Going South, South of the Border: Which FIFA Region Is The Hardest To Qualify From?

2011 - ?...but qualifying is...tougher?

2011 – ?…but qualifying is…tougher?

A TSG Original, Nick Sindt on World Cup qualifying…

Prior to the last set of FIFA dates where the US secured their passage to the Hex, Jürgen Klinsmann made the following comment:

Europeans and South Americans may think that this region looks pretty easy because they don’t play here and they never experienced it. European coaches tell me you should qualify no problem, and I tell them, ‘Why don’t you come over and I’ll take you to Guatemala and Costa Rica and Jamaica and you’ll see.’ It would be an eye-opener for a lot of people in Europe to see our qualifying campaign.

As the ardent USMNT follower over the last few qualifying cycles can attest the 1970’s-looking Astro-turf in Saprissa, straining in the smog/altitude/urine of Azteca, and various other venues where grass just barely outnumbers ankle-breaking potholes do not make life easy on our boys. But are these assertions founded in objective facts or subjective reality?

Some will argue that Klinsmann is merely setting up the excuses in case things had or will still go all pear-shaped; however, the argument about which region is harder to qualify out of, like a Presidential debate, is rarely grounded in cold, hard facts. Typically these articles or discussions focus on the regions as a whole for example:

  • There are 4.5/5.5 slots for 9/10 CONMEBOL nations (depending on who is hosting) but if you’re one of the lower teams you typically have to play 2 of the top 4.5 teams in the world and another 3 or 4 ranked in the top 20.
  • UEFA is also a tough region because out of the 53 nations you have most of the rest of the top 20, plus a fair number of mid-range teams all fighting for a mere 13 spots.

Or the focus is placed on qualifying format, toughest draw/group of death, or similarly ranked teams (to the US) and their plight.

The problem is that none of these actually quote numbers/statistics that mean anything nor do they ask the real question USMNT fans want answered: Is it easier for the US to qualify for the World Cup out of CONCACAF or Spain, France, England, etc. out of UEFA?

To discern the overall quality of each nation/region we’ll utilize FIFA’s ranking system…you may not care for them but they are, in theory, objective and every nation has one. So we’ll use ‘em, but the question is how? Note: These are based on the January 2013 rankings. Brazil has been included in CONMEBOL’s numbers even though they’re not currently qualifying; also, their ranking is abnormally low due to only playing friendlies recently.

The first instinct is typically to look at the mean ranking of each team in each group of the competition currently – under consideration are: CONCAF’s semi-final and Hexagonal rounds, OFC’s semi-final and final rounds, CAF’s semi-final round, AFC’s 3rd and 4th rounds, and UEFA’s & CONMEBOL’s single round. Here’s how the regions stack up.

Uruguay, yes Uruguay had to go the playoff route just to make the 2010 World Cup. They were a top four finisher. (Here Sebastian Sebastian Abreu films the crowd after defeating Costa Rica)

Uruguay, yes Uruguay had to go the playoff route just to make the 2010 World Cup. They were a top four finisher. (Here Sebastian Sebastian Abreu films the crowd after defeating Costa Rica)

Mean FIFA Ranking –  regions listed below comprised of multiple groups (e.g. UEFA has 9 groups) are the average of those groups’ averages

1)     CONMEBOL = 25.8

2)     CONCACAF Hexagonal = 45.333

3)     UEFA = 64.533

4)     CONCACAF Semis = 70.333

5)     AFC Final = 73.5

6)     CAF = 83.075

7)     AFC Semis = 98.1

8)     OFC Final = 122

9)     OFC Semis = 148.13

While illuminating, these numbers only tell us which region has the densest concentration of highly ranked teams and the mid-points of the groups. But not how comparatively difficult it is for teams to get through to the World Cup. We know UEFA has a lot of top teams but there are also a lot of “minnows” and its qualifying format means that each group typically has at least one 3-point ATM (read: ranked below #150). So what else can be used to discern the difficulty?

The Median is another oft-used statistical tool, though because it is simply a mid-point it is fairly fruitless in this discussion. The range of ranks between the top and bottom teams gives us extra food for thought when entering into these discussions, the smaller the range means more parity. And, as the NFL and MLS have taught us more parity means less certainty about who will come out on top.

Range of FIFA Rankings regions listed below comprised of multiple groups (e.g. UEFA has 9 groups) are the average of those groups’ average.

