Sunday, December 06, 2009

World cup draw: Better late than never?

Now that the dust has settled on the World Cup draw (yes, it's only been two days), most of the cogent points about the resulting groups have already been made. I'm not so egotistical to claim that I have anything unique or insightful to add (instead, I just vote for myself in the Canadian blog awards -- sports category -- every day).

Not bad for an MRF.

But the loyal readership probably is wondering by now how I feel about the Netherlands' Group E and a few other happenings.

The inevitable discussion after the drawing of groups for any big tournament is about which group is the Group of Death. If Group of Death is understood to mean a group with four highly competitive and high quality teams, there is none this time. Full stop.

Here are the groups:

A France 7 1122

Uruguay 15 901

Mexico 19 931

South Africa 86 377

Averages 31.75 832.75

B Argentina 8 1085

Greece 12 1028

Nigeria 22 848

Korea Republic 52 625

Averages 23.5 896.5

C England 9 1063

USA 14 980

Algeria 28 823

Slovenia 33 756

Averages 21 905.5

D Germany 6 1170

Serbia 20 900

Australia 21 863

Ghana 37 739

Averages 21 918

E Netherlands 3 1279

Cameroon 11 1035

Denmark 26 835

Japan 43 709

Averages 20.75 964.5

F Italy 4 1215

Paraguay 30 816

Slovakia 34 755

New Zealand 77 433

Averages 36.25 804.75

G Brazil 2 1592

Portugal 5 1181

Cote d'Ivoire 16 927

Korea DPR 84 399

Averages 26.75 1024.75

H Spain 1 1622

Chile 17 926

Switzerland 18 924

Honduras 38 738

Averages 18.5 1052.5

Group H, by either measure (rank or FIFA ranking points), is the group with the most quality overall. Yet most have pointed to Group G, with powerhouse Brazil, consistently strong Portugal, and always threatening Cote d'Ivoire as the toughest. Team Kim Jong Il is the punching bag.

If we accept the argument that a Group of Death can be the result of three strong teams, it's worth measuring which group has the best trifecta. The answer? Group G, of course. The script is flipped, and Group H ranks as the next toughest.

There is much better statistical analysis happening elsewhere:
  • The outlandishly named Voros McCracken does some mathematical thingamajiggery to determine the winners and losers of the draw. Biggest winner? England. Loser? Brazil. Somehow I still think Brazil goes further.
  • Climbing the Ladder examines the odds, based on a number of ranking alternatives to the FIFA list.
  • World Cup Draw Math Geekery from Mark McClusky (h/t @footiefool). He tackles the group of death question as well, making the very valid point that we should be looking at the rankings of the third place teams, as well as the delta (difference in rank) between the 2nd and 3rd ranked in each group.
The Dutch got an OK group. They don't have any pushovers (hello, New Zealand!), but there are no teams in that group who should strike fear into the heart of a top opponent. I don't fear Japan at all, and Cameroon is one of those African sides that is persistently overrated. Denmark might be a tough nut to crack, but it's unlikely they'll score enough to worry the Dutch. Plus we all know that this team doesn't crap the bed until the later rounds. It's premature, and I haven't fully explored all the permutations, but I hear we could see a Germany-Netherlands clash before the final if everything falls right.

(Ask me if you don't know why I care about the Oranje in these international tournaments).

As for the Rest of Canada's fallback option, England, what a pattycake group. Is there any way that both England and the USA can lose in their Matchday 3 confrontation? Please?

1 comment:

fifa football tickets said...

South Africa got tough group, they can face difficult time. And England got easy group