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Friday, June 26, 2015

2018 FIFA World Cup: Preliminary draw pots for UEFA

The preliminary draw is less than a month from today.
 
Assuming UEFA will choose the July FIFA ranking for seeding, we already know the pots, as European teams have no matches left to play before the deadline.

These are the pots and some quick analysis.



Pot 1: Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, England, Wales, Spain, Croatia
Pot 2: Slovakia, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Czech Republic, France, Iceland, Denmark, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Pot 3: Ukraine, Scotland, Poland, Hungary, Sweden, Albania, Northern Ireland, Serbia, Greece
Pot 4: Turkey, Slovenia, Israel, Republic of Ireland, Norway, Bulgaria, Faroe Islands, Montenegro, Estonia
Pot 5: Cyprus, Latvia, Armenia, Finland, Belarus, FYR Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Lithuania, Moldova
Pot 6: Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Georgia, Malta, San Marino, Andorra


I'll go through the pots and look at the teams that failed to reach a higher pot because of friendlies. Of course, this may look like a sales pitch, but bear in mind I've e-mailed almost all these FAs after signing with Amplistan in August 2014. Also, I'm not the only one with knowledge of the FIFA rankings. And yes, I've told Romanian FA officials in the spring of 2014 to avoid playing friendlies. Surprisingly, they heeded my advice.

Pot 2

Slovakia

Elo Pot: 2
September simulations Pot: 3

If we were to add no extra information, we could say Slovakia should be very happy, as they performed better than expected. But there's more. Slovakia could have been in Pot 1. They are the only European team to win all their games in the last 12 months, both competitive and friendly games. Unfortunately for them, they have played 3 friendlies. In September 2014 against Malta, in November 2014 vs. Finland and in March 2015 vs. the Czech Republic. Without one of those three they would have been in Pot 1.

Austria

Elo Pot: 2
September simulations Pot: 3

Very similar to Slovakia. Won all their competitive games, with the exception of a home draw against Sweden. However, they decided they needed a glamour game vs. Brazil in November 2014. I assume they've paid a hefty appearance bill for Brazil and, of course, lost the game. Without that loss, or without the March 2015 friendly draw vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina they would have been in Pot 1.

Italy

Elo Pot: 1
September simulations Pot: 1

Italy had Pot 1 within their grasp, then decided to go for the money and scheduled a friendly vs. Portugal. They lost and Mr. Conte blames the FIFA ranking, of course.

Switzerland

Elo Pot: 2
September simulations Pot: 1

Although Switzerland didn't perform very well in the qualifiers, without the friendly vs. USA or the one vs. Poland they would have been in Pot 1.

Czech Republic

Elo Pot: 2
September simulations Pot: 2

The Czechs would have been in Pot 1 had they returned from Reykjavík with all the points in their latest qualifier, but they could have also been in Pot 1 without the friendly defeats vs. Slovakia and USA.

Iceland

Elo Pot: 3
September simulations Pot: 3

Iceland should congratulate themselves, right? Won the must-win match vs. the Czech Republic and landed in Pot 2. However, without the needless friendlies vs. Canada and Estonia they would have been in Pot 1.

Denmark

Elo Pot: 2
September simulations Pot: 2

Denmark would have been in Pot 1 without the friendly defeats vs. Romania and Turkey and the friendly win vs. Montenegro.

Pot 3

Ukraine

Elo Pot: 2
September simulations Pot: 2

Disastrous friendly choices and results. Always play vs. former Soviet Union countries and sometimes manage to get only 1 point. With a better choice of opponents and a better attitude on the field, they would have been in Pot 2. Without the friendlies vs. Latvia and Lithuania they would have been in Pot 2.

Scotland

Elo Pot: 3
September simulations Pot: 3

With a win in Dublin in their most recent qualifier they would have been in Pot 2. Looking at friendlies, they have the same problem as Austria apparently - they do love a glamour game vs. England. Without that November defeat, they would have been in Pot 2.

