Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Freefalling

The U.S. is down nine places to 30 in the FIFA rankings.

Now, there are several ways to look at this. Pick your poison.

1. Rankings are essentially meaningless.
2. The U.S. is better off confronting better opposition, even if their ranking takes a hit.
3. The U.S. had an inflated ranking before, this is where the team realistically stands.

Also, who or what is mainly to blame for the fall in the team's rank?

15 comments:

CACuzcatlan said...

I think Option #3 is correct.

Jon E said...

#1--"Meaningless" as in not very precise, absolutely. FIFA and Elo rankings (Elo's seem better), are pretty useful, though, if you think of them as locating teams within clusters of competence. For example, teams within the top 1-5 can usually beat each other on a given day and can expect a legit challenge from teams 5-15. For me, moving from 21-30 isn't really changing a cluster. There's always a few teams ranked too high there and too low in the 20-30ish range.

Also, the scores tend to get more meaningful if you average them over a six-month period (say, three months before and three months after the date in question) than if you take them for a given month.

#2--This is almost always true. The only exception might be in the run-up to a World Cup if the US were actually in a position to receive a first seed (since the FIFA rankings are factored into the seeding). But we're not likely to be in that position again for a while yet.

#3--See #1. Especially for one month, I don't think the difference between 21 & 30 is meaningful enough to think that the change means a whole lot.

Jennings said...

The rankings ARE meaningless, of course. What matters: (1) qualifying for the World Cup (just need to be #1-#3 in CONCACAF -- not the world); (2) hope for a decent draw; (3) get at least 1 win and a tie in the group stage and hope for other results to go your way (e.g., 1994 and 2002); (4) forget about the rankings and just compete against whoever you play in the knock-out stages.

As the Dutch and the Portuguese proved at Euro, "rankings" are meaningless even if they're based on recent form in the GROUP stage of the same tournament!

After the usual suspects a the top of the world, I think we can compete and realistically hope to win over any other teams -- perhaps on par with a team like Sweden, Turkey, and Russia -- all of whom got results in the latest soccer mania.

Anonymous said...

Hey c'mon! Why no credit for taking on the World Giants? We could have just whooped a bunch of third world teams, but we went for the brass ring. Sans the mistake on one of the England goals, we hung in there in all three matches! It wasn't like WE got smacked 8 nil... and we fielded a B-team in the 1-0 Barbados win. Doesn't FIFA consider anything else but absolute results(level of opponent, hostile away crowds/stadiums, rosters, ect.)? Or, is it simply just more anti-US soccer sentiment?

Why the Pass/Fail grade? I may only be an elementary school teacher, but effort, improvement, and environment count in my grading! So, I give us a B+ and keep us at 21 or maybe even with Mexico. FIFA, no recess and go to the end of the line!!! :)

--PGF

Anonymous said...

Rankings are always going to be problematic for people because there will always be fans that feel that their team is being over or underrated on them. Basically I think all three of the options you listed are correct.

CACuzcatlan said...

The following factors are taken into account:

* Match result
* Match status
* Opposition strength
* Regional strength

Anon, factoring in hostility and stadiums would be nearly impossible. As for roster, that's the coach's decision, so there is no reason why it should be taken into account.

Anonymous said...

Thanks cacuzcatlan. I knew about those factors, but I was thinking outloud and hoping/wondering if the FIFA people even considered(unofficially or otherwise)those or other intangible factors as perhaps a coach, fan, or player might consider. No question about about Bradley's selections- coaches choice, but it doesn't seem the US got much joy with Match status, Opposition strength, or Regional strength. That's a hell of a fall for two "close" losses, a draw (against three mega-powers), and two wins(granted the ant Barbados). There just seems to be a very subjective, out of touch, feel when it comes to FIFA rankings, especially for the US, Mexico, CONCACAF, other non-Euros. And I didn't forget about that crazy number 4 ranking either. Just my opinion.

Thanks,
--PGF

Anonymous said...

Who is to blame?

J├╝rgen Klinsmann, of course.

Anonymous said...

Here, here! Or Gulati. We're only 5 spots off from our worst ever position! We're not that sorry! It's like the chump that makes all-stars because of who he's friends with or related to and you don't make it despite you and your teamates knowing your better. WEAK! FIFA, Euro-snobs take a hike!

Anonymous said...

PGF, what you're suggesting WOULD make the rankings subjective because then who decides what makes a "hostile" environment? And just because the scores were close doesn't mean the games were either. I saw all three games, and the US was abysmal against England, I have no idea why you think we hung in that game. Against Spain we were good for the first half, but were completely dominated at the second. The third game we did well, but we didn't lose thanks only to Howard's amazing display.

Anonymous said...

True Anon. I wonder what "really" figures into these rankings besides the official factors. I too watched all three matches and agree with your veiws. But I did say/meant if it wasn't for the screw-up that led to the Beck's free kick your looking at still being in the match, dominated or not and not turning out like a Barbados 8-0 trouncing. I think you rise or sink to the level of play, and while it's true Howard played out of this world, we were lucky, they were unlucky, ect., nobody ever takes back a result. And according to what FIFA claims, results matter/count.

Thanks,
--PGD

Anonymous said...

#3. In fact, we are still ranked too high. Honestly I would put us mid 40s.

Rudy said...

Meaningless. Greece is ranked higher than Sweden. How many games did Greece win at Euro? What happened head to head? Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Though I think the U.S. is probably in the right spot. I blame Bradley's refusal to throw Cooper out there.

papa bear said...

Option #3 is a bit of the usually pessimistic USMNT fan grousing considering we've beaten many of the teams in that list from 19-35 and I'm sure we could beat most of the ones we haven't played in a while.

Also, aside from the first Barbados (which is worth about 2 pts) when was the last competitive match we actually played in? Copa America? Of course the 16 teams in Euro and the 10 in CONMEBOL who've been playing competitive matches all year are going to get inflated bumps in ranking.
Look, even crappy teams in Europe are rated higher since they constantly have some sort of qualifying going on and playing a team a lot better than you gets you more points if you win or tie and you don't lose as many if you lose.

#1 is also a bit much even though people constantly repeat it. The rankings matter. Whether anyone likes them or not (and they aren't perfect) they determine seeding in the WC. If that's not important to anyone then I guess they are meaningless.

#2 is where I stand. As long as we don't drop to 80th (which would disqualify our players from playing in most European leagues) we should face the toughest teams possible. If it was up to me and it was possible we'd play the top 7 teams on that list every year. It's the only way the team will toughen up not playing Guatemala and Denmark 6 times a year.

drobert2 said...

all of the above