Results prove FIFA rankings don’t add up

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Results prove FIFA rankings don’t add up

The soccer world is ranked in two ways. The official way is by FIFA, the soccer's world governing body. The other way is the perception of the fans.
Brazil is currently ranked atop FIFA’s world ranking and it’s safe to say that most soccer fans around the world would agree with that. Nevertheless, fans have argued over the validity of the rankings since they were introduced in 1993.
The World Cup results have shown that the Czech Republic is not the world’s second-ranked team, as the FIFA rankings indicate. The Czechs lost two out of their three games and failed to advance out of their group.
Then there was the early exit of the United States, ranked fifth by FIFA. The United States failed to win any of its games, and was beaten 2-1 by African upstart Ghana, ranked 48th.
Both the Czech Republic and the United States are ranked ahead of soccer powerhouses such as Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Germany and England, who all made the final 16 in the tournament.
The rankings are significant, because the top eight seeded teams are separated into eight separate groups for the World Cup finals. The seeds are based on the FIFA rankings over the past three years and the teams’ performances in past two World Cups. This year, Italy got the top seed in the group with the U.S. and the Czech Republic.
Nigeria, Denmark, Turkey and Cameroon ranked 11th, 14th and 15th in that order, and did not even qualify for the World Cup finals. Out of the top 32 countries ranked by FIFA, 11 countries are watching the event from home. Togo, ranked 60th, is one of the Cup qualifiers, however.
For each team, only the seven best results from games per year are given full weighting. Results from the past are given progressively less weighting year after year, until they stop being counted after eight years.
FIFA says the method gives more weighting to recent performances.
A team's points do not depend solely on whether they win, lose or draw. Various factors, including total points in a match, the number of goals scored and conceded, the venue and the importance of the match are considered. The strength of the opponent counts, too, so a win over a weak opponent is worth less than one against a strongly rated team.
While there was a revision in 1999 of the rankings, the Associated Press reported that FIFA will use a new ranking system after this year's World Cup. Points will count for matches over the last four years instead of the last eight.

by Brian Lee
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