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: Dutch need Spaniards to stumble



    Earlier this year, I wrote Who will be seeded at Germany 2006: An update which showed that Brazil, Spain, England, Italy, Germany, Mexico, Argentina and France continued to be the likely seeds for next yearís World Cup finals if they all qualified.

    After the 2002 finals, my original column on the subject (Who will be seeded at Germany 2006) also had those teams in the top 8 places on a table that was calculated using the formula FIFA has used to determine seeds in recent World Cups. That formula is based on results at previous World Cups (worth 50%) and FIFA World Rankings (also worth 50%).

    At the time, I had to make assumptions about future World Rankings and which 32 teams might qualify. Changes have been needed since then but the 50% allocated to previous World Cups was already a known.

    FIFA is not obliged to use this system for 2006 and I have argued that if the calculations donít continue to deliver what the sportís governors would regard as an acceptable group of seeds, they would change the method of calculation to suit.

    But it looks like that wonít be necessary because 7 of the 8 likely teams have qualified. Only Spain still needs to book its place and it has another chance in next monthís playoff against Slovakia. If the Spaniards fail, Netherlands replaces them among the seeds.

    In 2002, I had the USA in 9th place on the table used for determining seeds. Earlier this year, the Americans had dropped to 10th (due to World Rankings changes). The USA was always going to be the systemís litmus test.

    The Mexicans have never before been seeded (except as tournament hosts in 1986), but I have never felt that FIFA would try to manipulate the system to exclude them from being seeded in 2006. They have reached the Second Round in each of the last 3 World Cups.

    However Iím certain that FIFA would not accept seeding Mexico and USA. Under the existing system for determining the 8 seeds, that would have been on the cards if two of Brazil, Spain, England, Italy, Argentina, France and Netherlands failed to qualify. But all except Spain are now confirmed for the finals.

    When England defeated Poland recently to clinch victory in its qualifying group, English media posed the question: Would winning the group ensure that England would be seeded? FIFA said that it wouldnít decide until a few days before the draw in Leipzig in December.

    You can understand English anxiety. They were not seeded in either 1998 or 2002 (largely because they failed to qualify for the 1994 finals). Consequently, they drew difficult groups in both tournaments.

    Without major changes to the system used to determine the 8 seeds, whether or not England (or any European team) qualified by winning its group is a matter of little relevance. In the last World Cup, England won its qualifying group ahead of Germany which forced the latter to qualify through a playoff against Ukraine. But for the finals, Germany was seeded and England wasnít.

    Now I know that as soon as you saw the title of this column, you really didnít want to read words, you wanted to see numbers. So letís get to the stats.

    First, we have to update the group of 32 teams for our tables. We now have 27 qualifiers and 10 teams about to playoff for the last 5 places. Itís not really possible to put 37 teams in the table Ė it upsets the calculations Ė so I have to choose 5 playoff winners. Iím going to do that by selecting the more highly ranked team. That means: Spain (over Slovakia), Turkey (over Switzerland), Czech Republic (over Norway), Trinidad & Tobago (over Bahrain) and, regrettably, Uruguay (over Australia). Still, if the 5 bottom ranked teams all win, it wonít make any real difference to the top places in the table.

    Out of the final table from Who will be seeded at Germany 2006: An update go: Denmark (11th position on that table), Ireland (14th), Nigeria (18th), Belgium (20th), Cameroon (21st), Romania (22nd), Senegal (equal 23rd), Russia (27th), South Africa (28th), Chile (31st) and Bahrain (32nd). Obviously Bahrain might return.

    Replacing those teams are: Czech Republic, Portugal, Uruguay, Poland, Serbia & Montenegro, Ukraine, Ivory Coast, Trinidad & Tobago, Ghana, Angola and Togo.

    If we could assume that this system for determining seeds will continue, we could say that, by failing to qualify, Denmark might have blown a great chance to win a place among the seeds for 2010.

