Success – A Documentary from Arch Rivals FC

Has a New York City charter school network discovered a new template for soccer development in America? Arch Rivals FC looks at an innovative, school-based soccer program at Success Academy in New York. For decades, soccer in America has been rooted in the suburbs. High costs for travel and club teams mean players from low-income backgrounds are often shut out. Success Academy’s program is bringing the game to neighborhoods where soccer has been missing.

Stories like these are why I have become so disgruntled when looking back at my younger playing days. I can’t even fathom how much money my parents spent on soccer clubs and the various fees accompanying those club experiences. I was one of four kids and even at a young age, I could tell what a strain it put on my parents. Fortunately, my parents had great jobs and they made it work so I could pursue my dream of playing soccer but if they hadn’t my soccer career would have probably stopped dead in its tracks. It’s confounding how a sport that can be played anywhere and has such a low barrier to entry equipment wise, can be such a hard sport to afford if you want to develop. There are many problems with soccer in America but I firmly believe that this is the first thing we need to solve before we can reach the next level on the international scene.

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On Promotion – Relegation: A Default Response to the Status Quo Crowd

By @k2thedubs

 

I’ve decided to write a clear and concise response to the seemingly endless conversations I have had on promotion – relegation. Rather than rehash the debate ad nauseum on each occasion, I will simply refer my interlocuters to this piece and refrain from engaging in a discussion until they address the question posed at this article’s conclusion.

The question regarding promotion – relegation is a philosophical question. Should the market be open with freedom of access to any interested clubs[1] who agree to move up or down based on the merit of their performance? Or should the market be closed with access to top-flight soccer restricted to a small subset of clubs selected for participation based on the discretion of a handful of bureaucrats of questionable motivations and expertise?

Full stop. That is a straightforward conceptual question that requires an answer. You either support an open system or a closed system.

If you side with an open system, great. Let’s discuss next steps and begin formulating an action plan for executing an integrated soccer pyramid.

If you side with a closed system, then I challenge you to explain why. I have yet to see a cogent rebuttal to the promotion – relegation argument, but I’m open ears and invite any contrarians to make the case.

I have found that the closed system crowd generally sidesteps the philosophical question at the heart of the matter and instead jumps ahead to posit some excuse(s) about the difficulty of implementing promotion – relegation.

That line of thinking is completely backwards. That is akin to opposing climate change and efforts to mitigate its effects due to perceived, whether actual or imagined, difficulty in enacting effective policies to thwart its impact (i.e. achieve the desired objective of the original question).

We must first come to an answer of the initial question – open or closed system or to intervene or ignore climate change. Then, once that question is answered, we can delve into the practical ramifications of that answer, irrespective of their level of difficulty.

For as long as I’ve been following soccer, the discussion has been flipped on its head with proponents of our closed system demanding justification for a shift to an open system. I do not accept this premise.

The rest of the world adheres to an open system, and examples of success can be observed in dozens of countries spanning diverse cultures, backgrounds, and geographies. We have no reason to expect we would not experience similar success if we would elect to follow this approach[2].

We are the exception, not the rule. We are the outlier, and our track record shows that our approach is unsuccessful and offers no evidence to refute the proven model used by the rest of the world[3].

We must reframe this conversation. Why should advocates of an open system have to justify their position? Instead, proponents of a closed system should explain why they perpetually choose to not adopt the best practices used by the rest of the world when we have repeatedly failed using our alternative method. Defaulting to the preservation of the status quo without sensible rationale is fallacious and insufficient, particularly when the status quo involves a prolonged history of discriminatory conduct.

I challenge the closed system crowd to provide a convincing explanation for maintaining our closed system, despite evidence of its ineffectiveness, and electing to not adopt (or initiate plans to adopt) an open system. Until I hear a persuasive counterargument against promotion – relegation I’m going to immediately suspend the conversation because, until that question is satisfactorily answered, there is no productive dialogue to be had.

Closed system crowd, the ball is in your court. Please present your case (remember to limit your response to the philosophical question). Any replies related to the implementation of promotion – relegation are invalid and will be dismissed.

 

Addendum

The replies have begun to roll in and I must say I’m thoroughly unimpressed. My prompt specifically requested responses to the philosophical question rather than excuses, but I have yet to see many follow that overture. Instead, I have seen all the typical stale excuses and have highlighted the most frequent offenders below.

  • Dearth of Resources / Infrastructure
  • Lack of Interest
  • Insufficient Money / Investment
  • Not the Right Timing
  • Partial Promotion – Relegation for lower divisions[4]

Each of these defenses has been effectively argued against so I will not spend any time regurgitating what has already been said.

There has been one argument that some have clung to which is worth debunking because it is particularly specious to the point of absurdity.

To those who argue that it’s unfair to open the market because MLS owners have invested money to buy into a closed market, I urge you to consider the flaws in that logic. The notion that MLS owners have a credible gripe about fairness is quite ironic since the primary basis of their investment was the artificial scarcity and anti-competitiveness permitted by USSF legislation, which marginalizes all but a select few communities.

I’ve yet to see an MLS owner advocate for an open system, which illustrates that they have no problem investing in and benefiting from a closed system (to the detriment of many others who are less fortunate), but are ready to cry foul when the rules shift to a more just and equitable structure. Oh, the hypocrisy. This is like a drug cartel complaining about the prospect of heighted competition and less favorable business dynamics when a new Chief of Police comes to power and terminates their pre-existing bribery arrangements.

Second, if the perceived “unfairness” related to the dilution of their investment (it must be stated that this is a practical ramification of the philosophical question) is the main impediment, then we can figure out a solution. The prospect of a difficult policy solution does not validate the persistence of a rigged system. I think a simple remedy is to offer a buy-out, to make whole at the cost of their investment, to any MLS owner(s) who desire to forego their investment in an open system.

I would expect few[5], if any, MLS owners would be interested in reneging on their investment because they understand the potential of an open system, which is incredibly telling in and of itself. In terms of the buy-out, I would suggest the remaining MLS owners pony up to reimburse their colleagues who desire to leave. They can use proceeds from the handsome profits they have accumulated over their years of monopolistic advantage.  Seems like that problem is resolved.

Third, in terms of unfairness, these owners enjoy a massive structural advantage from their many years of participation in the first division. Every MLS franchise would have an enormous head start, some for more than two decades, over the rest of American soccer clubs. If they are so afraid of being dethroned by the existence of fair and open competition, that, again, reveals so much.

Ultimately, if you find that your sympathies lie with the plight of monopolists’ losing their institutionalized advantage over the empowerment and sanctioning of opportunity to the public at large, I urge you to reexamine your beliefs.

 

 

[1] Provided they comply with any established prerequisites and standards.

[2] I’m going to pre-empt a tired argument that some may be contemplating. None of the mainstream American sports are comparable to soccer because they are not sports that exist in a global, borderless ecosystem that involves regular international competition (for results, players, resources, tactics, strategies, etc…).

American sports are akin to the utilities industry, as they are largely uncompetitive (globally) and quasi-monopolistic, and they cannot be compared to truly open marketplaces as their underlying dynamics are different. The comparable for American soccer is not the NFL, MLB, or NBA whose competitive ecosystems are either entirely or largely confined to the U.S. The comparable is other domestic soccer systems in countries across the world who virtually all utilize promotion – relegation.

