FIFA works in mysterious ways
Por Rodrigo Cardoso
20 Jun, 2024

For some strange reason, FIFA has decided to publish their new ranking when the Euros and OFC Nations Cup are already underway, which is odd, but we know FIFA works in mysterious ways, which always complicates staying up to date with this table. However, after some adjustments, we figured out (almost) everything, and here, we analyse the movements of this month. As a reminder, here’s an explanation on how the formula works.

In total 196 matches were played: 51 World Cup qualifiers in Africa, 36 in Asia, 29 in Concacaf y 80 friendlies, mostly warm-up matches for the Euros and Copa América.

 

Positions 1 – 60

 

Click to enlarge.

At the high end of the table, England lost a place after losing to Iceland, while Italy are out of the “Pot 1 zone” for the World Cup dar, after their draw in friendly with Turkey. In this table, every game and every point counts. A point you lose today is a point you will need come the World Cup draw.

Mexico lost their two friendlies against Uruguay and Brazil, which cost them nine points. Unfortunately for their cause, the win over Bolivia does not count, and there are two possible reasons.

The first is that El Tri presented an alternative squad. However, that is not a strong argument to me. Despite playing with a clear B-team, the match was billed as “Mexico vs Bolivia”, not “Mexico B vs Bolivia” or something similar.

The other likely reason is that Mexico made eight substitutions, which in principle voids the match for ranking purposes. I say “likely” because in recent months, FIFA has started to include matches with many more substitutions. In January this year, these matches Ivory Coast vs Sierra Leone and Sweden vs Estonia were a substitution festival and both were included. Why those games count buy Mexico’s doesn’t is anyone’s guess. FIFA works in mysterious ways.

 

Ukraine only won one of their three games, which in balance makes them lose points. That, combined with the fact that Australia and South Korea won their World Cup qualifying matches, send Ukraine down to Pot 3.

Elsewhere, Nigeria drew with South Africa and lost to Benin in the qualifiers, which cost them 21 points and makes them fall eight places. They are still in Pot 3, but this is a huge blow.

 

Positions 61 – 120

 

Click to enlarge.

Here’s an interesting case. In November, Equatorial Guinea beat Namibia and Liberia in the qualifiers, but last month, the news emerged that that they fielded and ineligible player in those games. Due to this, FIFA strip them from the wins and also the FIFA Ranking points.

However, they way in which FIFA adjusts for these scenarios is a total mystery. In my table, Equatorial Guinea had gained just 0.72 points (-8.24 for the defeat against Tunisia and +8.96 for a win over Malawi), but FIFA’s table says they lost 47.53 points.

Where did those points come from? I tried to remove the points from those forfeited matches but the numbers I got were nowhere near what FIFA says. No matter how many ways I tried manipulating the formula, taking points here and there, I just couldn’t figure out where those numbers came from. FIFA works in mysterious ways.

This also becomes a snowball because if the points of one team are wrong, the points of the teams they played will also have errors. Therefore, as Tunisia, Equatorial Guinea, Namibia, Liberia, Malawi and São Tomé played each other, their points of all those teams don’t match. That’s why I added a box with the name “Adjustment” with the points given by FIFA.

In Concacaf, Guatemala and Honduras started off their qualifying campaigns with two wins each, which see them move forward.

 

Positions 121 – 180

 

Click to enlarge.

Here, the team that gained the most points and positions is Liberia due to that mysterious adjustment. With that, they got 13 points on the field and 25 “on the desk”, as we say in Latin America.

In Concacaf, Nicaragua gained five places thanks to their two wins in the qualifiers.

Another interesting case is the game between Cuba and Cayman Islands. That game was scheduled to be played in Cuba, but the visitors decided not to travel because many of their players have US student visas. “I don’t want to risk them losing their visas because of one football match”, said Alfred Whittaker, president of the Cayman Islands Football Association.

The match was cancelled but so far, no decision about the outcome has been announced by either FIFA or Concacaf.

 

Positions 181 – 210

 

Click to enlarge.

At the bottom of the table, one of the highlights is the draw that Gibraltar managed against Wales. Getting a draw against a team much higher in the table will give good points, as this result shows.

The bad news for San Marino is that they’re still last; the good news is that the distance with Anguilla has reduced. The Caribbean side lost their two qualifying matches, which take off more points than friendlies. Thus, the gap between them, which was 51 points at the start of this window, is down now to 40.

 

Excluded matches

 

The following matches were excluded from the calculation. FIFA are never clear about their criteria for inclusion, so it’s complicated to know beforehand which games count and which don’t. What we do is to include all matches and once FIFA publishes their list, we remove matches until the numbers match.

 

I also had doubts about when the deadline for inclusion would be. The international window finished on June 11, but some games were played after that. Seeing FIFA’s table, we can conclude that the matches from the 12th were included: USA vs Brazil and Ecuador vs Bolivia.

This brings another question: will the games played between June 13th and 16th appear in the next update, or will they be excluded at all?

The matches are:

Argentina 4-1 Guatemala, June 14
Peru 1-0 El Salvador, June 14
Colombia 3-0 Bolivia, June 15
Ecuador 2-1 Honduras, June 16
Paraguay 1-0 Panama, June 16

There is only one way to find out: wait until the next update. Argentina, for example, gained 0.37 points for beating Guatemala. If in the July table Argentina have 0.37 points fewer, that means that game didn’t count.

As we have seen, FIFA works in mysterious ways.

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