Thursday, September 28, 2006

CONCACAF

Here is an excellent post about CONCACAF's historically strongest teams in the 146 editions of the FIFA rankings since 1993. It's a bit sad to see how poorly Canada has compared to much poorer and smaller countries, but hopefully that will turn around in the next few years. In a subsequent post, he ranks the CONCACAF teams historically with the following list:

All Time CONCACAF Ranking (1993-current)

1 Mexico 5,525
2 United States 5,377
3 Costa Rica 4,953
4 Jamaica 4,927
5 Honduras 4,917
6 Trinidad 4,852
7 Canada 4,505
8 El Salvador 4,192
9 Guatemala 4,141
10 Cuba 3,899
11 Barbados 3,770
12 Haiti 3,674
13 Panama 3,544
14 St. Vincent 3,347
15 Grenada 3,186
16 St. Lucia 3,153
17 St. Kitts 2,972
18 Surinam 2,884
19 Antigua 2,717
20 Bermuda 2,374
21 Domincan Rep. 2,314
22 Net. Antilles 2,109
23 Cayman Is. 2,063
24 Dominica 1,990
25 Guyana 1,826
26 Puerto Rico 1,633
27 Nicaragua 1,535
28 British VI 1,327
29 Belize 1,214
30 Aruba 1,171
31 Bahamas 745
32 Anguilla 482
33 USVI 359
34 Turks & Caicos 192
35 Monserrat 123


The blog, Climbing the Ladder, is a must for anybody interested in USA domestic soccer (MLS), or the CONCACAF scene generally.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Germans are coming

A bit of googling and wikipedia searching has pointed me in the direction of a few new ranking sources. The key piece of the puzzle was the Aggr Ranking, a German website that hosts an aggregate ranking of FIFA's rankings, and some of the familiar alternatives like Elo, Ziaian, and AQB, as well as three others that are completely new to me:

The Roon BA is in English and provides a ranking, although no date, nor does it specify its method. It seems to be fairly in line with most of the more reputable lists. A women's international ranking is also available at this site.

Xocca is a German ranking and, besides the difficulty of trying to decipher country's names in the Teutonic tongue, also seems to be a respectable list. The method is provided, or at least sketched, but since my skills in German consist of looking for words I recognize from Dutch and filling in the blanks with semi-intelligent guesswork, I won't take the time to try to explain it right now.

Lastly, there is Bull's Fussball Weltrangliste, again German, but perhaps not quite as sound as the other new kids on the block. The top of the list looks OK but, even though I maybe biased, no ranking should have Canada (or should I say Kanada) at 109. Again, the method is explained, in some detail, but for now I'll leave it to my readers to figure it out.

The existence of these previously-unknown-to-me rankings leads me to believe that there are several more out there that I haven't found simply because they are published in some other language. I can do some French and Dutch googling, but beyond that I don't have the linguistic skills to find more. Any help is much appreciated.

update
: Check out the sidebar for permanent links to some of the above-mentioned rankings.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Hitting the books

These days, I'm doing a little extra-curricular reading on statistical methods with regards to ranking. So if you know of any academic studies of sports ranking systems, or any good non-sports-specific academic papers such as this one titled "On Minimum Violations Ranking in Paired Comparisons" that seem like they might be fruitful, leave me a comment with a link. If it is from a journal that isn't publicy accessible online, leave me the reference and I can probably get access to it. I'm not a statistics expert, but I learn fast so don't worry if they seem overly technical.

The idea behind all this is I've been interested for a while in developing an alternative to the FIFA rankings that might do a slightly better job. Again, I'm not a statistician, so this might seem a little presumptuous (well, it is definitely presumptuous), but it seems like fun.

And, for the heck of it, some search terms so that statisticians of the right sort will stumble upon this post: ranking, paired comparison, incomplete tournament, rank correlation, probability.

Upon further reading, the minimum violations ranking as described in the article cited above seems better suited to single-season competitions such as NCAA football. The international football calendar is ongoing and fluid and better suited to a system where points are accrued over time. It was a good read, though.

Monday, September 18, 2006

New rankings, same as the old rankings

It's been a long while since I posted on this blog, and there have already been three editions of FIFA's rankings for men's national sides, so it is probably time I share my two cents. Not only that, but it will help bump some of my ill-considered and incomplete World Cup projections off the top of this page.

I was optimistic when, earlier this year, press releases and articles began to appear indicating that FIFA recognized the flaws in its ranking procedures and had developed a new system. Before the first set of rankings were published following the World Cup finals in Germany, I posted indicating some of my reservations about the whole project.

Now it is time for me to take a swing at some of the more obvious faults from the first three editions of the rankings:
  1. They are extremely volatile. The inaugural July edition had Canada in 54th, probably a fair reflection of the country's performance and certainly a ranking which falls more in line with some of the other rating systems I refer to from time to time. Then in August, a 28 spot drop, having something to do with old results dropping out of the equation. And now, an 11-point jump on the strength(?) of a 1-0 friendly win over Jamaica in September. This was the only match for Canada since March (source).
  2. Expected victories -- that is, victories over relative minnows -- are given too much credit. One of the biggest movers and shakers in the September edition of the rankings is Cuba, who jumped 31 places from 100 to 69. The results that precipitated this jump were 6-0, 6-0 and 7-0 victories over the Turks and Caicois Islands, Bahamas, and Cayman Islands, ranked 170th, 138th and 177th respectively. Obviously the large margin of victory will have factored into the mix, but such scorelines are to be expected when such weak teams are involved.
That's all I have for now. Needless to say, in reforming their old ranking system, FIFA has not entirely solved the old problems and may have introduced some new ones.