[3] Contrary to the myth that MLS peddles, I have, as have many others, disputed their notion of progress at length in the following pieces – here, here, here, and here.

[4] This violates the central tenet of the philosophical question. You either support an open system or not. There is no gray area.

[5] MLS owners may pretend this is not the case for the time-being because it is in their best interest (and conversely, the worst interest of US Soccer as a whole) to preserve their monopoly, but, if push came to shove and promotion-relegation was on the precipice of implementation, I challenge you to identify any owner who would willingly accept a buy-out at cost and relinquish their opportunity at massive capital appreciation in the open market. We cannot let the monopolists’ self-serving objections dictate policy for the entirety of our country.

 

World Cup Analysis: Implications for the USMNT

By @k2thedubs

 

In light of the USMNT’s failure to reach the 2018 World Cup, I wrote my treatise, which was tweeted about by Landon Donovan (image below) and retweeted by Alexi Lalas, on the state of US soccer.

Image 1 - US Implications

In subsequent weeks, other nations faced similarly disappointing failures in their quest to reach Russia and a disturbing narrative began to emerge in which the USMNT’s failure was equated with those of global elites, such as Italy and the Netherlands. After digesting a superfluous amount of these takes, I decided to put this baseless argument to rest.

Building off the analyses from my World Cup white paper[1], let’s deconstruct the false equivalencies of Italy’s and the USMNT’s World Cup failures. Italy missed qualification by finishing second to Spain in their group and falling to an extremely reputable Sweden side (ranked 16th in my World Cup analysis and 20th by ELO’s current ranking). The USMNT, in contrast, finished fifth out of six teams in CONCACAF and failed to secure even a point in a life-or-death match against Trinidad & Tobago (ranked 101st by ELO’s current ranking), a country less than one hundredth its size and whose team consists primarily of lower division professional and semi-professional players.

The truth is the USMNT are falling behind the rest of the world. But, tragically, it’s a slow death that most are blind to. While there was some uproar in October after the loss to Trinidad & Tobago, most people quickly moved on and the harshest critics were cast aside as zealots or pariahs. Barring significant systemic reform enacted by Carlos Cordeiro and his administration, it seems highly probable that no meaningful change will arise and we will continue on the USSF / MLS rudderless ship.

After the initial primal screams concluded, the conversation quickly moved on to the “bright future” ahead. After reading countless 2022 roster predictions, most of which spoke glowingly of the strength of the player pool and the promise of emerging talents, I feel compelled to set the record straight. First off, I compiled some of the 2018 US roster predictions that followed the conclusion of the 2014 World Cup – please see here, here, here, and here.

The following players appeared on multiple roster prediction lists – Mix Diskerud, Luis Gil, Will Packwood, Benji Joya, Jose Villareal, Mario Rodriguez, Gedion Zelalem, and Junior Flores. Lest we not forget that Julian Green was once the future of US soccer, and it wasn’t long ago that Emerson Hyndman was anointed the next big thing for US soccer. So as much as we’d like to get our hopes up on these young talents, let’s temper our excitement. If history is any indication, most are nothing more than hype and few (if any) will be difference-makers at the international level.

This is an excerpt from Bleacher Report in July 2014 following that summer’s World Cup. Please read to see how noxious the Kool-Aid really is.

The question still remains, just how good will America be in the 2018 World Cup? Honestly, that is a loaded question, but it’s not totally impossible to imagine the USMNT having a major impact in 2018.

If players remain healthy and expectations are surpassed, the USMNT could be a very real World Cup competitor with the chance of lifting their first-ever trophy. If some things do go wrong, there is still hope.

America has the leadership and talent to continue their upward climb on the international stage. After a great run in Brazil, they will be looking to go even further in Russia.

The sky is the limit for U.S. soccer at this point, but the real work is just beginning.

Without belaboring the point, it’s difficult to stress how out of touch the general perception of soccer is in the United States, and it’s startling to consider its persistence despite repeated failures and evidence to the contrary.

The perception of the USMNT is inflated due to seven consecutive qualifying campaigns and reaching the knockout rounds four times. However, neither of these feats are anywhere near as impressive as they seem.

In terms of qualification, the USMNT has benefited from belonging to a weak confederation with a limited amount of competition. If the USMNT were in UEFA, CONMEBOL, or CAF, they would struggle mightily to qualify. For instance, there is no country with the USMNT’s World Cup record that consistently qualifies out of those more difficult regions. The most comparable country to the USMNT is South Korea who consistently qualifies out of a weak region but performs poorly at the World Cup.

In terms of reaching the knockout rounds, the USMNT has benefited from considerable luck and good fortune and was only a few bounces away from not reaching any knockout rounds.

The USMNT’s failure to qualify for the World Cup was not just a blip on the radar. The USMNT have been performing poorly and the evidence suggests a trend of deterioration, rather than progress, in performance. The following is a list of salient facts highlighting the USMNT’s weak track record.

  • Dismal World Cup record (30th out of 37 who have made 3+ of the last 7 World Cups)
    • 5 total wins at the World Cup
      • That’s a 5-15-6 record (19% winning percentage).
        • For reference, Mexico could lose their next 17 World Cup matches and still have a higher winning percentage.
        • Additionally, Costa Rica has the same number of wins in far fewer games with a much better record (5-6-4) and goal differential (-6).
    • The most losses (15) of any team over the past seven World Cups
    • 25 Goals For (less than 1.0 per game) and a -16 Goal Differential
  • Only 2 wins in the past 3 World Cups and failure to even qualify for the 2018 World Cup
  • Declining performance against top 20 teams in international tournaments
    • Only 2 wins[2] over top 20 teams in the world in the past 15 years (most recent in 2009)
  • Declining performance against CONCACAF teams
  • Repeated qualification failures
    • Missed 3 out of the last 4 Olympics (2 consecutive)
    • Missed 3 out of the last 4 Confederations Cup (2 consecutive)
    • Missed multiple youth World Cups[3] (2011 U-20, 2013 U-17)

Based on the country ranking analysis from my World Cup white paper, the USMNT trails countries like Ireland, Costa Rica, and South Korea and is sandwiched between Japan and South Africa. Moreover, they are barely better than Cameroon, Australia, and Greece. These are the USMNT’s peers. Let’s not kid ourselves and think otherwise. Hopefully this brings some back to reality with the understanding that the gap to the real soccer nations is vast. And it is growing, not shrinking.

Qualification is not getting any easier. In fact, it is becoming more difficult. Costa Rica, Panama, and Jamaica are all getting stronger. And the truly sad part is how low the bar has been set. Given a range of factors – socioeconomic, athletic, cultural, participatory – the USMNT should be endeavoring to compete for World Cups rather than simply qualify for them.

The question I ask is why the resistance to change? Why the complacency? Why is there satisfaction with these results and track record? I understand soccer has made progress in America, but it has been baby steps. The progress has barely scratched the surface of what this country is capable of, which is not surprising given the closed system that artificially stifles growth, innovation, and competition (certainly the antonyms of US soccer). The rest of the world is not standing still and every second continued down the current USSF / MLS path leads us further behind[4]. It’s time to take the training wheels off and make substantive changes to align ourselves with best practices and equip us to compete with the rest of the world.