1)     CONCACAF Hexagonal = 51

2)     CONMEBOL = 52

3)     OFC Final = 59

4)     CAF = 75.2

5)     CONCACAF Semis = 78.666

6)     OFC Semis = 78.666

7)     AFC Final = 91.5

8)     AFC Semis = 95.4

9)     UEFA = 138.333

While these numbers do help to clarify things, outliers can still wildly throw off your analysis; e.g. a group where the teams are ranked 1, 4, 5, and 100 has the same range as a group where the teams are ranked 2, 98, 99, and 101. It’s obviously [much, much, much  x50] easier for the #2 ranked team to get out of its group than the #1 ranked team. Then, given my lack of mathematical and statistical knowledge it would appear that Standard Deviation (the average distance from the mean value of each item in a group) gives us the best data about the difficulty of a region.

Standard Deviationregions listed below comprised of multiple groups (e.g. UEFA has 9 groups) are the average of those groups’ averages

1)     CONMEBOL = 16.68

2)     CONCACAF Hexagonal = 18.24

3)     OFC Final = 23.95

4)     CONCACAF Semis = 29.14

5)     CAF = 29.95

6)     OFC Semis = 31.22

7)     AFC Final = 34.95

8)     AFC Semis = 36.30

9)     UEFA = 49.31

These guys got every reason for the staredown in CONCACAF....

These guys got every reason for the staredown in CONCACAF….

According to the Standard Deviations for each region it would appear that CONCACAF is a much harder region for the US and Mexico to qualify out of than UEFA is for England, France, and Spain. However, these are only numbers and they don’t/can’t take into account subjective factors such as hostility of away matches, pitch conditions, rivalries, etc.  They also only slightly take into account the qualifying format – the US and Mexico must traverse through two groups mentioned above with tougher standard deviations than UEFA’s single group system.

All this information does is quantify Klinsmann’s comments in the Vertelney piece; CONCACAF is not as easy for the US to qualify out of as some may think. In fact, toss a European power into CONCACAF and they likely will also find it more difficult than they originally thought – being a power, they’ll still find a way to qualify, but it won’t be a stroll in the park.

2014 Qualifying Format:

  • UEFA

1)     9 Groups comprising all of the nations in the region, playing league style.  Group winners advance to WC.

  • Top 8 2nd place finishers move onto two-legged play-offs for final 4 WC spots.
  • CONMEBOL

1)     1 Group comprising all of the nations in the region, playing league style.  Top 4 teams qualify for WC.

  • 5th place team qualifies for intercontinental play-off against Asian team.
  • CONCACAF

1)     Lowest 10 Ranked Nations play two-legged ties

2)     24 teams drawn into 6 groups of 4.  Winners advance.

3)     12 teams drawn into 3 groups of 4.  Top 2 advance.  Highest Ranked teams enter here

4)     1 Group of 6 teams.  Top 3 qualify for WC

  • 4th place plays off against OCEANA winner
  • AFC

1)     Lowest 16 Ranked Nations play two-legged ties.  Winners advance.

2)     15 two-legged ties.  Winners advance.

3)     20 teams drawn into 5 groups of 4.  Top 2 advance.

4)     2 groups of 5 teams.  Top 2 advance.

  • 3rd place teams play off for intercontinental play-off.
  • OCEANIA (OFC)

1)     Lowest 4 teams compete in league play.  Winner Advances

2)     8 teams drawn into 2 groups of 4.  Top two advance.

3)     1 group of 4, league-style play.  Winner advances to intercontinental play-off against CONCACAF.

  • CAF

1)     Lowest 24 teams play two-legged ties.  Winners Advance.

2)     10 groups of 4 teams.  Winners advance.

3)     5 two-legged ties.  Winners qualify for WC.

...

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34 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Andy on 2013/02/13 at 5:43 AM

    I like the analysis. In order to find the difficulty of qualifying, I believe you would need three things: the mean (arithmetic average), the standard deviation, and the number of spots available for qualification (for playoff spots one can simply use an expected value or 0.5).

    Consider a group of rankings (6,15,35,37,41,42) vs (25,27,28,50,55,56). Both have a standard deviation of 15 while the first has a mean 10 lower (29 vs 40). Depending on the number of spots available, the first group should be easier to predict than the second.

    So we have to create a metric that incorporates those three things in order to discover the difficulty of qualification. Thankfully, we have something that is close enough, which is the SPI chance of qualification (I believe Nate Silver of the 538 blog fame has created this for ESPN). (I understand the following has plenty of flaws, but it gets me close to the answer)

    Look up your favorite team in the SPI (the USMNT for example, which is 40th) and then find out their chance of qualification (a priori, or before the hex started). Then find a few teams in UEFA that have similar SPIs and average their chance of qualification (once again, the probably of qualification before the final group stage). Off the top of my head, that will get you close to the answer.

