FIFA World Rankings or World Football Elo Ratings – Which is Better?
The September FIFA World Rankings were announced yesterday, without too many changes from August. Euro 2008 champs Spain are still numero uno and Italy have traded places with Germany to take second. I’m assuming the Olympics has no impact on FIFA’s rankings because gold medalists Argentina and silver medlaists Nigeria’s ranking remains unchanged – in 7th and 27th respectively.
I know a lot of people are unhappy with FIFA’s ranking system. Personally I think it’s improved greatly since the changes they made post-World Cup 2006 (when the rankings had the USA as the 5th best team on the planet.) But it’s still not perfect, and never ever will be.
The main alternative to FIFA’s calculations is the World Football Elo Rating System, adapted from Dr. Elo’s world chess rating system by footy fan Bob Runyan.
How do the two differ? Basically the FIFA system works like a big league table of the last four year’s results, but with points weighted by the type of game (eg World Cup final more valuable than a friendly), the opposition, confederation and time past since the game. Laurie furnished us with an excellent explanation here (seriously, go read that if you want to understand the FIFA system.)
The Elo system works a little – but not dramatically – differently. As with FIFA’s it’s a giant league table, but using data from (and I quote) “international football 1872 – present”. The system takes into account the type of game (World Cup, friendly, etc) but also the score as well as the result (ie how many goal did a team win by) and also the win expectancy (ie was the team expected to win, and by how many goals.)
A full explanation of the Elo football system can be found here.
In the end (to numerical simpletons like myself) it’s all just numbers and formulas. Who can say whether FIFA’s P = M x I x T x C x 100 is any better than Elo’s Rn = Ro + KG(W − We) ? The proof is really in the pudding. And in this case that pudding is the September 2008 Top 20 from each system. Basically, to the casual observer, which looks more accurate:
So, which do you think looks more accurate?