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: Final table



    We may now be at the end of this epic series as we are finally at the point where we should be able to name the 8 teams that will be seeded at next yearís World Cup finals.

    The 32 qualified teams are known Ė no more predicting/guessing needed there. All the relevant World Rankings are now known as well.

    However, we need one more piece of information. Itís a little thing but, potentially, its impact is immense. Itís the answer to this question: Will FIFA use the same system to determine seeds that it has used for recent World Cups?

    You might say that if FIFA changes the system, my four columns on this subject have been a waste of time. But they havenít been. By reading this, youíll know who the seeds are going to be if FIFA sticks to previous practice. Otherwise, you might see what motivated the sportís governors to make changes. Perhaps there are reasons why they wouldnít want to make any.

    I wrote Who'll be seeded at Germany 2006: Dutch need Spaniards to stumble before the November qualification playoffs. For the tables, I gave the five playoff victories to the higher ranked team. Three of the higher ranked teams did qualify but two didnít. Those two were Turkey and Uruguay so they need to be replaced in the tables by Switzerland and Australia.

    I also used Octoberís World Rankings in the last column but Novemberís have just been released. Again, as long as previous practice is followed, the 2005 Rankings component will be represented by the November Rankings.

    You can look at my last column on this subject to see each teamís Previous World Cups score. Missing from that table are Switzerland and Australia. Switzerlandís score on this measure is 3.00 points (all earned in 1994) and Australiaís is nil.

    Nevertheless, weíll have another look at the points each team receives from FIFA World Rankings. This is because there has been some movement in the 2005 Rankings and the removal of Turkey and Uruguay means thereíll be a few small changes to many of the teamsí Effective Ranking points in each year. The Effective Ranking is the re-ranking of each team (from 1 to 32) because the 32 teams that qualified are not the 32 highest ranked teams in the world.


         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
CZE    6   6   27     4   4   29     2   2   31   29.00
NED    4   4   29     6   6   27     3   3   30   28.67
SPA    3   3   30     5   5   28     6   6   27   28.33
MEX    7   7   26     7   7   26     7   7   26   26.00
ENG    8   8   25     8   8   25     9   9   24   24.67
USA   11  10   23    11  11   22     8   8   25   23.33
ITA   10   9   24    10  10   23    12  11   22   23.00
POR  =17 =12   20.5   9   9   24    10  10   23   22.50
SWE   19  14   19    13  12   21    14  12   21   20.33
GER   12  11   22    19  14   19    16  14   19   20.00
JPN   29  21   12    17  13   20    15  13   20   17.33
CRO   20  15   18    23  17   16    20  16   17   17.00
CRC  =17 =12   20.5  27  19   14    21  17   16   16.83
IRN   28  20   13    20  15   18    19  15   18   16.33
KOR  =22 =16   16.5  22  16   17    29  20   13   15.50
POL   25  18   15    25  18   15    23  18   15   15.00
PAR  =22 =16   16.5  30  21   12    30  21   12   13.50
KSA   26  19   14    28  20   13    32  22   11   12.67
TUN   45  25    8    35  22   11    28  19   14   11.00
ECU   37  22   11    39  23   10    37  24    9   10.00
SWI   44  24    9    51  26    7    36  23   10    8.67
SCG   41  23   10    46  25    8    47  27    6    8.00
IVR  =70 =27    5.5  40  24    9    41  26    7    7.17
UKR   60  26    7    57  27    6    40  25    8    7.00
AUS   82  30    3    58  28    5    49  28    5    4.33
TRI  =70 =27    5.5  63  29    4    51  30    3    4.17
GHA   78  29    4    77  31    2    50  29    4    3.33
ANG   83  31    2    72  30    3    62  32    1    2.00
TOG   94  32    1    89  32    1    56  31    2    1.33
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.

    Here is the final table (drum roll please) with the scores from previous World Cups and the scores from Rankings added together.

                       PWC     RP     Total   Move 
 1 Brazil             31.67   32.00   63.67   -
 2 Spain              21.17   28.33   49.50   -
 3 Germany            28.83   20.00   48.83   -
 4 Mexico             21.00   26.00   47.00   -
 5 Italy              23.50   23.00   46.50   Up 1
 6 Argentina          17.33   29.00   46.33   Down 1
 7 England            21.50   24.67   46.17   Down 1
 8 France             14.67   30.00   44.67   -
----------------------------------------------------
 9 Netherlands        14.00   28.67   42.67   -
10 USA                18.33   23.33   41.67   -
11 Sweden             15.00   20.33   35.33   Up 1
12 South Korea        18.67   15.50   34.17   Up 1
13 Japan              14.67   17.33   32.00   Up 2
14 Croatia            14.50   17.00   31.50   -
15 Czech Republic      0.00   29.00   29.00   Up 1
16 Paraguay           14.83   13.50   28.33   Up 2
17 Portugal            4.50   22.50   27.00   -
18 Saudi Arabia       10.17   12.67   22.83   Up 2
19 Costa Rica          4.50   16.83   21.33   Up 2
20 Iran                3.00   16.33   19.33   Up 3
21 Poland              4.00   15.00   19.00   Up 1
22 Tunisia             6.67   11.00   17.67   Up 2
23 Serbia & Montenegro 7.67    8.00   15.67   Up 2
24 Ecuador             4.00   10.00   14.00   Up 2
25 Switzerland         3.00    8.67   11.67   New
26 Ivory Coast         0.00    7.17    7.17   Up 2
27 Ukraine             0.00    7.00    7.00   -
28 Australia           0.00    4.33    4.33   New
29 Trinidad & Tobago   0.00    4.17    4.17   -
30 Ghana               0.00    3.33    3.33   -
31 Angola              0.00    2.00    2.00   -
32 Togo                0.00    1.33    1.33   Down 1
    The ďMoveĒ column on the right shows each teamís movement from the last table in my last column, Who will be seeded at Germany 2006: Dutch need Spaniards to stumble.