    Reply

    • wrote my comment before i saw yours, and I like your thinking here. Good shortcut to get a pretty good estimate. I’d just graph SPI vs qualification odds for each region.
      I do maintain that evaluating CONCACAF only at the Hexagonal level while the rest have much wider fields will skew analysis, though. Ideally, we should use SPI & qualification odds before any qualification matches were played.

      Reply

      • Posted by Andy on 2013/02/13 at 6:10 AM

        I certainly agree with your conclusion about the Hex / final UEFA groups would skew analysis. I was limiting myself to what the article discussed.

        Slightly off topic, but does one have to pay for an Insider sub. in order to get all the SPI data? I am sure there are terabytes available somewhere, but simple searching yields little results.

        Reply

        • I kinda doubt even Insider would get you historical data.
          I had a Twitter exchange with Zach Slaton, who has a great blog on Forbes called A Beautiful Numbers Game. He says he’ll talk to some ESPN analysts at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference about this.
          Hopefully Zach can get some 2011 SPI rankings and WC odds for his blog, or convince Paul Carr, Albert Larcada, or someone else at The Worldwide Leader to quantify and write about the difficulty of qualifying in each region.

          Reply

  2. I think this is a great way to kick off a conversation about quantifying qualification difficulty. The basic approach here illustrates very well that the Hex is tougher than most qualification circuits right now.
    However, this approach does somewhat gloss over the fact that most other regions haven’t whittled qualifying to their continents elite yet. I think the fairest way to evaluate this is to focus mainly on NTs that aren’t locks to make or miss the World Cup
    I think the ESPN Soccer Power Index’s qualification odds at the beginning of qualification would be very useful here. Weight countries so that those >90% or <10% barely count. the regions with the most 70-30%ers fighting over the least spots left available is probably the most difficult.
    That's a simplification, but a proper equation for weighting this would probably yield a pretty accurate score for each region.

    Reply

    • Posted by Nick on 2013/02/13 at 7:26 AM

      Actually most continents have gotten down to their elite, of the groups considered the only one that hasn’t been whittled down is Africa which won’t be for quite some time. Of the other regions, South American and Europe are single table systems (with UEFA having many groups), and everyone else has had their Semi-Final and Final rounds thrown into the hopper.

      Reply

      • CONCACAF are the only region that’s already eliminated 83% of their countries, right? Of course the Hex is going to be more diffcult than most systems at this stage. But if we’re really talking about overall qualification difficulty, we have to analyze the earlier data.
        Besides, FIFA, SPI, ELO, or whatever rating system used are all heavily weighted by qualifier results, making any mid-stream quantification subject to self-fulfilling-prophecy issues.
        I say get the SPI rating (not the ranking, no need to skip available nuance) from before any qualifiers happened, and weigh them against qualification odds at that time. I’m willing to bet that each region will be tellingly different from the others. We might even be able to see which region is hardest for the elites, good, and not so good national teams.

        Reply

        • CONCACAF may be the only federation that has eliminated that many of the competing countries, but percentage has no merit when you’re talking about format. OCEANIA and Asia are down to their final rounds, and Africa is at its semi-final round. CONMEBOL and UEFA have no such thing. Also, CONCACAF’s semi-final round is rated higher than most other federations in this sample.

          As for using current data and that being subject to self-fulfilling-prophecy issues, I’m not sure that would have as big of an impact as you’d think. Without combing through every single teams’ progression since 2011, Brazil (of the powers) is the biggest loser in FIFA’s rankings dropping 13 spots, but most teams stay within 8 (or so) positions over the course of the last two years, which doesn’t greatly skew the Standard Deviation.

          Reply

  3. Posted by Andy on 2013/02/13 at 5:59 AM

    Forgot my conclusion: Spots available (UEFA 1.5 per group, CONCACAF 3.5, etc.) probably overrides group strength. France, Portugal, and Sweden are good examples.

    Reply

    • Posted by Nick on 2013/02/13 at 8:16 AM

      Spots available:
      UEFA = 13 for 53 nations at the start of qualification
      CONCACAF = 3.5 for 35 nations at the start of qualification

      If you want to evaluate it from when the US entered qualification it would be 3.5 spots for 12 nations which means there’s a 29% chance of qualification versus UEFA’s roughly 25% chance of qualification.