    Weíll start by looking at the Previous World Cups score. I wonít repeat the calculations as you can see them in Who will be seeded at Germany 2006.



Brazil 31.67 Germany 28.83 Italy 23.50 England 21.50 Spain 21.17 Mexico 21.00 Korea PR 18.67 USA 18.33 Argentina 17.33 Sweden 15.00 Turkey 15.00 Paraguay 14.83 France 14.67 Japan 14.67 Croatia 14.50 Netherlands 14.00 Saudi Arabia 10.17 Serbia & Montenegro 7.67 Tunisia 6.67 Costa Rica 4.50 Portugal 4.50 Uruguay 4.50 Ecuador 4.00 Poland 4.00 Iran 3.00 Angola 0.00 Czech Republic 0.00 Ghana 0.00 Ivory Coast 0.00 Togo 0.00 Trinidad & Tobago 0.00 Ukraine 0.00
* Serbia & Montenegro was listed as Yugoslavia in the original column.

    Now, letís look at the points each team receives from FIFA World Rankings. One third is earned in the December 2003 Rankings, one third is from December 2004 and one third will be from November 2005. Weíre less than a month away from the November 2005 Rankings so I have to use this monthís. (And I doubt that thereíll be many big changes.)


         2003            2004            2005
     WR   ER  Pts    WR   ER  Pts    WR   ER  Pts    RP 
BRA   1    1   32     1    1   32     1    1   32   32.00
FRA   2    2   31     2    2   31     5    5   28   30.00
ARG   5    5   28     3    3   30     4    4   29   29.00
NED   4    4   29     6    6   27     2    2   31   29.00
CZE   6    6   27     4    4   29     3    3   30   28.67
SPA   3    3   30     5    5   28     8    8   25   27.67
MEX   7    7   26     7    7   26     6    6   27   26.33
ENG   8   =8   24.5   8    8   25    =9   =9   23.5 24.33
USA  11   11   22    11   11   22     7    7   26   23.33
POR  17  =13   19.5   9    9   24    =9   =9   23.5 22.33
ITA  10   10   23    10   10   23    12   12   21   22.33
TUR   8   =8   24.5  14   13   20    11   11   22   22.17
SWE  19   15   18    13   12   21    13   13   20   19.67
GER  12   12   21    19   16   17    15   14   19   19.00
URU  21   17   16    16   14   19    17   16   17   17.33
CRO  20   16   17    23   19   14    19   17   16   15.67
CRC  17  =13   19.5  27   21   12    20   18   15   15.50
JPN  29   23   10    17   15   18    16   15   18   15.33
IRN  28   22   11    20   17   16    21   19   14   13.67
KOR  22  =18   14.5  22   18   15    29   22   11   13.50
POL  25   20   13    25   20   13    23   20   13   13.00
PAR  22  =18   14.5  30   23   10    33   24    9   11.17
KSA  26   21   12    28   22   11    31   23   10   11.00
TUN  45   26    7    35   24    9    27   21   12    9.33
ECU  37   24    9    39   25    8    36   25    8    8.33
SCG  41   25    8    46   27    6    42   27    6    6.67
UKR  60   27    6    57   28    5    39   26    7    6.00
IVR  70  =28    4.5  40   26    7    48   28    5    5.50
TRI  70  =28    4.5  63   29    4    53   31    2    3.50
GHA  78   30    3    77   31    2    51   30    3    2.67
ANG  83   31    2    72   30    3    60   32    1    2.00
TOG  94   32    1    89   32    1    49   29    4    2.00
NB: WR = World Ranking, ER = Effective Ranking, Pts = Ranking Points (for each individual year) and RP = Ranking Points (final). The final Ranking Points are calculated by adding the total points gained from the 3 years and then dividing by 3.

    A reminder about the Effective Ranking: The 32 teams that qualify are not the 32 highest ranked teams in the world. So, for the purpose of determining seeds, they are re-ranked in each year from 1 to 32.