 

ICYMI, please refer to my World Cup white paper that has been referenced throughout the article.

 

[1] The white paper is a comprehensive data analysis on the World Cup since 1990 that covers trends in performance by Confederation and Country, examines the impact of home field advantage, and explores how the various findings can be applied to forecast 2018 World Cup performance. To download the PDF document in full, click here – World Cup White Paper.

[2] Victory over Mexico in the 2007 Gold Cup final and victory over Spain in the 2009 Confederation Cup semi-final.

[3] Struggles at the youth World Cups are occurring on the women’s side as well

[4] Geoff Cameron’s piece on The Player’s Tribune hits on many of these issues.

World Cup Data Analysis: Part V – Application to Upcoming 2018 World Cup in Russia

By @k2thedubs

To download the PDF document in full, click here – World Cup White Paper.

 

In this section, I will evaluate how we can apply our learnings to the 2018 World Cup, whether for pleasure or perhaps financial gain in the betting markets.

First, I have grouped teams into cohorts based on insights from many of the analyses performed herein, ELO ratings, and the ease or difficulty of the World Cup draw.

Cohort #1 – Title Favorites

  • Germany, Brazil, France, Spain, Argentina

Cohort #2 – Contenders

  • Belgium, England, Portugal, Colombia, Uruguay

Cohort # 3 – Expect to Reach Knockout Rounds

  • Mexico, Switzerland, Croatia, Denmark, Russia, Poland

Cohort #4 – Chance to Reach Knockout Rounds

  • Sweden, Peru, Iceland, Senegal, Serbia

Cohort #5 – Need a Lot of Help to Advance from Group Stages

  • Costa Rica, Egypt, Japan, South Korea, Iran, Nigeria

Cohort #6 – Unlikely to Advance from Group Stages

  • Australia, Panama, Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia

Exhibit AA: Composite Comparison – World Cups from 1998 – 2014 vs European-Hosted World Cups

Image 35

The visual above displays the composite World Cup results from the past five World Cups (shown earlier in Part I) alongside the composite World Cup results from the past two European World Cups (in 1998 and 2006). I analyze the impact by confederation of playing a World Cup on European soil below.

UEFA

  • No impact for countries #1-5
  • 3-6 place boost for countries #6-14

CONMEBOL

  • No impact for countries #1-2
  • 1-4 place drop for countries #3-5

CONCACAF

  • 4-6 place drop for all countries

CAF

  • 4 place drop for country #1
  • Minimal impact for countries #2-5

AFC

  • 3 place drop for country #1
  • Minimal impact for countries #2-4

I have furnished my predictions below, which are largely informed by the insights from the analyses uncovered as part of this research.

Exhibit AB: Kyle’s 2018 World Cup Predictions by Group (in order of expected finish)

Image 36

Exhibit AC: Kyle’s 2018 World Cup Knockout Round Predictions

Image 37

When I think about this World Cup, I believe the World Cup champion will come down to one of the five teams in cohort # 1 – Germany, Brazil, France, Spain, Argentina. Upon analyzing the player pools, I was surprised to conclude that Brazil and Argentina are not as strong, neither in depth nor top quality, as the three European teams. Argentina has weaknesses in the midfield and defense and Brazil has some question marks in central defense and midfield depth.

My assessment of Germany, France, and Spain surprised me as well. France has the most depth and is going to leave some supremely talented players at home.  Among attacking options at their disposal, they will have to whittle down among the following group – Griezmann, Giroud, Lacazette, and Gameiro as central forwards and Dembele, Mbappe, Coman, Martial, Fekir, Lemar, and Payet as wingers.

Germany is very talented and has the track record of performing exceptionally well at the World Cup, but I am reluctant to predict a repeat champion since it has not occurred in over fifty years. As a result, I’m predicting Spain to win the World Cup. I think they are the most balanced team with elite players at every position with lots of depth and versatility.

In evaluating the draw, it’s difficult to see any top teams failing to make the knockout rounds, though the World Cup tends to have a few surprises in the Group Stages so we’ll have to wait and see if there are any early exits. However, the top teams would be wise to win their groups to avoid some potentially explosive Round of 16 matchups, which could feature France vs Argentina and Brazil vs Germany.

Exhibit AD: Comparison – World Cups from 1998 – 2014 vs European-Hosted World Cups vs Predictions

Image 38

The visual above compares the aforementioned composites to my predictions made earlier. As you can see, my predictions largely align with the historical performance trends illustrated by the composite results. The main divergence in my predictions relative to the composite results of the last two World Cups hosted in Europe is CAF 1, the best performing team from CAF. Based on the World Cup draw, I don’t foresee any CAF team advancing from the Group Stages.

In terms of interesting bets[1], I’m intrigued by the Top Goalscorer odds.

Image 39

I love Messi and expect he’ll do great, but I worry Argentina will play 1-3 games less than other teams so I am going to look elsewhere for my recommendation. It’s tempting to choose a French or Spanish player since I forecast those countries to reach the Finals. However, neither France nor Spain have an outright talisman who I expect to score five or more goals and are likely to share the scoring load among several players. Additionally, each country’s track record raises some question marks. France’s goal scoring has been extremely erratic at the World Cup, and Spain has never scored more than 10 goals at a World Cup, including their victory in 2010.

If history is any indication, the smart money suggests selecting a Brazilian or a German. Those countries meet all the criteria in choosing a Golden Boot winner – they tend to advance deep into the tournament and consistently score lots of goals. Based on past performance, Brazil and Germany should each safely expect to reach at least the Quarter-Finals and to score at least 10 goals.

It’s enticing to go with a Brazilian because I can see them racking up goals, but there is risk of goal scoring by committee with the pair of Barcelona compatriots, Paulinho[2] and Coutinho, complimenting the frontline firepower of Neymar and Jesus with marauding runs forward from the midfield. Neymar and Jesus are each likely to find the back of the net multiple times, but I don’t like their value relative to their odds (10:1 and 20:1, respectively).

Through process of elimination, I believe a German is the best choice for Golden Boot, and I would place my bet on Timo Werner (at 16:1). Germany is a safe bet to play a lot of games and score a lot of goals, and he is the most likely candidate to score goals in bunches as he is a pure finisher. Though, it’s worth noting that Germany has two other compelling options. Thomas Muller (at 25:1) has finished first and second in the last two World Cups so he must be seriously considered in any Golden Boot conversation and Leroy Sane (at 66:1) is intriguing given his tremendous goal scoring form for Manchester City this season.

In terms of a sleeper, I think Mbappe (at 33:1) is a good value bet for the odds since his upside is massive. He is likely to advance deep into the knockout rounds, should play lots of minutes, and should be involved in lots of goal scoring opportunities.

 

ICYMI, please refer to Part I Introduction & Evaluation of Performance by Confederation.

ICYMI, please refer to Part II Evaluation of Performance by Country.

ICYMI, please refer to Part III Evaluation of Performance by and within Confederations.

ICYMI, please refer to Part IV Trends & Insights on Performances by Confederation and Country.

 

For those interested, please refer to my companion piece on the implications of this analysis on the USMNT.

