November 29, 2013

Don't Play Thailand: Many football fans will be scratching their heads to see Switzerland among the top seeds at next year's World Cup finals, while thoroughbreds like the Netherlands and Italy are not. The truth is that it could be down to the choices made by football administrators, not players.

posted by billsaysthis to soccer at 12:22 PM - 5 comments

Oh, man.

This story presses all the right buttons for me.

- rankings
- sports
- number crunching
- flawed systems

But I'm a bit confused on the math they are doing.

From the article:
But it is possible to get a much smaller number of points for a win. If the Netherlands were to play one of the teams outside the Fifa top 150 in a friendly match, like Indonesia, they would get only a tiny amount of points - just 139.5 for a win.

So the math is:
Win = 3
Friendly = 1
Rank = 50
Region = 0.86
Total = 129

Where do they get the 139.5 from?
The only way it works is if Thailand isn't outside the top 150, but is actually in 146th place (they are currently in 142nd).
(Which is counter to the example they gave.)

posted by grum@work at 02:00 PM on November 29

Journalists !== maths wizzes, methinks!

posted by billsaysthis at 08:13 PM on November 29

Journalists !== maths wizzes, methinks!

What he said. I've noticed that journalists frequently stick numbers into stories that don't add up properly.

posted by Mothball at 11:20 PM on November 29

Regardless of the bad math, the principle remains. It strikes me as crazy that winning a match would reduce your average points total. Winning a match -- any match -- should at worst keep your average the same. I appreciate that it's difficult to devise a system to adequately rank the countries, but to be penalized for winning a game is a rather obvious flaw, it would seem.

So pity the fans of the Netherlands, Italy, and England, but indeed all fans lose here, because we may very well get two 'groups of death' when the tournament draw is made. And while it can make for some interesting group matches, it's never a good thing when strong teams get knocked out early because of poor seeding.

posted by geneparmesan at 12:45 AM on November 30

It's daft, because surely one of FIFA's broader aims is to encourage large nations with lower-ranked sides to put on some decent matches to help build the game. If bigger teams don't want to play because it knackers their ratings, then those friendlies won't happen.

Netherlands-Indonesia was footballing diplomacy, reflecting the old colonial ties between the two countries, and the number of Dutch people of Indonesian ancestry (and, of course, a potentially lucrative market in SE Asia).

posted by etagloh at 06:46 PM on November 30

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