Today the latest Fifa rankings came out. The latest amendment has seen Bafana Bafana drop to 53rd, Spain remain in the top spot and England go to 5th one place above Brazil. Egypt fell by only place, despite not even qualifying for the chance to defend their Afcon title.
The question is, how are these rankings calculated? The Siya crew looked into and found discovered that it is not quite as fair as it should be.
Not so long back, despite being the reigning champions of Europe and the World, La Roja found themselves in second place to the Netherlands. Since then Holland have spanked San Marino 11-0 and beat Finland by two goals to nil away from home, this month they dropped to second place.
While everybody takes note of the Fifa rankings, many are critical of it, and even more people don’t know how it is worked out. After looking at the formula, it’s not difficult to see why.
Basically, there is a ‘simple’ way of working it out, you get a certain amount of ranking points per game, and your points total helps decide your position.
Put into Layman’s terms, the points you gain per match are a multiplication of the result, the importance of the game, the quality of your opponent and the strength of the confederation it’s in.
In a formula: Points = (M x I x T x C)
M – Match result. Three points for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss.
I – Importance of the game. Friendlies are worth 1 point, qualifiers are worth 2.5, 3 for a Confederation or Fifa Confederation’s Cup game and 4 if it’s a World Cup match. If a game takes place between two nations from different regions, an average is taken from the two confederation scores.
T – Team quality. This is worked out by taking the number 200 and subtracting the opposition’s current ranking. If a team is ranked outside the top 150 they are given a value of 50.
C – Confederation Strength. UEFA and CONMEBOL is equal to one point, CONCACAF is worth 0.88, AFC and CAF it’s 0.86 and OFC are 0.85.
So, to give an example. Bafana got 214.14 points for their victory against Tanzania. Three points for the win, one point because it was a friendly, 83 for Tanzania’s 117th placing and then finally 0.86 for CAF’s rating. (3x1x83x0.86)
In comparison, their 1-0 victory against Egypt in March earnt them 1064.25 points. The higher total coming because The Pharaohs rank much higher and the fact that it was a qualifier. (3×2.5x165x0.86)
The final score from the match is then added to the nation’s points average over the previous 12 months. Finally, just to add more complications, the team’s results from the last 48 months are brought into consideration, although their significance lessens every passing year.
Averages are worth 50% of their initial score after 12 months, 30% after 24 months and 20% in the period 36-48 months after the result. When games fall outside of a four-year period, they are no longer taken into consideration.
Basically, you do not even have to play a game to fall or rise in the Fifa rankings. If you win a big game, but don’t back it up with more victories it becomes less significant every passing year.
From looking at this system it shows that Fifa value European bouts higher than all others. For instance, if a team from Europe beats Armenia (44th) in a friendly, they can gain 468 points, whereas if an African team manages to beat Nigeria (43rd) they can only earn 405.06 How many Armenian players have made it on the global stage in comparison to the Nigerians who have had players shine in top leagues such as the Premier League and Serie A. It doesn’t seem fair.
Another example is that, should England beat Montenegro they would gain more points than if South Africa beat Ivory Coast. If Bafana and Ivory Coast were in Europe, they would earn an extra 60 points, put simply, they get less, just because they’re African.
I worked through England’s results during and post the 2010 World Cup, working out their points totals in relation to the Fifa formula. Until the Spain game they hadn’t beaten a team inside the top 16 team in the world and have drawn to the likes of Ghana, who in 37th place are deemed to be worse than Montenegro (26th), another team who England have drawn to, despite the Black Stars reaching the quarter-finals in South Africa. It doesn’t seem like the form of a side who is ranked 8th in the world.
At the end of the day it is hard to judge a game based on the team’s ranking in the first place. There are all sorts of circumstances that can make a game difficult, playing in Niger for instance, it’s a hostile environment and it’s not just the quality of your opposition that impacts on the game.
Written for Soccer-Laduma, November 2011.
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