 

References

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/jun/01/world-cup-25-stunning-moments-italy-south-korea

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/das-reboot-how-german-football-reinvented-itself-and-conquered-the-world-by-raphael-honigstein-book-10505726.html

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/oct/11/lionel-messi-hat-trick-secures-argentinas-passage-to-world-cup

http://www.goal.com/en-us/news/paulinho-coutinho-neymar-and-jesus-brazils-goalscoring/1jdxj5m8ta8l515nryck81j59k

 

General Resources

http://www.fifa.com/fifa-tournaments/archive/worldcup/index.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FIFA_World_Cup

 

[1] Per Bet365

[2] Who has had the Midas Touch in the past 18 months, scoring loads of goals for club and country.

World Cup Data Analysis: Part IV – Trends & Insights on Performances by Confederation and Country

By @k2thedubs

To download the PDF document in full, click here – World Cup White Paper.

 

The table below ranks all 208 individual country performances over the last seven World Cups based on the following criteria – Goal Differential, Total Points, and Place.

Exhibit W: Country Performance Ranking from 1990 – 2014

Image 27

Image 28

Image 29

Image 30

Image 31

The list above ranks the individual country performances at the World Cup in order from best to worst. The notes that follow highlight various takeaways.

Dominant, Nearly Flawless Performances

  • Brazil (2002), Germany (2014), and France (1998) had the three best performances ever. They each went undefeated with at least six wins and +13 Goal Differential.

Notable Performances

  • Germany (2002) is the first non-Champion performance (#7) mainly due to its +11 Goal Differential, which is tied for fourth best.
  • Spain (2010) is the lowest rated Champion performance (#8) due to its +6 Goal Differential. They only scored eight goals the entire tournament.
  • Brazil (2006) and Colombia (2014) each had the best non-Semi-Finalist performances (#19 and #20) where they won four games, finished in fifth place, and had a +8 Goal Differential.
  • The top 34 performances were all from UEFA or CONMEBOL countries.
  • The first non-traditional countries appear among performances #15-23 related to uncharacteristically deep runs – Croatia (1998), Sweden (1994), Colombia (2014), and Turkey (2002).
  • Quarter-Final runs from powerhouse nations appear high on the list – Argentina (2006, 2010, 1998), Italy (1998), Spain (2002), and France (2014).
  • Argentina (1990) is the lowest Runner-Up finish with only two wins and a +1 Goal Differential. They won two of their knockout round games on penalty kicks, which are recorded as ties.
  • Spain (2006) has the best non-Quarter-Finalist performance (#43) where they won three games, finished in ninth place, and had a +5 Goal Differential. In hindsight, this performance was a harbinger of the historic three-peat that followed in the Euros (’08 and ’12) and World Cup (’10).
  • Costa Rica (2014) is the highest non-UEFA, non-CONMEBOL performance (#45) other than South Korea (2002), who benefited from being the co-host nation.
  • Bulgaria (1994) is the lowest Semi-Final finish with only three wins and a negative (-1) Goal Differential.
  • Every Mexico performance, all Round of 16 exits, occurs within #60-102.

Country Performance Trends

  • Germany
    • Won 5 or more games and reached at least the SF in 5 of 7 World Cups
      • Won 3 games and reached QF in both 1994 and 1998 (prior to Das Reboot)
    • Scored 14 or more goals in 5 of 7 World Cups
      • Scored 8 and 9, respectively, in 1994 and 1998
    • Lost 1 game or less in 6 of 7 World Cups
      • 2 losses and 3rd place in 2010
    • 5 of the Top 9 Goal Differential performances
    • At least 10 Points in all 7 World Cups
  • Brazil
    • Won 3 or more games in all 7 World Cups
    • Lost 1 game or less in 5 of 7 World Cups
      • 2 losses and 2nd place in 1998 and 2 losses and 4th place in 2014
    • Scored 10 goals or more in 5 of 7 World Cups
      • Scored 4 and 9, respectively, in 1990 and 2010
    • At least 9 Points in all 7 World Cups
  • Italy
    • Only won more than 1 game once since 1998
      • Won 5 games in their World Cup victory in 2006
    • Double digits Points in 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2006 World Cups
      • 4 Points or less in 2002, 2010, and 2014 World Cups
    • Lost 1 game or less in 5 of 7 World Cups
      • 2 losses and 15th place in 2002 and 2 losses and 22nd place in 2014
    • Conceded 5 or less goals in all 7 World Cups
  • Argentina
    • Only won more than 3 games in 2 World Cups (2010 and 2014)
    • Lost 1 game or less in 5 of 7 World Cups
      • 2 losses and 2nd place in 1990 and 2 losses and 10th place in 1994
    • Positive Goal Differential in 6 of 7 World Cups
  • Netherlands
    • Won 3 or more games in 4 of 6 World Cups
    • Lost 1 game or less in 5 of 6 World Cups
      • 2 losses and 7th place in 1994
  • Spain
    • Lost 1 game or less in 6 of 7 World Cups
      • 2 losses and 23rd place in 2014
    • Positive Goal Differential in 6 of 7 World Cups
  • France
    • Crazy back-and-forth streak from 1998 2014
      • 6 wins, 0 wins, 4 wins, 0 wins, and 3 wins
      • 15 goals, 0 goals, 9 goals, 1 goals, and 10 goals
      • Goal Differential of +13, -3, +6, -3, and +7
      • Points of 19, 1, 15, 1, and 10
    • At least 1 tie in all 5 World Cups
    • Conceded 4 goals or less in all 5 World Cups
  • England
    • Declining performance from 1990 2014 (missed 1994)
      • 3 wins, 2 wins, 2 wins, 3 wins, 1 win, and 0 wins
      • 8 goals, 7 goals, 6 goals, 6 goals, 3 goals, and 2 goals
      • Goal Differential of +2, +3, +3, +4, -2, and -2
      • Points of 12, 7, 8, 11, 5, and 1
    • Lost 1 game or less in 5 of 6 World Cups
      • 2 losses and 26th place in 2014
    • At least 1 tie in all 6 World Cups (including two or more in 4 of 6 World Cups)
  • Mexico
    • 1-2 wins, 1-2 losses, and 1-2 ties in all 6 World Cups
    • Goal Differential between -1 and +2 in all 6 World Cups
    • 4-7 Points in all 6 World Cups
  • Paraguay
    • Exactly 1 win in all 4 World Cups
    • -1 to +1 Goal Differential in all 4 World Cups
  • Russia
    • Never won more than 1 game or earned more than 3 Points at a World Cup
  • Nigeria
    • Exactly two losses in all 5 World Cups
  • South Korea
    • Besides its 4th place finish in 2002, has only won 2 games in 6 World Cups and earned 4 or less Points in these 6 World Cups
    • Lost 2 games or more in 5 of 7 World Cups
  • USA
    • Won 1 game or less in 6 of 7 World Cups
    • Lost 2 games or more in 6 of 7 World Cups
    • No positive Goal Differential in any World Cup (0 GD in 2002 and 2010)
  • Cameroon
    • Only scored more than 3 goals in 1 of 6 World Cups
    • Conceded 5 or more goals in 5 of 6 World Cups

