Paul Marcuccitti


 
Paul Marcuccitti is a passionate soccer fan from Australia who will share his views about the World Cup in this column.

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Who will be seeded at Germany 2006: An update



    Can it really be nearly three years since I wrote Who will be seeded at Germany 2006, a look at the way FIFA determines the eight seeded teams for the World Cup finals and how it might apply in Germany? How time flies.

    With qualifiers in full swing and the draw for the finals to be held in early December, now is a good time to revisit the issue - especially as much has happened since July '02.

    Rather than explain the system again (and my own modus operandi), I suggest you look at Who will be seeded at Germany 2006 before you read on. Even if you have already seen it, a quick refresher would be useful as what follows is, effectively, a continuation.

    Right, now that you're up to speed, you might be aware that the clutch of 32 teams that I selected for the seeding exercise has to change. Since then, FIFA did its allocation of World Cup finals places (among confederations) and the qualifiers commenced.

    I originally had 15 UEFA teams but only 14 countries from the host confederation will qualify this time. So one European team has to be replaced by a team from either Asia or CONCACAF (as one of those confederations must win an extra place). The worst of the 15 (on the basis of the previous World Cup performance ranking used By FIFA) was Bulgaria. So out it goes. (We'll return to the question of who replaces Bulgaria a little later.)

    The draw for qualifying groups presented me with another problem in Europe. Of the 14 remaining teams, three were drawn in the same qualifying group (UEFA Group 7). And none of the 14 teams were drawn in Group 3.

    UEFA Group 7 includes Spain, Belgium and Serbia & Montenegro (listed as Yugoslavia in my original column). Only a maximum of two can qualify, so I've dropped Serbia & Montenegro - the worst of the three in terms of previous World Cups. Yes, I know the Belgians are looking shaky. But they're not out and I want to try to be consistent about the way in which the 32 teams are selected. (Besides, a few others are also struggling.)

    As at least one team from Group 3 must qualify, I've replaced Serbia & Montenegro with Russia. Again, Portugal might be a better bet from that group but Russia has the better previous World Cups score.

    China is the biggest qualifying casualty so far (apologies to my friends across the Tasman Sea ... and to St Vincent & The Grenadines) so it also needs to be replaced. The only Asian candidate (to join South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia) is Iran which qualified for France '98 in circumstances that I can't quite remember.

    Now we return to the question of who replaces Bulgaria. Should it be a team from Asia or a team from CONCACAF?

    Promoting Iran at the expense of the eliminated Chinese means that Asia has only four more candidates (Bahrain, Kuwait, North Korea and Uzbekistan). CONCACAF has three possibilities (Guatemala, Panama and Trinidad & Tobago). Only Kuwait (1982) and North Korea (1966) have ever qualified for the finals so, rather than make a prediction, I decided to find which of the seven teams had the highest FIFA ranking and selected ... no, why not leave that as a trivia question? Who do you think it is? The answer will be in the tables that follow.

    The end-of-year FIFA rankings for 2003 and 2004 are part of the system used to calculate which teams will be seeded so, unless FIFA alters that system (always a possibility), we now have a lot of useful data. In fact, there are only two missing pieces - the 32 teams that actually do qualify for the finals and the rankings of November of this year. Remember, the second table from the July 2002 column used rankings from that time to give us an idea of how things might look. Even though what follows is still a "might", we now have much more definite information.

    A quick reminder of the formula: it's 50% previous World Cups and 50% FIFA rankings. The previous World Cups component has a 3:2:1 weighting for the last three editions (with 2002 having the highest weighting and 1994 having the lowest). The FIFA rankings are taken from December 2003, December 2004 and November 2005 (and each has the same weighting). Let's start with a table that has the updated clutch of 32 teams and their points from FIFA rankings (which can only be two-thirds complete at this time).



                   2003            2004
               WR   ER   RP    WR   ER   RP   TOT/3
Brazil          1    1   32     1    1   32   21.33
France          2    2   31     2    2   31   20.67
Spain           3    3   30     5    4   29   19.67
Argentina       5    5   28     3    3   30   19.33
Netherlands     4    4   29     6    5   28   19.00
Mexico          7    6   27     7    6   27   18.00
England        =8   =7   25.5   8    7   26   17.17
Italy          10    9   24    10    8   25   16.33
USA            11   10   23    11    9   24   15.67
Turkey         =8   =7   25.5 =14  =12   20.5 15.33
Ireland       =14  =13   19.5  12   10   23   14.17
Denmark        13   12   21   =14  =12   20.5 13.83
Germany        12   11   22    19   15   18   13.33
Sweden         19   17   16    13   11   22   12.67
Cameroon      =14  =13   19.5 =23  =19   13.5 11.00
Costa Rica     17   16   17    27   21   12    9.67
Croatia        20   18   15   =23  =19   13.5  9.50
South Korea   =22  =19   13.5  22   18   15    9.50
Japan          29   25    8    17   14   19    9.00
Iran           28   24    9    20   16   17    8.67
Paraguay      =22  =19   13.5  30   24    9    7.50
Nigeria        35   27    6    21   17   16    7.33
Saudi Arabia   26   22   11    28   22   11    7.33
Belgium        16   15   18    45   30    3    7.00
Romania        27   23   10    29   23   10    6.67
Russia         24   21   12    32   26    7    6.33
Senegal        33   26    7    31   25    8    5.00
South Africa   36   28    5    38   28    5    3.33
Tunisia        45   30    3    35   27    6    3.00
Ecuador        37   29    4    39   29    4    2.67
Bahrain        64   31    2    49   31    2    1.33
Chile          80   32    1    74   32    1    0.67
NB: WR = World Ranking, ER = Effective Ranking and RP = Ranking Points. TOT / 3 is the 2003 and 2004 RPs added together and then divided by 3 (the "missing one-third" is the November 2005 rankings).

