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2010 FIFA World Cup: The Mathematics Of Rankings Say Group "D" Is Tops

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - DECEMBER 4:  In this handout photo provided by the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee, A general view of the 2010 Soccer World Cup Final Draw at the CTICC on December 4, 2009 in Cape Town, South Africa.  (Photo by 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa)
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Ron FurlongAnalyst IIJune 3, 2010

If you were to base the eight groups in the World Cup on nothing but the FIFA World Rankings, Group D would come out as the most difficult.

Simply take one group at a time, add the rankings of the four teams, and divide them by four.

Lowest number equals the most difficult.

After doing that I came up with this list. This is considering all four teams in each group. These findings are based on the latest FIFA World Cup Rankings, which came out May 26th. Again, this is considering nothing whatsoever but the rankings.

 

Difficulty Rankings

1 - Group D: 18.25 (Germany, Serbia, Australia and Ghana)

2 - Group C: 19.25 (England, United States, Slovenia, Algeria)

3 - Group H: 20.50 (Spain, Chile, Switzerland, Honduras)

4 - Group B: 22.00 (Argentina, Greece, Nigeria, South Korea)

5 - Group E: 26.00 (Netherlands, Cameroon, Denmark, Japan)

6 - Group A: 31.25 (France, Uruguay, Mexico, South Africa)

7 - Group G: 34.00 (Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast, North Korea)

8 - Group F: 37.00 (Italy, Paraguay, Slovakia, New Zealand)

These numbers surprised me. I have thought ever since the draw that Group G was the most difficult—or, if you will—the group of death. But according to this formula, it is ranked seventh of eight.

I then thought I'd take it a little further, to try and get the numbers to fall more like actual opinion. Considering that a few teams had very high numbers, like North Korea ranked 105th, South Africa 83rd (although they are clearly better than that), and New Zealand ranked 78th, I thought I would eliminate the lowest ranked team in each group. This left three teams in each group.

Here's how these rankings would look.

 

New Rankings

1 - Group G: 10.3 (Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast)

2 - Group B: 13.6 (Argentina, Greece, Nigeria)

2 - Group D: 13.6 (Germany, Serbia, Australia)

4 - Group A: 14.0 (France, Uruguay, Mexico)

5 - Group H: 14.6 (Spain, Chile, Switzerland)

6 - Group C: 15.6 (England, United States, Slovenia)

7 - Group E: 19.6 (Netherlands, Cameroon, Denmark)

8 - Group F: 23.3 (Italy, Paraguay, Slovakia)

This seemed a little more like it. By eliminating that last team, now Group G is indeed the top ranked. Group D stays high, in a tie for second with Group B.

Group F, by the way, finished last in both rankings. Indicating, I think, that Italy, of all the top ranked teams, may have the easiest route out of the group stages.

The Netherlands, according to the second list, would also have an easy path.

Of the top ranked teams, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, and Germany look to have the most work cut out for them to advance.

Take the poll and let's see how our rankings look.

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