n August 1993 FIFA, working in co-operation with the Coca-Cola Company, introduced a ranking system for senior national teams. The system makes it possible to publish comparisons of the relative strengths of internationally active teams at regular intervals. Since its introduction, the FIFA/Coca-Cola Ranking has proved to be a reliable measure for comparing national A-teams. Over the years, some of the details of the ranking process have proved to be in need of improvement, and appropriate revised versions were put into effect at the beginning of 1999. The following is an overview of the revised basis on which the ranking is calculated. By providing explanations of the various criteria involved and some concrete examples, it is hoped that it will be easier in future to understand and interpret the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking List.
The FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking includes the national A-teams of all FIFA member associations who play international matches. Not included in the calculation are matches played by junior teams or other representative national sides (such as the women's national team). Taken into consideration for the ranking are all international-A match results over a time span of the last eight years: - World Cup finals matches
- World Cup preliminary matches
- Continental championship final matches
- Continental championship preliminary matches
- FIFA Confederations Cup matches
- Friendly matches
The ranking list is produced by a computer program which assigns a team points for every match, according to clearly defined criteria. The factors taken into consideration are: - Winning, drawing and losing
- Number of goals
- Home or away match
- Importance of the match (multiplication factor)
- Strenght of the opponent
- Regional strength (multiplication factor)
The basic idea behind the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings is the same as that for a normal championship: a team can win a certain number of points for each match, depending on the results, and the points are totalled. The association with the highest total is at the top of the ranking list. But by contrast to normal league championships, for the World Ranking a team's points for a match do not depend solely on whether they win, lose or draw. Also affecting the total for a match will be the number of goals scored and conceded, the venue and the importance of the match. In addition, the strength of the opponent is considered, so that a win over a weakly rated opponent will earn fewer points than one against a strongly rated one. This means that a win will not simply bring two or three points and a draw one, as would happen in a national league. The calculation is more complicated since it incorporates the factors mentioned above. To make the ranking list more understandable, the 1999 revision has been "scaled up". Previously, a win could earn between one and three points; now the scale has been multiplied by ten, so a win can bring between ten and thirty points, according to the opponent. The overall totals of teams in the list will from now on range from 0 up to about 800 points. The following sections give details of the individual weighting criteria, and the results of applying these principles can be seen in some examples in Section 4.
Naturally a win will bring more points than a defeat in any system, but simply giving two or three points for a win, one for a draw and none for a defeat, would not fully meet all the requirements for a reliable world-wide ranking system. Therefore the distribution of points also takes into consideration the relative strengths of the two teams. In practice this means that a win over a weaker opponent will earn fewer points than victory over an equally rated or stronger one. It is also possible for a weak team that puts up a good show against a stronger one to earn points in defeat - though as a general rule not as many as the stronger team that beat them. (see example in Section 4). A special exception is made for matches that are decided on penalties; the winning team earns the full number of points for a win, while the losing team gets the number of points that would have been awarded for a draw.
A further factor taken into consideration is the number of goals scored and conceded in a match. Here too the distribution of these points depends on the relative strengths of the two teams. In other words, a goal scored by the lower-rated team will be weighted more than one scored by the higher-rated side. On the other side of the balance sheet, points are deducted for goals conceded. To encourage attacking football with more goals, goals conceded are weighted less than goals scored. In matches decided on penalties, only goals scored during regular playing time or extra time are considered in the calculation. A possible "overweighting" of goals is avoided by attaching more importance to the first goal that a team scores than to any subsequent ones. On the whole, the number of goals scored can never earn as many points as would be awarded for a win. This is in accordance with the general principle that while more goals may make the result look more impressive, in the final reckoning - as in normal league championships - it is winning or losing that is decisive.
To make an allowance for the extra handicap of playing away from home, the away-team is awarded a small bonus of 3 points. For games played on neutral territory or during World Cup final rounds there are no such bonus points.
The importance of a game is also considered - a World Cup encounter is weighted more heavily than a friendly match. The method applied here is to use a pre-calculated factor by which the points totals of a given match are multiplied. The factors used are:
This means that qualifying matches are weighted 50% higher than friendlies, continental final round matches 75 % higher and matches during World Cup finals twice as much.