      If you want to compare spots available and difficulties for specific teams involved there are a few groups in UEFA where a top 20 team in the world is going to be sent to the play-offs, or even home early. For example Portugal & Russia and Spain & France are in the same groups, respectively, which definitely makes those groups more difficult for the aforementioned teams. However, in each of those groups the next highest team in the FIFA rankings is in the 60’s or 70’s…so their automatic qualification basically comes down to the two games they play against each other, because let’s be honest the #7 team in the world should have no problems dusting off the #76, 98, 118, and 148 teams in the world regardless of how pouty-faced Crissy is being on those days.

      Reply

  4. Posted by Anatoly_M on 2013/02/13 at 7:22 AM

    Very interesting. But how about if we look from another side: compare the strength of teams that were left out. There is always a bunch of solid European teams that did not qualify but have a rating comparable or better than ours.

    Remember when Yugoslavia/Serbia was punished and kicked out of the European finals? Danes were called back from their beach vacations and won the whole thing? While it was unexpected it absolutely was not Earth shattering.

    Reply

  5. Posted by ZG on 2013/02/13 at 9:05 AM

    Very interesting. Deducing which confederation is statistically the “most difficult” to qualify from is a very different discussion from which is the most unforgiving… which might yield a similarly interesting commentary to the science of World Cup qualification.

    It’s also worth just stating that this discussion, whilst informative, must also, to a certain extent, make peace with the fact that it’s apples and oranges in a lot of ways. The coefficient system in UEFA, the fact that some confederations have collective qualification as you point out (e.g. CONMEBOL (and technically the Hex counts as well) and some have individual group stages that make use of a stratified seeding system based on (oft nebulously-calculated) coefficients makes it very difficult to know where qualifying would be more difficult.

    I will say that I think we are in one of the best possible regions to qualify. There’s no question in my mind that qualifying in Europe would be more difficult for us – and the same might be true of our fortunes in South America.

    Just my cursorily crafted two cents on the way to work at a glance.

    Reply

    • Posted by Nick on 2013/02/13 at 10:14 AM

      Completely agree that it’s apples to oranges, which makes it an interesting, never-ending discussion.

      Throwing the US into the UEFA region for qualifying without the UEFA coefficients would be tough, but based on FIFA Rankings back when the UEFA draw was made (July 2011) we were 30th and would’ve been a high 3rd Pot team. Then it’s up to lady luck to determine if we would be placed into an easy group or a difficult one, examples below.

      Easy Group
      1st Seed – Norway
      2nd Seed – Slovenia
      3rd Seed – US
      4th Seed – Albania
      5th Seed – Iceland
      6th Seed – Cyprus

      Hard Group
      1st Seed – Spain
      2nd Seed – France
      3rd Seed – US
      4th Seed – Georgia
      5th Seed – Finland

      Reply

      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/02/13 at 10:38 AM

        FWIW, and i do not mean to sound elitist, but I wish UEFA had a pre-qualification round, which has been multiplied by Europe becoming more fragmented since the Revolutions of 1989. Countries such as Andorra and San Marino have no business playing the likes of Spain or Germany etc etc – what does either side actually gain?

        Reply

        • Posted by Nick on 2013/02/13 at 10:44 AM

          Completely agree, every other region but CONMEBOL has multiple rounds of qualifying to weed out the lesser teams.

          Reply

        • Posted by Nick on 2013/02/13 at 11:03 AM

          Not sure how large of an impact it would have on the SPI but the change you propose would see less FIFA Rankings “points” awarded to UEFA teams since they’ll be playing more friendlies and fewer qualifying matches which have a higher coefficient applied to them.

          Reply

  6. “All this information does is quantify Klinsmann’s comments in the Vertelney piece; CONCACAF is not as easy for the US to qualify out of as some may think. In fact, toss a European power into CONCACAF and they likely will also find it more difficult than they originally thought – being a power, they’ll still find a way to qualify, but it won’t be a stroll in the park.”

    Not totally sure that the analysis actually demonstrates this, though. It might show that a hypothetical average CONCACAF team has a harder time making a WC than a European counterpart, but specifically saying it’s more difficult for the US or Mex to make a WC than, say, France because on average there’s a lower std. deviation between world rankings in the Hex than in UEFA groups doesn’t seem right. If you were to throw France into CONCACAF (1) That standard deviation would rise, since France are ranked higher than any North American teams, and (2) How hard it is for France to qualify doesn’t depend on the difference in rankings between, say, Honduras and Jamaica, but only the difference between France and Honduras, and France and Jamaica.