    The next table brings in the previous World Cup points (the calculation of which is in the first table of the original article) and adds them to the ranking points listed above.

    What follows is an update of the second table from the original article and I have added a column showing each team's movement up or down the table.


                    PWC     RP       TOT     MOVE
 1  Brazil          31.67   21.33   53.00    -
 2  Germany         28.83   13.33   42.17    -
 3  Spain           21.17   19.67   40.83    -
 4  Italy           23.50   16.33   39.83    -
 5  Mexico          21.00   18.00   39.00    -
 6  England         21.50   17.17   38.67    Up 1
 7  Argentina       17.33   19.33   36.67    Down 1
 8  France          14.67   20.67   35.33    -
 9  USA             18.17   15.67   33.83    -
10  Denmark         19.83   13.83   33.67    -
11  Netherlands     14.33   19.00   33.33    Up 2
12  Turkey          15.00   15.33   30.33    Down 1
13  South Korea     18.67    9.50   28.17    Up 1
14  Sweden          15.00   12.67   27.67    Up 3
15  Ireland         13.33   14.17   27.50    Down 3
16  Croatia         14.50    9.50   24.00    Up 5
17  Japan           14.67    9.00   23.67    Up 1
18  Belgium         16.17    7.00   23.17    Down 3
=19 Nigeria         15.00    7.33   22.33    Up 3
=19 Paraguay        14.83    7.50   22.33    Down 3
21  Cameroon         8.50   11.00   19.50    Down 1
22  Romania         11.83    6.67   18.50    Up 1
23  Senegal         13.00    5.00   18.00    Up 1
24  Saudi Arabia    10.17    7.33   17.50    Up 2
25  Costa Rica       4.50    9.67   14.17    -
26  Russia           6.00    6.33   12.33    New
27  Iran             3.00    8.67   11.67    New
28  South Africa     7.50    3.33   10.83    Down 1
29  Tunisia          6.67    3.00    9.67    Down 1
30  Ecuador          4.50    2.67    7.17    Down 1
31  Chile            5.67    0.67    6.33    Down 1
32  Bahrain          0.00    1.33    1.33    New
NB: PWC = Points from Previous World Cups, RP = Ranking Points (from the first table), TOT is now the total score for the purpose of deciding seeds and MOVE shows movement from the July '02 table.

[Remember, this table is too heavily weighted to previous World Cups because of the missing ranking points from November 2005. We'll have a look at a possible outcome for that later.]


    There has been no change to the teams that make up the top eight and, with only ranking points from this year to come, those teams are almost certain to be seeded if they qualify. England and Argentina have swapped places within the top eight but that isn't a big surprise because my table from July '02 assumed the Argentineans holding their (then) world ranking of 2. That was never going to be easy so even finishing as high as No. 5 in 2003 and No. 3 last year has dropped their score.

    France remains in 8th spot with a useful gap over United States (the best team outside the "seeds") but the French held the No. 2 world ranking spot at the end of both 2003 and 2004. Had they not done so, they might have slipped.

    The most significant mover is the Netherlands. The Dutch have moved from 13th to 11th and their score is only fractionally lower than 9th placed USA's. In July '02, the Netherlands' world ranking was 15 but the Dutch finished at No. 6 last year and at No. 4 in 2003. Another high ranking in November should make them the main contenders outside the leading octet.

After that it's all fairly academic. No team outside the top 11 or 12 from this table has a chance of being seeded at the head of a group in Germany 2006 unless a few of the teams above them fail to reach the finals. [This is why it doesn't matter too much whether we have Russia or Portugal - often it'll just be a case of lowly-ranked teams (in terms of this table) replacing each other and affecting nothing at the top end.]

    We'll look at one more table to help round off the exercise (until later this year). Into the last table, I'll add in November 2005 ranking points with the assumption that the current FIFA rankings (i.e. April 2005) will hold until then. This will also give you more of an idea of how many points are up for grabs through this year's rankings. Again, I'll have a column showing movement but it will be movement from the above table, not the July '02 table.