It is accepted that there are differences in strength between the various continents. To take these into account in an objective manner, weighting factors are worked out each year for each of the confederations. The basis of evaluation for each continent is the performance of its teams in direct intercontinental encounters. At the end of every year a continental ranking list is calculated, based on the same criteria as used for the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. Taken into consideration are not all the intercontinental matches played by teams from a given continent, but only the direct confrontations between the strongest teams from each continent. Specifically this means that what is included are matches between the best 25 per cent of the teams from a given continent (with a minimum of 5 teams being considered). This way the danger is averted of errors possibly being introduced by considering matches between strong teams of a weak confederation against weak teams of a strong one. The weightings are applied in the form of multiplication factors for teams from the same continent (see below). If teams from two different confederations are involved then the factor applied is the average of the two continental weightings. For 1999, the following weighting factors will apply:
Based on the above considerations, the total number of points credited to a team after a match will depend on the following criteria: - Points for winning, drawing or losing
- Plus the points for goals scored in this game
- Minus points for the goals conceded
- Plus a bonus for the away team
- Multiplied by the appropriate factor for the status of the match
- Multiplied by the appropriate factor for regional strength
The number of points for a win, draw or loss, as well as for the number of goals scored or conceded is dependent on the strength of the opponent. In order not to punish a lack of success too severely, a negative points total is rounded up to 0.00.
Some actual examples should help to make the methods of calculation clear. In this instance it is assumed that three teams of different strengths are involved in a small friendly tournament on neutral territory. For the sake of clarity no away team bonus, nor continental or status multiplication factors are applied. Before the tournament the three team have the following points totals:
Thus, team A is by some distance the highest ranked of the three: The following table shows the points allocations based on three possible outcomes of the match between the strongest team A, and the somewhat weaker team B:
From the table it can be seen that in the case of a 3:1 win, team A is allocated a total of 21.0 points. But as the more highly ranked team, the win itself only earns 17.4 of these. The lower-rated team B still earns 1.7 points. Had the "weaker" team B won the match 3:1, they would have received 27.4 points, while the then negative total for team A would have been rounded up to 0.00. For a 2:2 draw, team B would have earned a few points more than A, for being the lower-rated team. When the difference in strength between the two teams is less, so also will be the difference in points allocation. The following table illustrates how the points would be divided following the same results as above, but with two roughly equally ranked teams, B and C, being involved:
In this case, it can be seen that for either team, approximately the same number of points would be awarded for a win or a draw, with team C getting slightly more since they are ranked a little lower. There would normally be a bonus for the away team, which would be added to the above. Then the total would be multiplied by weighting factors that take into account the importance of the match and the regional strengths. Thus, for example, if the games above had been played during a World Cup final round, then the points total would first be doubled, and then multiplied by the continental weighting factor for the two teams involved.
To obtain a greater degree of objectivity in the ranking list, two further criteria have to be considered: - The number of matches a team plays within a given period of time
- The importance to be attached to results from previous years.
So that teams playing more international matches are not favoured over those playing fewer, only a limited number of games are taken into consideration. This number has been determined by deciding on what could be termed the "averagely active teams", and these were agreed on as those having played between seven and ten matches per year. So that less active teams are not disadvantaged in the ranking, the calculation initially considers only the seven best results. Further results are included, by working out an average for them. The situation is best clarified by means of an example. Suppose a team plays twelve matches; then the calculation would run like this: - The best seven of the 12 results are identified
- The total score for these seven matches is calculated (X)
- The total score for all 12 matches is calculated
- This total is divided by 12 and multiplied by seven (Y)
- The total for the seven best results is added to the seven "average" results (X+Y)
- This total (X+Y) is divided by two for the final score
So that the ranking accurately reflects current form, the greatest importance is attached to matches played in the last twelve months. But attention is also paid to results from previous years. Basically, the current year's points total is averaged in with points earned in the seven preceding years, with weightings that decline progressively the further back we go. After eight years, results are dropped from the calculation altogether. Thus the points included in the calculations for the ranking at the end of 1998 would comprise the following:
The team topping the final ranking list of the year is designated 'Team of the Year'. The award for the "Best Mover of the Year" in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking is not based simply on the biggest jump in the number of points or in the number of places up the ranking ladder. What also has to be taken into consideration is the fact that it becomes progressively harder for a team to earn points the more it already has. Thus to decide on the " Best Mover of the Year " a calculation is performed that multiplies the number of points a team has at the end of the year [x] by the number it has earned during the year [y]. The team with the highest index obtained in this way wins the award. The table below shows the calculation for the year 1994.
Note: Since the points totals in the revised 1999 calculations have gone up by a factor of ten, the index values here will go up correspondingly too.
The program for calculating and up-dating the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking was developed for FIFA by two specialists, Dr. Markus Lamprecht and Dr. Hanspeter Stamm. The development of the program (including the 1999 revisions) was carried out in close co-operation with football experts, and the Communications and Competitions Divisions of FIFA. |
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