    Reply

    • I’d agree that throwing a European power in isn’t the crux of this argument, To me, a CONCACAF comparison to UEFA would be judging the difficulty of like-skilled sides. For example, is it harder for:
      – The US (SPI 40) or Romania (41)?
      – Mexico (7) or Netherlands (8)?
      – Jamaica (59) or Israel (60)?
      – Guatemala (74) or Finland (73)?
      all of that is better studied by looking at the data from the beginning of qualifying, though.

      Reply

      • Posted by Nick on 2013/02/13 at 10:36 AM

        The only problem with comparing the US to Romania is that they may be equal in terms of FIFA Rankings or SPI, but they aren’t the same when comparing their standing in their home region. Romania was in Pot 4 when the WC Qualifying draw took place; the US is always in Pot 1 in CONCACAF.

        Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/02/13 at 10:30 AM

      Not a quantitative comment, but people talk about how difficult and hostile US away games are in WCQ a lot. But the US has an opportunity themselves to create a hostile, couldron of an environment to create their own home field advantage. But the USSF doesn’t take it and puts money first. Maybe this cycle will be different.

      Reply

      • Posted by Nick on 2013/02/13 at 10:34 AM

        One can only hope, George.

        And the comment about difficult road games wasn’t meant to insinuate that England or France don’t have hostile environments on its travels, because they do as well.

        Reply

      • Also, non-quantitative, but to me the main issue in USMNT away qualifiers isn’t hostility, it’s the pitch conditions. They’ll always have an unfair disadvantage against teams on horribly uneven, patchy, muddy fields against countries that have grown up with those conditions. I don’t think the reverse is as much of an for visiting Hondurans, Costa Ricans, etc.
        And if it is hostility that’s the issue, I’m fine with a justice system that wouldn’t stand for Americans throwing bags of urine and other bodily fluids on at athletes.
        As for “putting money first,” that’s an issue in Gold Cup when CONCACAF choosing the sites of matches, and friendlies when… who cares. For qualifiers, US Soccer routinely choose smaller stadia in markets with less opposition nationalities. Mexico quailifiers in Columbus, Ohio are a prime example.

        Reply

        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/02/13 at 11:26 AM

          I agree 100% about your comment about pitch condition. Something for FIFA / CONCACAF to address for sure.

          I was referring to the Gold Cup game a couple of seasons ago in LA. I watched on TV in NYC and couldn’t believe that the U.S. were at home. Just so wrong!

          Reply

          • Yeah, but the Gold Cup is irrelevant to WCQ. CONCACAF chooses host sites and get most of the profits from the former, and US Soccer choose sites for the latter. That’s why all 5 WCQs in 2013 will be played in MLS stadia (very likely as far from hispanic population centers as possible).

            Reply

            • Steve,

              ” the Gold Cup is irrelevant to WCQ.”

              Not entirely true in 2011.

              Winning the Gold Cup meant getting into the Confederations Cup, the ultimate dress rehearsal tournament for WC 2014. If the US were in the Confed Cup JK might have had different lineup choices for the qualifiers.

              He not have felt compelled to risk blooding Gonzo so early in the qualifiers.

              Losing that Gold Cup final also helped get Bradley fired and I wouldsay that affected the WC qualifiers.

            • schmutzdeck,
              For some reason I can’t respond directly to your comment, so I’m putting it here
              I was talking about hosting choices between the two formats being independent. Sorry if the context I provided didn’t make that obvious.
              Ignoring that, you have to admit the connections you make are tenuous. Your whole argument is built on “might”, and “I wouldsay.” Sure there’s probably a small connection, but you have to venture pretty deeply into the realm of the hypothetical to discuss it.

          • Posted by Jared on 2013/02/14 at 6:40 AM

            That’s not entirely fair to US Soccer. When it comes down to the games that really matter they have been better about scheduling at more friendly venues. Mexico should always be in Columbus until Mexico proves they can win there.

            Gold Cup is out of their hands. It’s a Concacaf tournament and if you think that Concacaf is passing up the chance to fill the Rose Bowl with Mexican fans then you haven’t been paying attention to who runs Concacaf.

            Reply

    • Posted by Nick on 2013/02/13 at 10:32 AM

      Very fair point about comparing deviations between the top teams and their opposition instead of the deviation overall.