Poland

Elo Pot: 2
September simulations Pot: 4

Poland performed better than expected. They even defeated Germany in a competitive match. Then they shot themselves in both feet by playing a friendly vs. Greece in June. They would have been in Pot 2 without it. Thanks to the Anonymous Polish reader who brought an error to my attention. Poland would have been in Pot 3 even with a win against Greece.)

Sweden

Elo Pot: 2
September simulations Pot: 2

Not much to say here, really. Without the loss vs. France and with 3 points vs. Norway in June they would have been in Pot 2. However, the Swedish FA do not care about the ranking, they care about developing players. When was the last time they've played in the World Cup? 2006? The player development approach might not be working as expected.

Northern Ireland

Elo Pot: 4
September simulations Pot: 4

Again an apparently happy team. However, without the friendlies vs. Scotland and Qatar they would have been in Pot 2.

Hungary

Elo Pot: 3
September simulations Pot: 4

Would have been in Pot 2 without that friendly defeat vs. Russia.

Pot 4

Turkey

Elo Pot: 3
September simulations Pot: 3

What's the use of playing Brazil when you know the seeding for the World Cup draw will very likely be seeded using the FIFA ranking? Some goes for playing Luxembourg. Would have been in Pot 3 without these two matches.

Slovenia

Elo Pot: 4
September simulations Pot: 4

Who in their right mind would play Colombia in the last time frame? Or go to Qatar on a shopping trip instead of trying to get the win? Without either of these two defeats they would have been in Pot 3.

Pot 5

Cyprus

Elo Pot: 5
September simulations Pot: 5

Without the September 2014 defeat vs. Croatia they would have been in Pot 4.

Now, about useful friendlies. In the past 12 months there are 35 friendlies that have improved a team's total points. There are 23 teams with useful friendlies, but just two have climbed to a better pot because of friendlies.

Serbia would have been in Pot 4 (instead of 3) had they not played vs. Greece in November 2014.

Estonia would have been in Pot 5 (instead of 4) had they not played vs. Norway, Finland and Jordan.

29 comments:

  1. One conclusion jumps into my mind, reading this overview. If you have any aspirations to get as highly seeded as possible in a World Cup qualification (or final) draw: avoid any friendlies in the year leading to the draw and in general limit the number of friendlies to the absolute minimum.

    ReplyDelete
  2. How did Scotland's ridiculous friendly v Qatar affect their ranking, please?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lost 15 points. Still in pot 3 even without that friendly vs. Qatar.

      Delete
  3. Wales (or is it Amplistan?) have played zero friendlies in the past 12 months and Bingo! into Pot 1 they go.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm afraid I can't comment on that. :)

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    2. * Because wales have lost 1 of the last 11 games (only loss being a friendly v NED).
      * Qualification games (8 of those 11) are weighted more than friendlies.
      * As a Pot 4 team, the wins are worth more points v higher ranked teams

      Delete
    3. Wales are top of a tough group in the European qualifiers and are unbeaten, also have beaten the second best team in the world and on July 9th will be in the top 10 in the world so they should be in pot 1

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    4. Yes and if they draw Spain at the Euros I'll be betting all my money on Wales to win. After all they're ranked higher than them in the rankings.

      In all seriousness nobody can knock Wales' results lately, but anyone that's actually watched those games knows there's more to the story. The last two wins were great performances whereas scraping a win in Andorra and getting completely outplayed by Bosnia at home were pretty ropey to put it mildly. You see this quite often with the rankings - a highly ranked but fairly mediocre team (Belgium) losing a game or two to a lower ranked opponent causing the latter to shoot up the rankings.

      It doesn't mean a great deal long-term, but Wales have the good fortune timing-wise to be pot 1 in the draw now and they should be delighted with that - the timing being completely arbitrary as it's half way through another qualifying campaign.

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    5. I was at the Bosnia game and would dispute that we were completely outplayed, however your general point is valid. I would add however that we were very unlucky a few qualifiers ago (last world cup?) when the rankings were used again at an early date and we were around 100th in the world and were in the last pot. We then won a few games and by the time the qualifiers started we were nominally 3rd or 4th seed for the group. This time it has gone the other way - but makes more sense to do this a lot closer to when the qualifiers start.