Other Performance Observations

  • Wide Range of Performance
    • France – 28 place Range and 14.0 Standard Deviation
      • Finished 1st in 1998 and 29th in 2010
    • Japan – 22 place Range and 11.2 Standard Deviation
      • Finished 9th in 2002 and 2010 and 31st in 1998
    • Italy – 25 place Range and 10.3 Standard Deviation
      • Finished 1st in 2006 and 26th in 2010
    • Costa Rica – 23 place Range and 9.9 Standard Deviation
      • Finished 8th in 2014 and 31st in 2006
    • Croatia – 20 place Range and 9.3 Standard Deviation
      • Finished 3rd in 1998 and 23rd in 2002
  • Narrow Range of Performance
    • Mexico – 5 place Range and 1.9 Standard Deviation
      • Finished 10th in 2014 and 15th in 2006
    • Ivory Coast – 4 place Range and 2.0 Standard Deviation
      • Finished 17th in 2010 and 21st in 2014
    • Germany – 6 place Range and 2.2 Standard Deviation
      • Finished 1st in 1990 and 2014 and 7th in 1998
    • Tunisia – 5 place Range and 2.5 Standard Deviation
      • Finished 24th in 2006 and 29th in 2002
    • Brazil – 8 place Range and 2.9 Standard Deviation
      • Finished 1st in 1994 and 2002 and 9th in 1990
  • Multiple Performances Finishing in the Bottom Eight Teams
    • 3
      • Saudi Arabia (1998, 2002, 2006)
      • Cameroon (1998, 2010, 2014)
      • Japan (1998, 2006, 2014)
    • 2
      • Tunisia (1998, 2002)
      • Nigeria (2002, 2010)
      • France (2002, 2010)
      • Iran (2006, 2014)
      • South Korea (1998, 2014)
      • USA (1998, 2006)

Exhibit X: Performance Range by Confederation from 1990 – 2014

Image 32

The tables above show the number of occurrences and percentage of confederation total of individual country performances at the World Cup in quadrants of fifty. A breakdown by confederation follows.

UEFA

  • 35 of the Top 50 (70%) performances
  • 57 of the Top 100 (57%) performances
  • 82% of all performances in the Top 150

CONMEBOL

  • 39% of all performances in Top 50
  • 70% of all performances in Top 100
  • 91% of all performances in the Top 150
  • Only 3 of the Bottom 58 (5%) performances

CONCACAF

  • 1 of the Top 50 (2%) performances
  • 86% of all performances in 51-200 range
  • 2 of the Bottom 8 (25%) performances

CAF

  • 7 of the Top 100 (7%) performances
  • 97% of all performances in 51-200 range
  • 1 of the Bottom 8 (13%) performances

AFC

  • 4 of the Top 100 (4%) performances
  • 60% of all performances in the 151-208 range
  • 4 of the Bottom 8 (50%) performances

The following section will discuss various trends, insights, and takeaways from the World Cup analyses conducted.

Confederation Performance on Home Continent from 1990 – 2014

  • UEFA and CONMEBOL dominate World Cups on their home continents
    • UEFA
      • 1990, 1998, and 2006 all won by UEFA teams.
      • 1990, 1998, and 2006 all at least 3/4 Semi-Finalists by UEFA teams (4/4 in 2006).
      • 10 UEFA teams advanced to R16 in each. 6 UEFA teams advanced to QF in each.
      • 3 or fewer non-UEFA or non-CONMEBOL teams advanced out of Group stages. Only one reached the QF (Cameroon in 1990).
    • CONMEBOL
      • 5 of 6 teams advanced out of Group Stages and Ecuador, the lone exception, was top finisher amongst non-advanced teams.
      • Second time having 5 teams advance (the other is 2010) to knockout rounds.
  • Non-UEFA, Non-CONCACAF World Cups (so called “neutral sites”) experience more parity
    • 1994 (CONCACAF hosted)
      • 4 non-UEFA and non-CONMEBOL teams advanced out of Group Stages.
        • 2 CONCACAF (R16, R16), 1 CAF (R16), and 1 AFC (R16)
    • 2002 (AFC hosted)
      • 5 non-UEFA and non-CONMEBOL teams advanced out of Group Stages.
        • 2 AFC (4P, R16), 2 CONCACAF (QF, R16), 1 CAF (QF)
    • 2010 (CAF hosted)
      • 5 non-UEFA and non-CONMEBOL teams advanced out of Group Stages.
        • 2 CONCACAF (R16, R16), 2 AFC (R16, R16), 1 CAF (QF)

Country Performance on Home Continent from 1990 – 2014

Exhibit Y: Host Nation Performance Boost from 1990 – 2014

Image 33

The table above show the performance boost from hosting the World Cup as measured by a country’s improvement as host of the World Cup relative to its average performance in all other World Cups. Unsurprisingly, hosting the World Cup has a significantly positive impact on a country’s performance at the World Cup. As seen above, every country who hosted the World Cup fared at or better than their average World Cup performance with most countries experiencing a substantial uptick.

Except for South Africa, every host country has advanced from the Group Stages so it’s a safe bet to expect Russia to make it out of Group A. Other than USA and Japan who each made the Round of 16, every host country has made it at least to the Semi-Finals. As our country ranking analysis displayed in Part II, Russia fell into the same cohort as USA, South Korea, Japan, and South Africa (cohort # 5). Interestingly, those four countries experienced a wide spectrum of results as host nation with one (South Africa) failing to advance from the Group Stages and one (South Korea) reaching the Semi-Finals.

Given the strength, or lack thereof, of Group A (the easiest of the World Cup by far), I fully expect Russia to advance out of the Group Stages, though I would not count on them to make a deep run into the knockout rounds as they will likely face either Spain or Portugal from Group B in the Round of 16.

Qualification Difficulty

Only five countries[1] (Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, and South Korea) have qualified for the past eight World Cups and Argentina was in danger of missing out on Russia if not for some Messi heroics in their qualification finale.

CONMEBOL Improvement

  • CONMEBOL has been improving over the last 3 World Cups
    • 2 QFs and 1 R16 in 2006 (out of 4 teams)
    • 1 SF, 3 QFs, and 1 R16 in 2010 (out of 5 teams)
    • 1 F, 1 SF, 1 QF, and 2 R16 in 2014 (out of 6 teams)
    • Only 2 teams (out of 15) have failed to advance from Group stages in last 3 World Cups
      • Bodes well for Peru in Russia 2018

CONCACAF’s Struggles in Europe

  • CONCACAF
    • 1 team has advanced from Group Stages in each World Cup in Europe
    • 2+ teams have advanced from Group Stages in each World Cup outside of Europe

CONCACAF, CAF, AFC Weakness

  • Aggregate Stats Across Confederations
    • No team with more than 5 wins except Mexico (8).
    • No team with a winning record[2] (Mexico is 8-8-8).
    • No team with a positive Goal Differential except Mexico4 (+2).
    • No team wins more than 33% of their matches4.

CAF > CONCACAF > AFC on Top 3 Basis

Exhibit Z: Aggregate Stats by Confederation Based on Results from 1998 – 2014

Image 34

Since CONCACAF, CAF, and AFC have not had the same number of countries in the World Cup and it appears that CAF and AFC are overallocated places in the World Cup field, I performed an analysis on each confederation’s performance on an equivalent basis – the top three performing teams at each World Cup. The exhibit above shows the aggregate confederation stats based on the last 5 World Cups (since the field expanded to 32 teams) on an overall basis, a top 3 team basis for CONCACAF, CAF, and AFC, and the difference between the two.