               TOT   WR   ER   RP    RP/3    NEW   MOVE
 1 Brazil     53.00   1    1  32.00  10.67  63.67  -
 2 Spain      40.83   7    6  27.00   9.00  49.83  Up 1
=3 England    38.67   6    5  28.00   9.33  48.00  Up 3
=3 Italy      39.83 =10   =8  24.50   8.17  48.00  Up 1
 5 Germany    42.17  20   16  17.00   5.67  47.83  Down 3
 6 Mexico     39.00   8    7  26.00   8.67  47.67  Down 1
 7 Argentina  36.67   3    2  31.00  10.33  47.00  -
 8 France     35.33   4    3  30.00  10.00  45.33  -
 9 Netherla.  33.33   5    4  29.00   9.67  43.00  Up 2
10 USA        33.83 =10   =8  24.50   8.17  42.00  Down 1
11 Denmark    33.67  18   14  19.00   6.33  40.00  Down 1
12 Turkey     30.33  14   11  22.00   7.33  37.67  -
13 Sweden     27.67  13   10  23.00   7.67  35.33  Up 1
14 Ireland    27.50  15   12  21.00   7.00  34.50  Up 1
15 Sth Korea  28.17 =22  =18  14.50   4.83  33.00  Down 2
16 Japan      23.67  17   13  19.00   6.33  30.00  Up 1
17 Croatia    24.00  21   17  16.00   5.33  29.33  Down 1
18 Nigeria    22.33  24   20  13.00   4.33  26.67  Up 1
19 Paraguay   22.33  28   22  11.00   3.67  26.00  -
20 Belgium    23.17  41   30   3.00   1.00  24.17  Down 2
21 Cameroon   19.50  26   21  12.00   4.00  23.50  -
22 Romania    18.50  30   23  10.00   3.33  21.83  -
=23S.Arabia   17.50 =31  =24   8.50   2.83  20.33  Up 1
=23Senegal    18.00  33   26   7.00   2.33  20.33  -
25 Costa Rica 14.17 =22  =18  14.50   4.83  19.00  -
26 Iran       11.67  19   15  18.00   6.00  17.67  Up 1
27 Russia     12.33 =31  =24   8.50   2.83  15.17  Down 1
28 S.Africa   10.83  37   28   5.00   1.67  12.50  -
29 Tunisia     9.67  39   29   4.00   1.33  11.00  -
30 Ecuador     7.17  34   27   6.00   2.00   9.17  -
31 Chile       6.33  76   32   1.00   0.33   6.67  -
32 Bahrain     1.33  50   31   2.00   0.67   2.00  -
NB: TOT = total carried over from the previous table, WR = World Ranking, ER = Effective Ranking and RP = Ranking Points. RP / 3 is the Ranking Points divided by 3 (as that gives us the value that this year's rankings will have). NEW is the new total. MOVE shows movement from the last table.

    The most important statistic here is France's margin over 9th place - now the surging Netherlands. It will be very difficult for the Dutch to bridge the gap. (In fact, if, over the next few months, the French have the kind of results that would force their ranking to plummet so far that it would drop them to 9th on this table, they probably wouldn't be qualifying for the finals anyway.)

    The continuity is amazing. Despite all the number-crunching, the same eight teams that topped the table in July 2002 continue to lead. And providing they all make it to next year's finals, they are almost certain to be the eight seeds. As I mentioned in my previous article on this subject, six of the top eight were seeded in Korea/Japan and the two that missed out (Mexico and England) would have been seeded had it not been for the fact that South Korea and Japan were seeded as hosts. Also, if the Dutch had qualified for 2002, they would have been seeded at Spain's expense. Despite that failure, the Netherlands will still probably be next in line if one of the current top eight misses qualification.

    I've concentrated on this topic for a couple of reasons, apart from the fact that being seeded at the World Cup finals should provide an advantage. Firstly, I don't like the system FIFA has been using to determine seeds; it's a system which creates the continuity I mention in the previous paragraph and makes it difficult for other nations to break in even when they might deserve to (and, yes, I'm sure that's why it's been designed in the way it has). Secondly, I'm certain that, if this method did not produce eight seeds that FIFA was happy with, at the last minute, they'd come up with something else that did. And that would spare everyone from a volley of bleating from one of the offended football associations which would regard being seeding as a right.

    But don't expect any drama if Brazil, Spain, England, Italy, Germany, Mexico, Argentina and France all qualify. That's a group of seeds that FIFA is likely to be happy with. If one of them fails to qualify and the Dutch get in, that will probably also suit Sepp and co.

    The real drama would come if both Mexico and the US got in. Could you imagine the outrage from UEFA/CONMEBOL? [How dare you seed two CONCACAF teams, particularly those Yanks! Come on, Korea/Japan was just a bad dream, they can't really play!]

    It doesn't look like happening but I would love to see it - if for no other reason than to find out if my assumptions are correct. Anyway, who doesn't like a bit of drama?



 

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