      Delete
  4. and if all teams had skipped their friendlies ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is a bit difficult to compute because I would have to recompute 4 years of rankings.

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  5. I dont understand.Slovakia have won all 3 friendly matches.Why it was bad for them?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. the system does not make sense. team that play no friendies rewarded. and teams that play them and win not rewarded.

      regardless the draws are always fixed. slovakia will draw wales in group stages. dont worry

      Delete
  6. Column p4 shows that almost all countries in pot 2 (besides France and Bosnia-Herzegovina) could be in pot 1 if they hadn't played a friendly last year. Also more than half of the pot 3 teams would be in pot 2.
    But what's more fair to compare is the case if all countries hadn't played a friendly last year (column p3). In that case Slovakia and Austria would be in pot 1 instead of Wales and Croatia. Poland would be in pot 2 instead of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
    France is the odd duck in this aspect because they have only played friendlies last year and no qualifiers to compensate. They would drop heavily to pot 4 and Northern Ireland and Slovenia would replace them in a higher pot.

    From the columns >fr1-4 you can see that especially the top teams hardly play a friendly that delivers more matchpoints than their timeframe average. The dutch win over Spain, the belgian win over France, the spanish win over Costa Rica and the italian win over The Netherlands were the four rewarding friendlies last year for the top-18 teams out of 51 friendlies (leaving France aside), that's 8%.
    Further down this table it becomes of course more rewarding to play friendlies as the timeframe averages drop.

    ReplyDelete
  7. A further analysis of the influence of friendlies on the pot-distribution of UEFA-countries for the WC-draw.

    f1-f4 number of friendlies in timeframe 1-4 for July-ranking
    ft total number of friendlies
    >f1->f4 number of friendlies in timeframe 1-4 with matchpoints > timeframe avg
    >f total number of friendlies with matchpoints > timeframe avg
    r1 UEFA-position in July-ranking FIFA
    r2 UEFA-position in July-ranking without any friendlies the last 4 years
    r3 UEFA-position in July-ranking if all countries hadn't played friendlies in timeframe 1
    r4 max. UEFA-position in July-ranking if the country hadn't played a friendly in timeframe 1
    p1-p3 pot-distribution per ranking
    p4 max. pot in case the country hadn't played a friendly in timeframe 1