The difference column is quite revealing and certainly supports the idea that CAF and AFC have been overallocated teams at the World Cup. Teams that do not finish in the top 3 of their confederation have not won any matches at the World Cup, have lost over 80% of their matches, and are outscored by more than 1.5 goals per game. CAF has 33 of these matches, AFC has 18 of these matches, and CONCACAF has 6 of these matches.

When the confederations are compared on a top 3 team basis, the pecking order changes to CAF, CONCACAF, AFC with alignment across Wins, Losses, Goals For, Points, and Goal Differential.

 

To continue on to Part V – click here.

 

ICYMI, please refer to Part I Introduction & Evaluation of Performance by Confederation.

ICYMI, please refer to Part II Evaluation of Performance by Country.

ICYMI, please refer to Part III Evaluation of Performance by and within Confederations.

 

[1] Mexico has qualified for seven consecutive World Cups in which it was eligible to participate. Mexico was banned from the 1990 World Cup for fielding overage players at a junior world championship in the late 1980s.

[2] Amongst teams with multiple World Cup appearances.

World Cup Data Analysis: Part III – Evaluation of Performance by and within Confederations

By @k2thedubs

To download the PDF document in full, click here – World Cup White Paper.

 

Exhibit M: UEFA Advancement Place from 1990 – 2014

Image 16

Advancement Stats

  • UEFA has 5 Champions, 4 Runner-Ups, 7 Third Place, and 4 Fourth Place finishes.
    • Champions
      • Germany (1990)
      • France (1998)
      • Italy (2006)
      • Spain (2010)
      • Germany (2014)
    • Runner-Ups
      • Italy (1994)
      • Germany (2002)
      • France (2006)
      • Netherlands (2010)
    • Third Place
      • Italy (1990)
      • Sweden (1994)
      • Croatia (1998)
      • Turkey (2002)
      • Germany (2006)
      • Germany (2010)
      • Netherlands (2014)
    • Fourth Place
      • England (1990)
      • Bulgaria (1994)
      • Netherlands (1998)
      • Portugal (2006)

Home Field Advantage

  • UEFA had its best performances in its home World Cups – in 1990, 1998, and 2006. UEFA has won and had at least 3 Semi-Finalists in every World Cup hosted in Europe. Additionally, UEFA has had 6 Quarter-Finalists in each of these World Cups in Europe. While UEFA has won the most recent two World Cups, neither of which were played in Europe, its Quarter-Finalists tallies (3 in 2010 and 4 in 2014) were significantly lower than that of their home World Cups.

Will history repeat itself in Russia this summer? Should we expect UEFA to win and dominate the knockout rounds?

Exhibit N: UEFA Breakdown by Country from 1990 – 2014

Image 17

  • UEFA has been the best-performing continent. They have won 193 games and lost 131 games and have outscored opponents by 138 goals.
  • 18 different countries have more than 10 Points.
  • 12 different countries have less than 10 Points.
  • Other than six countries – Serbia (0.5), Scotland (0.7), Slovenia (0.7), Austria (0.8), Greece (0.8), and Russia (0.9) – every country averages more than 1.0 Points per game.
  • 30 countries from UEFA have participated in at least one of the past seven World Cups. Iceland will increase the total to 31 with their qualification for the 2018 World Cup.
  • Except for Greece (-15), no country has a double digit negative Goal Differential and half (15) have a positive Goal Differential.
  • 24 countries have a Goal Differential between -9 and +8.
  • 5 countries – Germany (58), Netherlands (25), Italy (24), Spain (23), and France (20) – account for a +150 Goal Differential.
  • 7 countries – Belgium (6), England (7), France (6), Germany (8), Italy (7), Netherlands (6), and Spain (8) – have qualified for six or more of the past eight World Cups.
  • 9 countries – Belgium (9), Croatia (7), England (11), France (13), Germany (32), Italy (20), Netherlands (19), Portugal (7), and Spain (19) – have won seven or more games at the World Cup.
  • 12 countries have won two or fewer games at the World Cup.
  • UEFA qualifying is cutthroat. Germany and Spain are powerhouses who have made every World Cup, but other powerhouses, such as Italy, the Netherlands, and France, have failed to qualify at least once. Some strong countries, such as Belgium and Portugal, have failed to qualify multiple times.

Exhibit O: CONMEBOL Advancement Place from 1990 – 2014

Image 18

Advancement Stats

  • CONMEBOL has 2 Champions, 3 Runner-Ups, 0 Third Place, and 2 Fourth Place finishes.
    • Champions
      • Brazil (1994)
      • Brazil (2002)
    • Runner-Ups
      • Argentina (1990)
      • Brazil (1998)
      • Argentina (2014)
    • Third Place
    • Fourth Place
      • Uruguay (2010)
      • Brazil (2014)

Home Field Advantage

  • CONMEBOL had its best performance in the 2014 World Cup hosted in Brazil, where Argentina finished as Runner-Up, Brazil finished in Fourth Place, Colombia reached the Quarter-Finals, and Chile and Uruguay reached the Round of 16. This was the only time two CONMEBOL teams made it to the Semi-Finals in the past seven World Cups and only the second time five CONMEBOL teams made it out of the Group Stages.

Exhibit P: CONMEBOL Breakdown by Country from 1990 – 2014

Image 19

  • CONMEBOL has been the second best-performing continent. They have won 74 games and lost 46 games and have outscored opponents by 59 goals
  • Brazil and Argentina have been the two dominant nations and account for the majority of the total Wins, Goals For, Goal Differential, and Points.
  • Every country, except for Bolivia, has more than 10 Points and averages more than 1.1 Points per game.
  • Only eight countries from CONMEBOL have participated in at least one of the past seven World Cups. Peru will increase the total to nine with their qualification for the 2018 World Cup.
  • CONMEBOL qualifying is extremely difficult. Brazil and Argentina are powerhouses who consistently make the World Cup, leaving high quality countries like Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Uruguay fighting for limited spots.
  • Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Uruguay each have win-loss records around 50% and Goal Differentials near zero.

Exhibit Q: CONCACAF Advancement Place from 1990 – 2014

Image 20

Advancement Stats

  • CONCACAF has no Champions, Runner-Ups, Third Place, or Fourth Place finishes.
  • CONCACAF’s best result is Quarter-Finals, which has happened two times.
    • USA (2002 – QF)
    • Costa Rica (2014 – QF)
  • CONCACAF has had at least one country advance from the Group Stages at each of the last seven World Cups. Notably, Mexico has made and lost in six consecutive Round of 16’s.
  • The 10 teams to advance out of the Group Stages and lose in Round of 16 are as follows:
    • Costa Rica (1990 – R16)
    • Mexico (1994 – R16)
    • USA (1994 – R16)
    • Mexico (1998 – R16)
    • Mexico (2002 – R16)
    • Mexico (2006 – R16)
    • USA (2010 – R16)
    • Mexico (2010 – R16)
    • Mexico (2014 – R16)
    • USA (2014 – R16)

Home Field Advantage

  • CONCACAF had a relatively strong performance in the 1994 World Cup hosted in USA, where USA and Mexico each reached the Round of 16.
  • The 2002 and 2014 World Cups were more successful where multiple teams advanced out of the Group Stages with one team reaching the Quarter-Finals.

