We’ve said it on this site many times before: Nations should be scheduling friendlies to maximize their FIFA ranking. Not only does an increased ranking give countries international exposure and attract future talent, the FIFA Rankings are used to determine World Cup Qualifying Pots. While the qualifying format for confederations has not been decided yet, FIFA maintains that for purposes of World Cup related events, the FIFA Ranking must be used to separate teams into qualifying pots.
There is an extremely high probability that a FIFA Ranking released in the 3rd week of July 2015 will be the ranking used to break up the teams for 2018 World Cup Qualifying. That was the case in both 2010 and 2014 qualifying. That is the only edition of the FIFA Rankings that will be used, and that is the only ranking that matters in real terms.
The higher pot you are in for qualifying, the higher your chances of World Cup success. 9 of the 10 teams that were in Pot 1 in CAF progressed to the final round of qualifying. 4 of the 5 teams that were in Pot 1 in that round advanced to the World Cup. Just ask Egypt if they would’ve rather played Ghana or Ethiopia to get to the World Cup. Ask Morocco if they would’ve liked to avoid Ivory Coast. Ask Zambia if they would’ve liked to avoid Ghana. It doesn’t guarantee success to be in a higher pot, but when your opponents are weaker, your odds are drastically higher.
How Does The Ranking Work?
We won’t get into the nitty gritty of the details of the FIFA Rankings, but just give an overall view. The ranking is determined by a points system. The past 4 years of matches are included in the ranking with varying weights. All games from the date of the rankings to exactly one year prior to the ranking date are included in the first band. One year prior to two years prior from the date of the rankings are in the second band, and so on.
Year 1 gets 50% of the weight, Year 2 gets 25% of the weight, Year 3 gets 15% of the weight, and Year 4 gets 10% of the weight. Each year’s points are averaged over the number of matches played in that year. But there is a caveat, which we will get into shortly.
Year 2 Is Closing Soon
For purposes of the July 2015 FIFA Ranking, “Year 2” will be matches played in the time period from approximately July 22, 2013 – July 22, 2014. That means that after July 22 of this year, the Year 2 period will be locked. It will never change. The more teams do between now and that date, the better off they will be for the July 2015 ranking.
Yes, it is true that a good amount of teams may not benefit from a friendly match between now and July 22, but there is still an opportunity for teams to earn points. They should do that. And we can help.
But what’s the caveat? The caveat with the rankings is that if a team plays fewer than 5 matches in the yearly period, their results are devalued by a factor.
We’ll get into a little bit of math here to prove a point. The calculation of an average is always (Points Earned / Matches Played). When a team plays less than 5 matches, FIFA uses a devaluation factor of (Matches Played x 0.2). For example, if a team played 3 matches, the devaluation factor is 3 x 0.2 = 0.6. Basically they’re saying that you only get 60% of your average because you didn’t play 5 matches.
But, when you look at the formula for the average multiplied by the devaluation factor, you’ll notice that with some algebra the Matches Played term cancels out. It basically looks something like this:
————————— x (Matches Played x 0.2) = Points Earned x 0.2
So, what’s the point? The point is that for a team that plays 5 matches or fewer, it does not matter how many matches you play. All that matters is how many points you earn. And how do you earn points? By playing and getting points from more matches, up to a total of 5. Once you get beyond 5 matches, it’s a straight average, so additional matches could reduce the average.
Who Is Affected
The true purpose of this article is to point out that there are a large number of teams who will have fewer than 5 matches played in their “Year 2” period of the July 2015 rankings. The CAF teams are as follows:
|Cape Verde Islands||3|
|Central African Republic||3|
|Sao Tome e Principe||2|
|St. Vincent and Grenadines||4|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||2|
|St. Kitts and Nevis||0|
|Antigua and Barbuda||0|
Every single team on this list should be scheduling friendlies between now and July 22 to get them to a total of 5 matches. There is truly nothing to lose and everything to gain. There are some pretty good teams on that list. We rank Togo #13 in CAF, but they are severely hurting their chances to reach the World Cup by not playing more friendly matches. Likewise, Cape Verde is in our Top 10 in CAF, but their FIFA ranking will be lower when it truly matters next July. Sierra Leone is also a team we like a lot and should schedule a couple friendly matches.
El Salvador, Cuba, Haiti and plenty of other CONCACAF teams could use the help.
While there is nothing to lose, if you lose a friendly match you get 0 points. In scheduling these matches, teams should think about an evenly matched, or worse, opponent to hopefully get some points out of the match.
We’ll be happy to help, and we want to help. We understand that a lot of nations are in difficult financial positions, but in the long run, the cost of scheduling a friendly will be paid back many times over if a team reaches the World Cup. Heck, drive a bus to one of these other countries, stand on the pitch for 90 minutes, and go home with a draw and an improved FIFA Ranking. (Don’t do that, it’s bad sportsmanship). There is just absolutely nothing to lose.
Scheduling is extremely important. It can be controlled, and teams should be trying everything possible to get to the World Cup. Please get in contact with us @We_Global or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We can explain things further if necessary. We hope these teams do everything possible to increase their chances of going to the World Cup.
Thanks for reading.