    Unfortunately for the Dutch, the Spaniards didnít stumble against Slovakia.

    So the seeds will be the top 8 teams: Brazil, Spain, Germany, Mexico, Italy, Argentina, England and France.

    This is the same 8 teams that looked likely to be seeded after Korea/Japan in 2002, providing they all qualified for the finals.

    There have been some changes of position within the top 8 but it doesnít matter. Finishing 2nd gives you no greater bonus than finishing 8th. The same applies for the teams that have missed out. Despite finishing 9th and just outside the seeds, the Dutch will end up in the UEFA pot of teams for next monthís final draw in the company of Ukraine, which is 27th. Each of the 8 groups will have at least one team from the UEFA pot Ė that is, UEFA teams that havenít been seeded.

Before signing off, why not throw one last curve ball?

    Weíve seen that, to determine seeds, FIFA World Rankings at the end of 2003, 2004 and 2005 are used and theyíre given equal status. Why is that?

    To calculate current Rankings, FIFA already uses results from the last 8 years. Results from the last 12 months have a value of 8/8; results from the year before that are given a value of 7/8; and so on, until you get to the oldest year (which is 1998 at the moment) and results in that year are given a value of 1/8.

    As the current World Rankings already take results from the previous 8 years into account, why on earth do you need to use the end of year Rankings from last year and the year before to calculate who the seeds will be?

    Worse still, using the 2003 and 2004 Rankings means that results from previous years end up getting double-counted and triple-counted, and some historic results become more important than more recent ones.

    As an example, think about the year 2003. In the current Rankings, its results have a 6/8 weighting; in the 2004 Rankings, its results have a 7/8 weighting; and in 2003, of course, its weighting was 8/8. With FIFAís system for determining World Cup seeds giving equal strength to the 2003, 2004 and 2005 Rankings, results for the year 2003 end up getting counted 3 times, and at very high value (8/8 + 7/8 + 6/8). Rankings for results in 2005 only get counted once (at a value of 8/8).

    So the use of 2003 and 2004 Rankings in the determination of seeds undermines the entire point of using Rankings. Teamsí strength in 2005 Ė which should surely be the point of using Rankings in the first place Ė becomes less valued than their strength in previous years. Itís a massive distortion. Indeed, even 1999 results become more valuable than 2005 results in the system used by FIFA to determine seeds.

    Now I knew how FIFA Rankings were calculated, but I didnít think about the consequence of applying the 2003 and 2004 World Rankings to the calculations to decide seeds until a Planet World Cup reader emailed me to point it out (and your cheque is in the mail).

    The only Rankings that should be included are the current ones. They already include historic data.

    Would the seeds change if only the 2005 World Rankings were used? Below is an abbreviated table that only uses Ranking Points from 2005. Iíll only show the top 10 teams because the other 22 are too far behind to have any chance of being seeded.

    The ďChangeĒ column in the following table is the difference in points between the final table above (which uses points from 2003, 2004 and 2005 Rankings) and this one where only 2005 Rankings are used. The ďMoveĒ column on the right also shows movement from the final table above:


                 PWC     RP     Total   Change   Move 
 1 Brazil       31.67   32.00   63.67    0.00    -
 2 Spain        21.17   27.00   48.17   -1.33    -
 3 Germany      28.83   19.00   47.83   -1.00    -
 4 Mexico       21.00   26.00   47.00    0.00    -
 5 Argentina    17.33   29.00   46.33    0.00    Up 1
=6 England      21.50   24.00   45.50   -0.67    Up 1
=6 Italy        23.50   22.00   45.50   -1.00    Down 1
 8 Netherlands  14.00   30.00   44.00   +1.33    Up 1
-----------------------------------≠-------------------
 9 USA          18.33   25.00   43.33   +1.67    Up 1
10 France       14.67   28.00   42.67   -2.00    Down 2
Go on, say impossible with your best French accent.

    But it makes sense doesnít it? Iíve mentioned how the current system for determining seeds makes results from 2003 far more valuable than results from 2005. And what was happening in 2003? France was storming to a 100% record in its qualifying group for Euro 2004. Meanwhile the Dutch finished 2nd in their group and needed to qualify through a playoff.

    Fast forward to the World Cup qualifiers and itís been the Netherlands rolling to an impressive record of 10 wins and 2 draws while the French stuttered to 5 draws in their matches against Switzerland, Israel and Ireland. However, more recent form counts for less.

    I doubt that FIFA has a deliberate reason for effectively giving greater reward to older results when determining seeds. My guess is that the consequences of using the existing method of calculation have simply been missed. They certainly eluded me despite all the column inches Iíve devoted to this subject.

    But if those consequences were pointed out to FIFA, Iíd also predict that nothing would change Ė not yet anyway. Given a choice between seeding France or Netherlands, Iíd suspect that FIFA would want to go with the French because they were World Champions in 1998 and European Champions in 2000. I would disagree as France has since declined but, hey, Iím just a humble amateur columnist on the other side of the world.

    I canít conclude without thanking some of our readers: to Matt Roscoe in England who showed me the problem of using older World Rankings; to the unnamed Croatian who drew my attention to a couple of small errors in my earlier Who will be seeded columns; to fellow columnist Peter Goldstein who has shared many thoughts on this subject; and to everyone that has emailed me about these articles. Itís nice to know that fans recognise the importance of this subject and appreciate commentary on it.



 

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