Exhibit R: CONCACAF Breakdown by Country from 1990 – 2014

Image 21

  • CONCACAF has been the third worst-performing continent. They have won 19 games and lost 38 games and the majority of countries have a negative Goal Differential, albeit most are in single digits. Mexico has a +2 Goal Differential.
  • Mexico, USA, and Costa Rica are the only countries with more than 3 Points.
  • Only six countries from CONCACAF have participated in at least one of the past seven World Cups. Panama will increase the total to seven with their qualification for the 2018 World Cup.
  • Honduras, Jamaica, and Trinidad & Tobago have combined for one win in twelve matches and only four goals scored.
  • Mexico (8), USA (5), and Costa Rica (5) are the only multi-game winning countries.
  • Each country has lost more games than they have won except for Mexico who has won, lost, and tied eight games apiece.
  • The countries combined to allow 40 more goals than they scored.

Exhibit S: CAF Advancement Place from 1990 – 2014

Image 22

Advancement Stats

  • CAF has no Champions, Runner-Ups, Third Place, or Fourth Place finishes.
  • CAF’s best result is Quarter-Finals, which has happened three times.
    • Cameroon (1990 – QF)
    • Senegal (2002 – QF)
    • Ghana (2010 – QF)
  • The 5 teams to advance out of the Group Stages and lose in Round of 16 are as follows:
    • Nigeria (1994 – R16)
    • Nigeria (1998 – R16)
    • Ghana (2006 – R16)
    • Algeria (2014 – R16)
    • Nigeria (2014 – R16)

Home Field Advantage

  • CAF had one of its best performances in the 2010 World Cup hosted in South Africa, where Ghana reached the Quarter-Finals.
  • Arguably, the 2014 World Cup was more successful where two CAF countries advanced out of the Group Stages for the first time ever with Algeria and Nigeria reaching the Round of 16.

Exhibit T: CAF Breakdown by Country from 1990 – 2014

Image 23

  • CAF has been the second worst-performing continent. They have won 22 games and lost 55 games and every country except Senegal (+1) has a negative Goal Differential, albeit most are in single digits.
  • Nigeria, Cameroon, and Ghana are the only countries with more than 10 Points. South Africa and Ivory Coast have each earned 10 Points.
  • Togo participated in only one World Cup where they lost all three matches with a combined -5 Goal Differential.
  • Only Nigeria (5), Cameroon (4), Ghana (4), and Ivory Coast (3) have won more than two games, and no country has won more than five games.
  • No country has a winning record at the World Cup except for Senegal.
  • Each country has lost more games than they have won except for Senegal who only participated in 2002 and made the Quarter-Finals. The other three countries that participated in only one World Cup did not advance from the Group Stages and did not win a single match, suggesting Senegal’s run is an outlier.
  • Nigeria (6/8), Cameroon (6/8), and Tunisia (4/8) are the only countries to qualify for at least half of the World Cups, though their performance has been poor. Cameroon has the worst Goal Differential of any country (-25) and Tunisia has yet to win a game.
  • The countries combined to allow 61 more goals than they scored.

Exhibit U: AFC Advancement Place from 1990 – 2014

Image 24

Advancement Stats

  • AFC has no Champions, Runner-Ups, or Third Place finishes
  • AFC’s best result is Fourth Place with South Korea, as co-host nation, in 2002.
  • Besides South Korea (2002), no AFC team has advanced to the Quarter-Finals.
  • The 6 teams to advance out of the Group Stages are as follows:
    • Saudi Arabia (1994 – R16)
    • Japan (2002 – R16)
    • South Korea (2002 – 4P)
    • Australia (2006 – R16)
    • Japan (2010 – R16)
    • South Korea (2010 – R16)

Home Field Advantage

  • AFC had its best performance in the 2002 World Cup hosted in South Korea and Japan, where both of those nations advanced (South Korea to 4P and Japan to R16, respectively) out of the Group Stages.
  • Curiously, China and Saudi Arabia, the other two AFC nations, finished 31st and 32nd in 2002.

Exhibit V: AFC Breakdown by Country from 1990 – 2014

Image 25

  • AFC has been the worst-performing continent. They have won 14 games and lost 52 games and every country has a negative Goal Differential.
  • South Korea and Japan are the only countries with more than 10 Points, and no country averages more than 0.9 Points per match.
  • Three countries (China, North Korea, and UAE) participated in only one World Cup where they lost all three matches with a combined -29 Goal Differential. Yikes!

Image 26

  • Even removing these three outliers (see above), the results are dismal.
  • Only Japan (4) and South Korea (5) have won more than two games, and no country has won more than five games.
  • Each country has lost more than twice as many games as they have won.
  • The countries combined to allow (133) more than twice as many goals than they have scored (66). Each country has a given up at least eight more goals than they have scored.
  • South Korea has qualified for eight consecutive World Cups and Japan has qualified for six consecutive World Cups.

 

To continue on to Part IV – click here.

 

ICYMI, please refer to Part I Introduction & Evaluation of Performance by Confederation.

ICYMI, please refer to Part II Evaluation of Performance by Country.

World Cup Data Analysis: Part II – Evaluation of Performance by Country

By @k2thedubs

To download the PDF document in full, click here – World Cup White Paper.

 

Exhibit H: Results by Country from 1990 – 2014

Image 9

The table above is a visual analysis of World Cup results by country since 1990.

Exhibit I: Aggregate Stats by Country Based on Results from 1990 – 2014

Image 10

Based on a ranking analysis of eight criteria[1], I divided the 37 nations who have made three or more of the past seven World Cups into cohorts of similar performance.

Cohort # 1: Powerhouses with Multiple World Cup Victories

Mild Surprise – Germany Clearly Ahead of Brazil

  • I was expecting the top spot to be closer, but Germany is superior to Brazil on all criteria.
  • That being said, Brazil is clearly head and shoulders above every other country on all criteria.

Cohort # 2: Global Powers with Repeated Successes and at Least One Finals Appearance

Usual Suspects – Difficult to Find Much Separation Between the Teams

  • There is not much differentiation on any criteria between the teams in this cluster which features all the usual suspects after cohort #1.
  • It’s interesting to note the similarities in certain categories.
    • 18-20 wins for Italy, Argentina, the Netherlands, and Spain (France with fewer wins given their DNQs in 1990 and 1994).
    • 20-25 Goal Differential for all five teams.
    • 52%-58% Winning Percentage for all five teams.
    • 17%-23% Losing Percentage for all five teams.
    • 84-1.94 Points per game for all five teams.

Cohort # 3: Contenders with Positive Track Record and Ability to Advance to Later Rounds

History of Strong Performances at the World Cup

  • This group begins to show disparities on certain categories though the teams are largely similar.
    • Some teams have few (Romania, 3) and some teams have many (England, 6 and Mexico, 6) World Cup appearances.
    • All teams have at least five wins and no teams have a losing record except Sweden who is one game under .500 (5-6-7).
    • England and Sweden have the highest Tie Percentage (39%) in the top 20 teams.
    • Mexico and Sweden have the lowest Winning Percentage (Mexico, 33% and Sweden, 28%) of the cohort.
    • All teams have a single digit positive Goal Differential.

