

J said...

These are both good points.

If we beat out Honduras in group 2, and the other groups go to form, then we would only need to finish ahead of Costa Rica and Panama and whatever garbage team from group 1 makes it through (I'd guess Guatemala). Or only 2 of these teams to get into the playoff with the South American 4th place.