Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The state of football in Canada (July 4)

I think we have a real chance at qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. We have a difficult group (Mexico, Jamaica and Honduras), but we have the talent, the drive and hopefully this time a little luck. Mexico will probably top the group, but we should beat Jamaica and we can beat Honduras. Our 3-2 loss against Brazil's first team should serve as inspiration for our men.

We just dropped 17 places in the FIFA rankings, even though we had a winning record in June (2-0-1). An email exchange with my friend Lucas:

Me: US down to 30, heh, though we're down to 77. From the Canada Soccer website:
"Canada’s men’s national team posted one draw and two wins in June, including back-to-back wins over Saint Vincent & the Grenadines in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ Qualifiers. Canada lost points in the standings, however, because older matches lost their value (most notably, last year's CONCACAF Gold Cup)."

Lucas: That's the first good evidence I've seen of how stupid the ranking system is. There is no logic that a team loses 15 spots during a period in which they were 2-0-1. Even if they were a perfect 3-0, they'd still lose ground.

Me: I don't know. If the games that are falling off were wins against Colombia or Mexico, it would make sense. Our ranking (62) was dependent on those wins, and even though we had a winning record in June it was against crap teams. You could just as easily make the case that our ranking at 62 was artificially high, given that some of the points for the ranking were from four years ago.

Lucas: Sure, but a team shouldn't lose ground by doing nothing but winning. Maybe they shouldn't gain ground if their opponents are lower ranking, but to lose ground in a period where you have nothing but positive results is absurd. That way you're not ranking the team, you're ranking their schedule.

Me: But that doesn't address the issue of points falling off as they pass out of the ranking period. I don't really have a problem with judging schedules: If France is above Italy in the rankings, and France beat Malta twice in a month while Italy beats Germany twice, shouldn't Italy jump France?

Lucas: True. Let me clarify. If team A beats two lousy teams, while team B beats two good teams, team B should make the jump, but not because team A loses points, but because team B gains more points. Canada lost 83 points - not positions relative to other countries, but points - in a span where they didn't lose a single game. I maintain that that is stupid. They are being punished, not for their play, but because they didn't have difficult enough opposition.

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