The Grandfather

Apart from writing “original” articles I also want to use the blog to review some of the stats related sites that I use regularly. My goal is to introduce these free but very useful sites to a new audience rather than to critique them. I will also try to add a small original analysis to my reviews.

First site I am reviewing is eloratings.net. This was first stats based site I discovered back in 2002 and have revisited it many times since then. The site is very basic; I do not think that the layout changed since I first came across this site. It basically ranks national teams according to Elo system which was originally developed for chess. I am not going to go over the math but basically it’s a system where teams exchange points after each game depending on their previous rating and the result. If a world class team beats a minnow then very few points are exchanged but if a minnow beats a world class team it steals a lot of points. You can read more about Elo ratings here and here. The site also has a very comprehensive Wiki page with many interesting tables. Overall it is a great site; grandfather to it all and we should all be grateful to its originators and maintainers. Below are the FIFA and Elo rankings as of October 15 taken from the Wiki page:

Team FIFA ELO
 Brazil

11

1

 Spain

1

2

 Germany

2

3

 Argentina

3

4

 Netherlands

8

5

 England

10

6

 Uruguay

6

7

 Colombia

4

8t

 Italy

8

8t

 Chile

12

10

 Portugal

14

11

 United States

13

12t

 France

21

12t

 Belgium

5

14

 Sweden

25

15

 Switzerland

7

16

 Russia

19

17

 Ecuador

22

18

 Greece

15

19

 Ivory Coast

17

20

 

As we approach to the world cup; soccer community is enraged about FIFA Rankings as usual and Elo provides the best and consistent rival approach. Of course it has its weaknesses; the weights per game which determine how fast teams can exchange points look reasonable but arbitrary. Same is true for the home court advantage. Also, due to fewer number of inter-continental games good teams from weaker continents tend to be rated higher. One way to correct this would be to adjust the ratings of every team from the same continent by a much smaller amount every time points are exchanged between teams from two different continents.

The last point is the basis of my short analysis. I calculated how many points teams from different continents exchanged during World Cups since 1998 when the format moved to 32 teams. Since it has the biggest contingent, I divided Europe into 2 groups based on whether a team has made the quarter finals in the previous European Championships. The results were not surprising:

 

Asia -38.4
NAmerica -21.9
BadEuro -4.2
Africa 6.5
GoodEuro 12.4
SAmerica 21.9

 

Of course not all countries in the same continent behave the same way. For example Sub-Saharan African teams tend to fare better than North African ones, and Argentina and Brazil tend to do a bit better than other South American teams. (This is mainly driven by Brazil in 2002 which was the lowest pre-tournament Elo ranked team to win it all @ 12th). And for those American fans who are wondering; USA does worse than an average North American team as it is the main beneficiary of easy points from CONCACAF qualifying and tends to take friendly games rather too seriously. I also looked at home team’s advantage versus its expected continent adjustment; on average home teams improve an extra 50 points during the tournament. So putting it all together Elo list post 2014 WC might look like: (I assumed France, Uruguay, Portugal, Greece will qualify)

Team FIFA Rank Elo Rank New Rank New Elo
 Brazil

11

1

1

2174

 Spain

1

2

2

2112

 Germany

2

3

3

2065

 Argentina

3

4

4

2015

 Netherlands

8

5

5

1986

 England

10

6

6

1948

 Uruguay

6

7

7

1920

 Colombia

4

8

8

1912

 Italy

8

8

9

1902

 Chile

12

10

10

1894

 Portugal

14

11

11

1882

 France

21

12

12

1870

 Ecuador

22

18

13

1837

 United States

13

12

14t

1836

 Belgium

5

14

14t

1836

 Sweden

25

15

16

1835

 Switzerland

7

16

17

1830

 Greece

15

19

18

1813

 Russia

19

17

19

1812

 Ivory Coast

17

20

20

1805

I highlighted a few teams that deserve attention. Switzerland and Belgium’s high FIFA rankings will allow them to be seeded in the World Cup draw. This subject has been discussed ad nauseam recently and best overview is here. Yet despite many claims that Italy should be seeded, perhaps England is the one that is being shortchanged as well as Netherlands. The final team to point out is Ecuador which can surprise some people; more so than everyone’s darling Belgium.

Elo is not a predictive model; it is purely based on past events. Here I tried to show, in a simplistic manner, how it can be turned into a more forward looking one. Of course, the above analysis is nowhere near comprehensive but gives an idea of how we can take some of the resources on the web and play around with them for fun or predictions.

Any comments or nominations for future reviews are appreciated  @dingosports

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2 comments

  1. Pingback: An ELO Look at the Draw | dingostats
  2. Pingback: HistoricELO Look at Turkish Soccer ft. ClubELO | dingostats

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