    team f1 f2 f3 f4 ft| >f1 >f2 >f3 >f4 >f| r1 r2 r3 r4| p1 p2 p3 p4
    GER 4 7 5 7 23| 0 0 2 0 02| 01 01 01 01| 1 1 1 1
    BEL 3 6 4 7 20| 1 0 0 2 03| 02 05 06 02| 1 1 1 1
    NED 4 7 5 6 22| 1 0 0 3 04| 03 02 04 02| 1 1 1 1
    POR 4 6 4 4 18| 0 0 1 0 01| 04 03 02 01| 1 1 1 1
    ROU 1 4 4 7 16| 0 1 2 2 05| 05 10 08 03| 1 2 1 1
    ENG 4 7 5 5 21| 0 3 2 0 05| 06 06 03 01| 1 1 1 1
    WAL 0 4 2 4 10| 0 1 1 0 02| 07 14 13 07| 1 2 2 1
    ESP 4 6 6 8 24| 1 2 0 0 03| 08 04 05 02| 1 1 1 1
    CRO 2 5 3 4 14| 0 2 0 0 02| 09 11 12 05| 1 2 2 1
    SVK 3 5 4 4 16| 0 3 1 2 06| 10 16 09 04| 2 2 1 1
    AUT 2 5 3 5 15| 0 2 1 2 05| 11 13 07 03| 2 2 1 1
    ITA 4 6 6 5 21| 1 0 0 0 01| 12 07 15 08| 2 1 2 1
    SUI 3 5 3 6 17| 0 0 0 1 01| 13 12 16 09| 2 2 2 1
    CZE 2 5 4 5 16| 0 1 2 0 03| 14 15 14 08| 2 2 2 1
    FRA 10 6 6 7 29| 5 0 1 2 08| 15 26 33 32| 2 3 4 4
    ISL 4 5 3 5 17| 0 0 0 0 00| 16 09 10 04| 2 1 2 1
    DEN 5 5 6 6 22| 0 2 2 0 04| 17 08 11 04| 2 1 2 1
    BIH 2 5 3 5 15| 0 2 0 0 02| 18 17 20 16| 2 2 3 2
    UKR 4 3 4 11 22| 0 0 1 5 06| 19 20 19 15| 3 3 3 2
    RUS 4 6 4 5 19| 3 3 0 0 06| 20 22 24 20| - - - -
    SCO 3 5 3 4 15| 1 1 2 1 05| 21 24 22 18| 3 3 3 2
    POL 2 8 6 11 27| 0 4 2 6 12| 22 23 17 15| 3 3 2 2
    HUN 2 5 4 5 16| 0 1 0 1 02| 23 21 23 18| 3 3 3 2
    SWE 5 6 6 7 24| 2 2 3 2 09| 24 19 21 18| 3 3 3 2
    ALB 3 6 2 6 17| 1 4 0 3 08| 25 29 25 22| 3 4 3 3
    NIR 2 4 2 2 10| 0 0 0 0 00| 26 18 18 15| 3 2 2 2
    SRB 3 7 3 8 21| 1 1 1 1 04| 27 28 28 28| 3 3 3 3
    GRE 2 5 3 6 16| 1 0 0 0 01| 28 27 27 27| 3 3 3 3
    TUR 4 7 5 6 22| 2 2 0 3 07| 29 30 30 29| 4 4 4 4
    SVN 2 5 4 4 15| 0 0 2 0 02| 30 25 26 25| 4 3 3 3
    ISR 0 4 4 4 12| 0 1 2 0 03| 31 33 31 31| 4 4 4 4
    IRL 3 8 7 3 21| 1 5 3 1 10| 32 32 29 29| 4 4 4 4
    NOR 4 8 5 6 23| 0 3 2 2 07| 33 31 32 32| 4 4 4 4
    BUL 1 3 4 5 13| 0 1 1 2 04| 34 35 34 33| 4 4 4 4
    FRO 0 2 1 0 03| 0 0 0 0 00| 35 37 35 35| 4 4 4 4
    MNE 1 5 1 3 10| 0 2 0 2 04| 36 39 37 36| 4 5 4 4
    EST 6 7 7 8 28| 3 3 3 1 10| 37 36 36 36| 4 4 4 4
    CYP 1 2 3 3 09| 0 1 0 2 03| 38 38 38 36| 5 5 5 4
    LVA 2 5 4 5 16| 1 2 1 1 05| 39 41 42 42| 5 5 5 5
    ARM 2 5 3 5 15| 0 1 1 1 03| 40 34 40 38| 5 4 5 5
    FIN 2 7 5 6 20| 0 3 1 3 07| 41 40 39 38| 5 5 5 5
    BLR 4 8 6 5 23| 2 6 4 1 13| 42 47 44 42| 5 6 5 5
    MKD 1 5 6 5 17| 1 2 3 2 08| 43 45 45 43| 5 5 5 5
    AZE 3 5 3 6 17| 1 0 2 1 04| 44 43 43 43| 5 5 5 5
    LTU 4 6 2 4 16| 1 1 0 2 04| 45 42 41 42| 5 5 5 5
    MDA 3 9 3 5 20| 0 1 1 1 03| 46 44 46 46| 5 5 5 5
    KAZ 5 3 2 4 14| 4 1 1 3 09| 47 50 49 51| 6 6 6 6
    LUX 2 4 4 4 14| 1 2 1 1 05| 48 48 48 48| 6 6 6 6
    LIE 3 4 4 3 14| 1 0 1 0 02| 49 46 47 47| 6 5 6 6
    GEO 2 4 4 4 14| 1 2 1 2 06| 50 49 50 51| 6 6 6 6
    MLT 3 3 3 3 12| 1 1 2 3 07| 51 51 51 51| 6 6 6 6
    SMR 1 1 2 1 05| 0 0 0 0 00| 52 52 52 52| 6 6 6 6
    AND 1 3 2 2 08| 0 1 0 1 02| 53 53 53 53| 6 6 6 6

    ReplyDelete
  8. Italy did not play the friendly against Portugal for money; it played it because Conte had asked for two two-day meetings with players at Coverciano during the season and Serie A big teams said no. The friendly was sort of a compromise. Also Conte blamed the previous management (Prandelli) for losing a spot in pot one.

