England Wins Under FIFA Seeding Rules
The formula has been revealed. The FIFA Organising Committee has seeded Brazil, England, Spain, Germany (host), Mexico, France, Argentina and Italy for the 2006 World Cup. The group draw takes place this Friday.
The USA and Netherlands sit just outside the seeded group. Had the Dutch qualified for the 2002 World Cup, they would have displaced Italy.
Apparently Sepp Blatter was kidding when he warned that England might fail to make it into the top eight – England was ranked second by FIFA’s seeding formula.
The formula awarded up to 32 points in two categories: World Ranking, and performance in the 2002 and 1998 Cup tournaments.
The World Ranking category gave equal weight to the end-of-year positions in 2003, 2004 and 2005. Brazil, who led in each period, scored a full 32 marks. Next in line were France (30), Argentina (29), Czech (29) and Netherlands (28.7). England’s end of year ranks of 8, 8 and 9 ensured that the team was competitively placed.
Where England moved ahead, and the Czechs and Dutch faltered, was in previous tournament performance. The 32 points allocated to previous tournaments were weighted 66.7% to the 2002 Cup and 33.3% to the 1998 event.
The defending champions again led the group with a near-perfect 31.7 points, while Germany’s recent stint in the finals vaulted it to 29.3 – points that are unneeded, as the host is granted a seed. England’s 26 points placed it third, ahead of powerhouses like France, Argentina and Italy, all of whom stumbled in 2002.
The Dutch, who failed to qualify in 2002, managed a measly 9.7 points; the Czechs received no points at all.
The formula is obviously designed to favour the incumbent. And its definition of incumbency has a long memory: the 1998 tournament results are given as much weight as this year’s world rankings.
For the next World Cup, I would have FIFA make three changes:
1) Announce the seeding formula in advance,
2) Reduce the weighting given to tournament performance, and
3) Drop the eight-year old tournament from the factors.
Those changes would reduce the entry barriers faced by emerging football powers like the Czechs, and produce a set of seeds that better reflect the balance of power in the football world at the time of the tournament.