    Now we complete the exercise by adding the scores from previous World Cups and Rankings.



                         PWC      RP      Total    Move
  1 Brazil              31.67    32.00    63.67    -
  2 Spain               21.17    27.67    48.83    -
  3 Germany             28.83    19.00    47.83    Up 2
  4 Mexico              21.00    26.33    47.33    Up 2
  5 Argentina           17.33    29.00    46.33    Up 2
 =6 England             21.50    24.33    45.83    Down 3
 =6 Italy               23.50    22.33    45.83    Down 3
  8 France              14.67    30.00    44.67    -
  9 Netherlands         14.00    29.00    43.00    -
 10 USA                 18.33    23.33    41.67    -
 11 Turkey              15.00    22.17    37.17    Up 1
 12 Sweden              15.00    19.67    34.67    Up 1
 13 Korea PR            18.67    13.50    32.17    Up 2
 14 Croatia             14.50    15.67    30.17    Up 3
 15 Japan               14.67    15.33    30.00    Up 2
 16 Czech Republic       0.00    28.67    28.67    New
 17 Portugal             4.50    22.33    26.83    New
 18 Paraguay            14.83    11.17    26.00    Up 2
 19 Uruguay              4.50    17.33    21.83    New
 20 Saudi Arabia        10.17    11.00    21.17    Up 4
 21 Costa Rica           4.50    15.50    20.00    Up 4
 22 Poland               4.00    13.00    17.00    New
 23 Iran                 3.00    13.67    16.67    Up 4
 24 Tunisia              6.67     9.33    16.00    Up 5
 25 Serbia & Montenegro  7.67     6.67    14.33    New
 26 Ecuador              4.00     8.33    12.33    Up 4
 27 Ukraine              0.00     6.00     6.00    New
 28 Ivory Coast          0.00     5.50     5.50    New
 29 Trinidad & Tobago    0.00     3.50     3.50    New
 30 Ghana                0.00     2.67     2.67    New
=31 Angola               0.00     2.00     2.00    New
=31 Togo                 0.00     2.00     2.00    New
    The ďMoveĒ column on the right shows each teamís movement from the last table in my last column on this subject, Who will be seeded at Germany 2006: An update.

    Netherlands has continued to close the gap on 8th placed France but the Dutch are going to run out of time. The French are currently ranked 5th in the world but would have to drop out of the top 10 by next month for the Netherlands (currently ranked 2nd) to have any chance of overtaking them on this table. It just wonít happen.

    So if youíre a Dutch fan, hereís some advice: adopt Slovakia as your 2nd favourite team next month. Because it looks like Netherlands can only clinch a seeding if Spain stumbles and is consequently removed from this table.

    Oh, and Mexican fans, I really donít think that FIFA will shaft you by deciding to change the system at the last minute. But if they do, hereís some advice for you too: send my columns on this subject to the Mexican FA so that it has ammunition to protest with.

    But letís finish on a happy note with some honourable mentions. We know that the Dutch have come from a nearly impossible position in 2002 to put themselves in the running for a seeding, so well done to them.

    How about the Croatians? They wonít be seeded but my original table in 2002 had them in 21st place. Through a combination of improved rankings and other teams falling by the wayside, Croatia is now 13th.

    Then we have the Czechs. They havenít qualified for any of the last 3 World Cup finals so their Previous World Cups score is 0. But their World Rankings have been so high that if they do qualify theyíll surge straight into the top half of the table on Ranking Points alone.

    And finally, Brazil. We havenít focussed much on Brazil because theyíre so far in front. But think about this: the maximum score on this table is 64 points which would require winning the last 3 World Cups and being the No. 1 Ranked team at the end of 2003, 2004 and 2005. The Brazilians have 63.67 points with the only blemish being their loss in the 1998 World Cup Final. Take a bow.




 

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