The FIFA rankings suck. Not only do they poorly predict the outcome of matches, but you have to wait a month for updates.
The Power Rank international football / soccer rankings do better. The ranking algorithm considers margin of victory in adjusting for schedule strength in international soccer. As an academic study has shown, using margin of victory is critical in making predictions.
In addition, the international rankings are now updated daily.
This constant updating is interesting during the World Cup. My rankings use a 4 year window of matches and weight matches by their importance.
- World Cup Finals: 4.
- World Cup Qualifiers, Confederations Cup, Continental Finals: 3.
- Continental Qualifiers, 2.
- Friendlies, 1.
Since we’re in the middle of a World Cup, the rankings add important matches each day while dropping results from the previous World Cup. This leads to some interesting changes for certain teams.
Spain and the Netherlands
The Netherlands dominated Spain in a 5-1 win last week. This dropped an aging Spain team down to 6th. The FIFA rankings still have Spain as the top team.
The Dutch have risen to 4th. It mystifies me why more people didn’t think this traditional power could win this World Cup.
Germany and Brazil
While most other respectable rankings have Brazil on top, the weighting of matches in The Power Rank vaults Germany ahead of Brazil.
Germany has played well in the last two World Cups. In 2010, they dominated Argentina in a 4-0 rout. Just last week, they beat Portugal, another top 10 team, by the same margin.
With no weighting, Brazil would be the top team in The Power Rank.
United States and Ghana
The Yanks are 18th currently, one spot above the Ghana squad they just beat.
The United States won the game because of two great finishes by Clint Dempsey and John Brooks. However, between these two goals, Ghana dominated possession and scoring opportunities. They were the better team.
Colombia and Chile
These two South American teams are in the top 10. Colombia is ranked higher at 5th, but Chile is not far behind at 7th.
From this World Cup, the Colombia looks like the better team. They continue to score goals despite the absence of Radamel Falcao, their leading scorer in qualifying.
Moreover, my aggregated win probabilities before the World Cup gave Colombia an almost 4% chance to win it all. Chile only had a 1.9% chance.
Belgium and France
Belgium has generated much chatter as a dark horse World Cup champion. Young players like Eden Hazard have dazzled on the pitch at this World Cup.
However, their performance over the last 4 years ranks them 13th in The Power Rank. That puts them lower than France (9th), a team no has talked about as World Cup champion. (Of course, France is missing star winger Frank Ribery for this World Cup.)
Belgium’s play as a team does not make me believe they will contend for the World Cup title. My aggregated win probabilities before the tourney agree with this assessment. Belgium had the 11th highest win probability at 2.3%.
Rankings of World Cup teams
Here are rankings of the 32 World Cup teams that consider matches from June 20, 2010 through June 19, 2014. The record gives wins, losses and ties over the past 4 years. The rating gives an expected margin of victory against an average international team.
1. Germany, (37-7-11), 2.52
2. Brazil, (40-9-12), 2.28
3. Argentina, (32-8-15), 2.15
4. Netherlands, (33-9-11), 2.09
5. Colombia, (24-8-11), 2.09
6. Spain, (45-8-8), 2.05
7. Chile, (29-17-9), 1.69
8. Uruguay, (28-14-15), 1.69
9. France, (28-11-12), 1.59
10. Portugal, (26-9-13), 1.54
11. Ecuador, (17-14-15), 1.48
12. Mexico, (35-18-17), 1.48
13. Belgium, (22-8-12), 1.44
14. England, (25-8-14), 1.43
15. Ivory Coast, (31-7-9), 1.42
16. Italy, (22-12-21), 1.40
17. Ghana, (30-15-14), 1.29
18. United States, (37-17-12), 1.25
19. Russia, (24-6-13), 1.25
21. Switzerland, (20-7-12), 1.23
23. Croatia, (24-10-11), 1.16
24. Nigeria, (29-11-21), 1.11
27. Japan, (33-12-13), 1.07
28. Bosnia-Herzegovina, (21-14-7), 1.03
30. Costa Rica, (25-23-19), 0.95
32. Greece, (24-8-16), 0.91
34. Australia, (26-16-11), 0.87
35. Iran, (30-8-16), 0.85
38. South Korea, (24-17-12), 0.80
43. Honduras, (22-24-18), 0.75
50. Cameroon, (16-13-12), 0.60
53. Algeria, (19-10-6), 0.56
For all teams, click here.
The Power Rank also provides predictions for each match and stages of the competition, both of which are update nightly.
These predictions use a different set of rankings that consider a 12 year window of games. Research as shown that these calculations are as accurate in predicting match outcomes as using a 4 year window.
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