Cohort # 4: Noisemakers Who Don’t Always Qualify but Show Well When They Do

History of Above-Average Performances at the World Cup

  • This group consists of only a few teams and is mostly similar.
    • All teams have 4-6 wins and a record either .500 or 1-2 games under .500.

Cohort # 5: Hodgepodge of Countries Characterized by Mediocre, Albeit Volatile, Performance

History of Below-Average Performances at the World Cup

  • This group has some minor disparities but is mostly similar.
    • All teams have five or fewer wins and a Winning Percentage at 33% or less except for Ecuador (40%).
    • All teams have a Losing Percentage between 40%-60% except for Ireland (23%) and South Africa (33%).
    • No teams have a positive Goal Differential (Ireland and Russia at 0).

Cohort # 6: Laggards with Limited to No Success at the World Cup

History of Dreadful Performances at the World Cup

  • This group is smaller and has largely similar performance.
    • All teams have two or fewer wins and a Winning Percentage of 20% or less.
    • All teams have a Losing Percentage of 60% or greater
    • All teams have (1.0) Goal Differential per game or worse.
    • All teams have 0.80 Points per game or fewer.

Exhibit J: Advancement Stats by Country Based on Results from 1990 – 2014

Image 11

Image 12

Consistent Dominance

  • Germany has made the Quarter-Finals or better in each of the last 7 World Cups.
  • Brazil has made the Quarter-Finals or better in 6 of the last 7 World Cups and advanced out of the Group Stages in each of the last 7 World Cups.

Volatile Performance from World Cup Winners

  • Italy won the 2006 World Cup, finished second in 1994, and finished third in 1990. They also failed to advance from the Group Stages in 2010 and 2014 and failed to qualify for 2018.
  • France won the 1998 World Cup and finished second in 2006. Prior to winning the 1998 World Cup, they failed to qualify for consecutive World Cups in 1990 and 1994. They also failed to advance from the Group Stages in 2010.

Trends from Other Strong Performers

  • Argentina has made the Quarter-Finals or better in 5 of the last 7 World Cups and advanced out of the Group Stages in 6 of the last 7 World Cups. They have finished second twice – in 1990 and 2014.
  • Netherlands has advanced out of the Group Stages in each of the most recent 6 World Cups in which they participated and made the Semi-Finals or better in 3 of these 6 World Cups. They failed to qualify for the 2002 and 2018 World Cups.
  • Spain has only advanced beyond the Quarter-Finals once, winning the World Cup in 2010. Their reputation as attractive style of play but lack of killer instinct (other than 2010) certainly holds as they boast impressive statistics but have only reached the Quarter-Finals three times.

Other Notable Highlights

  • England has advanced out of the Group Stages in 5 of the 6 World Cups in which they participated but have only advanced to the Semi-Finals once (in 1990).
  • Belgium has advanced out of the Group Stages in 4 of the 5 World Cups in which they participated but have only advanced to the Quarter-Finals once (in 2014).
  • Mexico has advanced to and been eliminated in six consecutive Round of 16’s. Consistent!

Countries with One Special Run

  • Croatia finished third in 1998 but have not advanced out of the Group Stages in any other World Cup.
  • Sweden finished third in 1994 but have not advanced past the Round of 16 since, even missing 3 of the 6 World Cups.

Countries with Strong Performance in Few Appearances

  • Chile has reached the Round of 16 in each of the 3 World Cups in which they participated.
  • Ireland has advanced out of the Group Stages in each of the 3 World Cups in which they participated, making 2 Round of 16’s and 1 Quarter-Finals.

Countries with Poor Advancement Records

  • Russia has failed to advance from the Group Stages in each of the 4 World Cups in which they participated.
  • Ivory Coast has failed to advance from the Group Stages in each of the 3 World Cups in which they participated.
  • South Korea has been eliminated in the Group Stages in each of the last 7 World Cups except for 2002 (played in South Korea and Japan) where they finished fourth and 2010 (played in South Africa) where they reached the Round of 16.
  • Japan has mirrored South Korea. They have been eliminated in the Group Stages in each of the last 5 World Cups in which they participated except for 2002 (played in South Korea and Japan) and 2010 (played in South Africa) where they reached the Round of 16.

Exhibit K: Cumulative Advancement Stats by Country Based on Results from 1990 – 2014

Image 13

Image 14

Exhibit L: Advancement Timeline by Country Based on Results from 1990 – 2014

Image 15

This table shows a timeline of country performance from 1990 2014. I have included some notable storylines stemming from the timeline below.

  • Will Germany continue their dominance? They won the last World Cup, won the 2017 Confederations Cup (with a young, less than full strength roster), and have made at least the Semi-Finals in the past 4 World Cups.
  • Will Brazil regain their dominance? Since pulling off a Champion, Runner-Up, Champion run in 1998, 2002, and 2006, Brazil has yet to make a Final and bowed out of the 2014 World Cup, which they hosted, with a stunning 7-1 defeat to Germany in the Semi-Finals.
  • What is Italy’s response to their swift fall from grace? They followed a 2006 World Cup victory with 2 group stage eliminations and a DNQ for the 2018 World Cup.
  • Similar to Italy, what is the Netherland’s next step? They followed a Runner-Up and Third Place finish with a DNQ for the 2018 World Cup.
  • How will Spain recover from their 2014 World Cup disappointment? After becoming the first team to win consecutive Euros (2008), World Cup (2010), and Euros (2012), they stumbled out of the Group Stages in spectacular fashion. What Spain will we see in Russia 2018?
  • Can France put together consecutive positive World Cup performances, which they have not done over this timeframe? Will their stockpile of talent be able to overcome this trend?
  • Can England and / or Belgium capitalize on their strongest squads in recent memory to propel a deep run in the World Cup? Neither has made a Semi-Final since 1990.
  • Can Mexico snap its Round of 16 streak, either for better or worse? They are a mercurial side equally likely to fall victim to a difficult group and not advance or finally buck their trend and advance deep into the tournament.
  • Will Romania ever recover? They have missed 5 consecutive World Cups after having advanced out of the Group Stages in the previous 3 World Cups.
  • Will Colombia exploit its golden generation and advance to the knockout rounds for the second consecutive World Cup, a feat it has never done?
  • How will Uruguay fare in Europe, after missing the past two World Cups on the continent?
  • Like Romania, will Ireland ever recover? They have missed 4 consecutive World Cups after having advanced out of the Group Stages in the previous 3 World Cups in which they competed.
  • Can Costa Rica take advantage of its golden generation one more time before age catches up to them?
  • Will Russia leverage home-field advantage to advance out of the Group Stages for the first time in 8 World Cups?
  • Can South Korea and Japan reverse their historical trends? Each nation has failed to advance out of the Group Stages in World Cups held in Europe. However, each country has experienced a Do Not Advance – Advance coupling for the past 5 World Cups that is slated for Advance if the trend were to continue.
  • Will Iran and / or Tunisia be able to make history? Neither country has ever advanced out of the Group Stages.

 

To continue on to Part III – click here.

 

ICYMI, please refer to Part I Introduction & Evaluation of Performance by Confederation.

 

[1] Criteria based on World Cups Made (World Cups), Matches Played (Matches), Total Goal Differential (GD), Total Points (Pts), Winning Percentage (Win %), Losing Percentage (Loss %), Per Game Goal Differential (Per Game GD), and Per Game Points (Per Game Pts).