    I want to add that seeing in pot one a country that has not qualified for a World Cup or a European Championship since 1958 makes zero sense.

    What's next? A World Cup hosted by Qatar?

    ReplyDelete
  9. People used to complain that the FIFA World Rankings do not sufficiently represent a teams most recent good or bad performances. Now it's the opposite.

    Wales' projected rise in the rankings to above Italy, France etc is definitely bizzare but is somewhat reflective of their unbeaten run against highly ranked teams.

    Big teams ending up below Wales have either not performed as good as expected, or have not had a chance to gain big points, even with wins.

    I'm not fully pleased with the July 2015 rankings being used, but the only alternative I see is using older rankings like CONCACAF did. But unfortunately this puts the recent good results of WAL, SVK, ISL, NIR, etc to waste, in terms of seeding.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Slovakias great form and Bosnians awful form of late... equal same pot. LOL

    thanks FIFA

    ReplyDelete
  11. Are You sure about Poland defeating Greece would land in pot 2? Becouse our local media reported that even with win we would be one point behind last pot 2 team (IIRC Bosnia).Only not playing would secure advancing to pot 2. Ofcourse our coach said that friendlies help to consolidate squad blah blah... .Now we get Spain and France and goodbye another World Cup.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You and your local media are right.

      Delete
  12. Matches against Gibraltar (since they are only a member of UEFA, but not FIFA) do not count at all for the World Rankings, even if they are continental qualifiers. Germany, Poland, Scotland, Ireland and Georgia play Gibraltar in Euro 2016 qualifying but get no points of this. Can you look at the effects of this?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Croatia played a friendly vs Gibraltar in June. Had that friendly counted for the rankings, Croatia would not be seeded in the WC draw. This was an unbelievable stroke of luck for Croatia because the HNS did not have a clue about the rankings and they just wanted to play a friendly before the Italy match. And it is by mere chance that they arranged a friendly precisely with the only team that will not hurt their ranking. I spoke with some people from HNS and they said they did not know anything about the ranking and seedings.

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  13. From FIFA.com
    ----------------------
    It should also be noted that UEFA have requested that England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands must be drawn into a group containing six teams.
    -----------------------

    So, two 5-team groups are going to be jack-pot for teams seeded below 2-nd pot.
    And if there is no 'unoficial' seeding of Italy & France against mentioned above 4 teams from pot 1, then it increases chances to get group of death like Germany & Italy or Spain & France again...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yes, UEFA's Greed for TV money ... sorry I meant "consideration for media rights"... increases the probability of Italy and France drawing one of the other "big" 4 and therefore of one of them failing to qualify.

      Unintended consequences...

      Delete
  14. Will the 3 point to Albania against Serbia, awarded by CAS change the ranking?

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    Replies
    1. It will change the August ranking. FIFA don't recalculate the ranking if the decision was taken after the deadline for matches.

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  15. On the other hand you could end up with a group of Wales, Iceland, Albania, Faroe Islands, Cyprus and San Marino.

    At least that would be based on some form of sporting merit as skewed as it may be. Introducing criteria based on media rights is a very very bad idea in my opinion. IN fact, why bother with qualification at all, let's just put the 13 UEFA nations with biggest TV markets into the finals and save everyone the expense of playing matches?

    ReplyDelete
  16. In South America qualifying no team will have to play giants Brazil and Argentina in the same weekend double header, why is this? Does this mean that no team will have to play giants Spain and France in a weekend double header???

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    Replies
    1. Don't know - it was a CONMEBOL request. Most likely for media purposes.

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