      Based on the std. deviations I drew the conclusion It’s not just the average teams, the top seeds in CONCACAF have a tougher road to hoe than their Euro counterparts given that the quality of teams is more clustered together in CONCACAF than UEFA.

      Tossing France, Spain, England into the CONCACAF Hex will raise the Std. Deviation, but using those three nations it would end up somewhere in the mid 20’s and UEFA is still sitting in the high 40’s (removing said team from UEFA).

      If you want to know specific std. deviations for each of the Top seeds in CONCACAF and UEFA, it’ll take me a while to get those numbers, but you are correct in that it may paint a more accurate picture.

      Reply

    • Posted by Jared on 2013/02/14 at 6:47 AM

      Not a quantitative point but more of a qualitative point. Travel is much harder for the US than it is for anyone in UEFA. Most of those trips are very short flights that are shorter than what the USMNT would have to make even once they arrive in the US. If it’s a West Coast game then add 6 hours of flight time to an arrival in NYC. A lot of the teams with the exception of Mexico have a lot of MLS/local players that aren’t making a long flight. Clearly the jet lag/heat really hurt the US in Honduras.

      Reply

  7. I like this as a starting point for discussion on this topic. I think the next level is determining what are the chances of an “average” FIFA team qualifying from each region? This would take into account the structure of each federation’s qualification system, which I think is actually much more important than necessarily how good each team is. For example, finishing second in a UEFA group is very difficult, and in fact most confederations -adjusted for difficulty- would get you into the World Cup. But then that team has to play a home and home tie, which is basically a crap shoot.

    http://thepowerrank.com/world-football-soccer/ is a good ranking system, a little different than ESPN’s SPI.

    Reply

    • Posted by Nick on 2013/02/13 at 3:59 PM

      I agree that taking the qualifying format is important, but I couldn’t numerically quantify all of the variations of format.

      I do disagree with you on finishing second in a UEFA Group. On paper it shouldn’t be that difficult if you’re a Pot 1 or Pot 2 team, of course that depends on who you are and who is in your group. But overall you would have put your money on, for example, Italy and Denmark finishing 1-2 in Group B back when the draw was made, same thing with Spain and France.

      Finishing second in the African Second Round gets you nothing. In fact, finishing first gets you a home-at-home against another group winner for your berth, which is harder than UEFA teams have it, if you’re Egypt you could go against the Ivory Coast for your World Cup life (not sure if CAF seeds the teams going into the home-at-homes or not).

      Reply

  8. Posted by Spiritof76 on 2013/02/13 at 12:41 PM

    >>”toss a European power into CONCACAF and they likely will also find it more difficult than they originally thought – being a power, they’ll still find a way to qualify, but it won’t be a stroll in the park.”

    Seems like exactly what we USMNT fans experience every four years. “This year will be easier, last time we were playing poor/in transition/had poor coaching.” Then of course it turns out to be a difficult slog and so far we’ve always managed to walk out of it having spilled much more blood, sweat, and tears than we thought would be necessary. Hope we have that same story again.

    Reply

  9. Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/02/21 at 7:02 PM

    Somewhat related comment. .

    Playing chess there is a statistical chance that a 1200 player knocks off a 1400 player. I don’t know what it is but the odds might be 50/35/15 (1400 wins/draw/1200 wins). The odds of a 1200 player beating a 2000 player is probably 98/1/1 (if that).

    The reason I bring this up is hat it is somewhat related to standard deviation. Standard deviation by place in the FIFA ranking isn’t that telling to me as I don’t expect it to be a linear. The odds of someone ranked 20 (Belgium) beating the top ranked team (Spain) seems a lot lower than the 40th ranked team (Turkey) beating the 21st ranked team (Sweden). However, the standard deviation would be the same.

    Has anyone taken ELO soccer rankings or FIFA rankings and converted them to a probability of winning?

    Reply

    • Posted by Nick on 2013/02/26 at 7:27 PM

      If Standard Deviation isn’t that telling, what sort of analysis tool would be? FIFA’s rankings takes wins, losses, draws, friendly/qualifier/competition into account to assign ranking points. This would seem to be a clear indication of past performance and prediction of future results, though maybe not a clear prediction against teams in specific tiers.

      Also, your related chess comment is kind of proving the point…is it not? Players/Teams that are ranked/rated closer together are more even in terms of results when playing against each other. Therefore, a group with a smaller standards deviation has more teams closer together and would be harder to pick a clear winner.

      Reply

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