Saturday, November 20, 2010

FIFA rankings: November

The November edition of the FIFA rankings did not bring good tidings to the Canadian men. While their overall spot remained relatively stable (a small drop from 83 to 85 during a month of inactivity), the more worrisome story is their placing within CONCACAF.

RankingZonal RankingTeamPts
Nov 10
+/- Ranking
Oct 10
+/- Pts
Oct 10
241USA USA8471Up9
282Mexico Mexico7900Equal4
573Honduras Honduras522-3Down-18
634Costa Rica Costa Rica4903Up0
645Panama Panama480-5Down-35
786Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago42228Up120
827Jamaica Jamaica413-3Down1
858Canada Canada403-2Down-4
869Guyana Guyana39212Up62
9110Grenada Grenada37534Up180
9411Cuba Cuba35327Up135
10112Haiti Haiti33527Up148

That's the CONCACAF top 12, and you'll see that Canada has slipped into a precarious 8th after sitting comfortably in 7th the previous month. You'll also see some green arrows beside big numbers for the likes of T&T, Guyana, Grenada, Cuba, and Haiti. Maintaining a top 8 placing is important because it will likely mean a fairer semi-final round grouping if the as yet unconfirmed changes to the World Cup qualifying format occur.

In other words, those 5 countries made big jumps in the rankings over the last month. The reason? A little something called the Caribbean Cup, which serves as a qualifying tournament for the 2011 Gold Cup.

For the last decade, Canada has been exempted from having to qualify for the Gold Cup. The official reason given is that all previous winners of the Gold Cup (a list that includes the U.S., Mexico, and Canada) get a bye, fairly typically ludicrous CONCACAF logic. The real reason probably has more to do with saving money for the Caribbean minnows. This might seem like a benefit to the squad, and in some ways it probably is. However, what Canada misses out on is the opportunity to beat up on a number of small Caribbean nations.

Again, not having to travel to the Caribbean during non-international dates and play a number of very winnable and likely uncompetitive games seems like a boon to Canada. It would be, if not for the fact that the FIFA rankings are an ill-conceived and hare-brained statistical farce.

Have a look at how Grenada, the biggest mover up the rankings of the CONCACAF sides, gained their points over the last month:

Grenada3:1 (1:0)Puerto Rico
22/10/2010St. George's Continental Qualifier
Grenada2:0 (2:0)St. Kitts and Nevis
24/10/2010St. George's Continental Qualifier

They played just two matches during the latest rankings window. Granted, both were comfortable wins, but over teams ranked 122 and 130 in the world respectively.

Some will quite rightly criticize the CSA for failing to schedule a friendly in the latest midweek international window. However, even a great result against a good side would not have yielded the bump this Caribbean minnows got. Because these matches are deemed "Contintental Qualifiers", the points available are several times what Canada gained for the recent results against Honduras and Ukraine.

I have belaboured the point, and ultimately Canada will need to beat the 5th to 8th ranked teams in CONCACAF. Whether it takes place in the semifinal or final round of qualifying is in the end unimportant. But I also bristle at the weight given to these rankings given their almost total lack of statistical honesty.

I can thing of no other system which so greatly rewards the easy plucking of low-hanging fruit.

By way of comparison, those 5 sides endangering Canada are ranked as follows by the much fairer ELO ratings (Canada 59th)

T&T: 74th
Guyana: 130th
Grenada: 142nd
Cuba: 97th
Haiti: 105th

* * * * *

So you got that? FIFA rankings are bogus. This kind of tramples on my next point, which was to congratulate Canada's women for returning to the top 10 of the women's rankings.

This jump into 9th-placed was also largely on the strength of beating up on minor nations in women's football (Costa Rica, Guyana, Trinidad) in qualfiying matches, but also included a pair of important wins against rapidly improving Mexico. The placement is also a deserving reward for a team qualified into next summer's World Cup, something that can't be said for #1 U.S., who are defending a smaller gap to second-placed Germany.


Edgar said...

It doesn't trample.

The women's ranking system is very similar to the ELO system, thus completely different from the men's system.

Edgar said...

Oh, and one more thing.

This is the list you should be looking at:

2014 FIFA World Cup seeding for CONCACAF teams (19 November 2010)

J said...

Good work, Edgar, and thanks for the link. Canada looks to be in an improved position relative to what we saw in the November FIFA rankings. Forgive someone who doesn't always pay attention, but do the Caribbean teams that are closing in, like Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba, T&T, etc., have further opportunities to vacuum up easy points between now and May, apart from friendlies?

I also wasn't aware how the men's and women's teams are ranked differently. I'll be sure to keep checking your site in future and will add it to my links.

Edgar said...

You're welcome, J.

There's the final tournament of the Caribbean Championship - starting today.

Haiti were eliminated.

You should also pay attention to UNCAF teams. Copa Centroamericana takes place in January 2011 - and is considered a qualifying competition for the 2011 Gold Cup, thus bringing more FIFA points.