When Belgium played the USMNT in the knockout round of the 2014 World Cup President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo made a friendly bet that the loser would send the winner a few cases of their country’s best beer. It is very debatable whether Sam Adams is America’s best beer but since America has so many craft breweries it would be very hard to choose which beer he sent if he went with a more diminutive American craft brewer. Smart move by Obama to send beer from one the country’s largest craft breweries, as well as being a craft brewery named after one of this country’s founding fathers, because you can’t go wrong with that combination. It would have been interesting to see what Elio Di Rupo would have sent had he won since Belgium is home to many fine beers which each could have made a case to be called the country’s best beer. Come to think of it, thank God Belgium didn’t lose because that could have started a beer civil war in Belgium.
Also, I know Obama is just being funny when he says “See you in 2018” but for the sake of the USMNT they better hope they never face Belgium in 2018 because they will be even more talented than they are now.
With the close of the 2014 World Cup comes the ending of the biggest International Soccer competition until Russia in 2018. This tournament caused the biggest movement of FIFA’s rankings until the next major tournament, so these rankings should be relatively stable until CONMEBOL’s Copa America (2015/2016) or UEFA’s Euro (2016). Copa America and Euro will of course result in changes, but only for certain regional confederations, whereas the World Cup helps and/or hurts every FIFA team in the world. Let’s get into these preliminary rankings, starting with the prediction for the new top 30:
Below is a chart showing how teams entered the World Cup Finals and how the final results moved them around:
Oh how the mighty have fallen. Given that Spain, England and Italy were all bumped from the tournament in the Group Stage, Spain fared quite well only dropping to number 8. Italy and England were not so lucky, falling to 18th and 25th respectively. The impressive tournament performance by CONCACAF teams advancing to the knockout stage (Mexico, USA and Costa Rica) only allowed Costa Rica to move up from 28th to 23rd. The United States dropped from 13th to 22nd and Mexico held at 20th. Those European teams that made it out of the Group Stage did quite well, especially the Netherlands (15th to 3rd), France (17th to 6th) and Belgium (11th to 5th). Of course, these are all predictions using the FIFA Prognosis Tool (better than WebMD) and will be either blown out of the water or confirmed come Thursday when FIFA is set to release their next rankings update. IF these predictions hold true, the highest ranked team that is not a member of UEFA or CONMEBOL is…Algeria, at 19th in the world. I’ll bet nobody called that one.
Check in after FIFA releases their new rankings this Thursday for a comparison of FIFA using FIFA math and my attempt at using FIFA math.
FIFA won’t be officially updating the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings until after the World Cup Finals are over (July 17th to be exact). Here at the93rdminute, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to provide you with (approximate) updates to the World Rankings as the world progresses through the next four rounds of games. You might be saying, “How on Earth can those brilliant minds at the93rdminute, my favorite soccer blog, know what the rankings will be?!?!?” and the answer is…math! We are using the FIFA Ranking Prognosis Tool, which can be found here. Essentially, the tool allows you to calculate your favorite national squad’s possible ranking points by inserting the results of recent matches. For more on how the ranking points are determined, see here.
Below you can see the top 30 teams before the World Cup, with their estimated ranking points after the group stage.
The next image displays the newly ordered rankings, which has Colombia taking over first place and not surprisingly Spain falling off the top of the mountain.
There are a few surprises with how the math works out, like the USA dropping two spots and losing ranking points, Brazil barely staying in the top 10, and England and Italy plummeting. Although Jürgen and the boys advanced to the knockout stage, they only managed a win against Ghana, the worst ranked team in the group. A draw against Germany or a win against Portugal would have been a net gain of 50-100 ranking points, putting the Yanks near the top 10! Math is crazy, I know. Brazil played a relatively weak group (Mexico, Croatia and Cameroon ranked 20th, 18th, and 56th respectively) and didn’t exactly blow them all out of the water. As for England and Italy, they have had better group stage experiences that is for sure.
We will be updating this after every round (or more often) throughout the World Cup and see how it compares to the official rankings in a few weeks. Keep coming back to the93rdminute for all your FIFA-related mathematical skepticism!
World Cup season is beginning folks. The qualifiers are wrapping up and more and more teams are logging onto Expedia.com to book their flights to Brazil (Shameless plug of Expedia.com in the faint hope they read this blog and give me free stuff). So far the list of teams that have qualified are as follows:
Only one team can win the World Cup and only a few have a realistic shot at winning it. That’s not to say a team like the US or Switzerland cannot win the World Cup. Instead, I’m just advising you to have a backup. The consensus backup choice for most is Belgium. Why Belgium? Well it is an underdog since they haven’t qualified for the previous two World Cups or the last three European Championships so that satisfies all the fans who like to root for a dark horse. However, the team is extremely talented boasting a young skilled roster that has led them to a number 6 FIFA ranking. Therefore, they are also talented enough to challenge for a World Cup which means most fans who like rooting for winning teams will also be satisfied with the Red Devils.
Belgium has two certified number one goalkeepers in Thibaut Courtois who is the number 1 goalkeeper and is currently having a fantastic season at Atletico Madrid and the number 2 is Simon Mignolet who’s clean-sheets are the main reason Liverpool is doing as well as they are this season. The defense is rock solid and that’s even without Vincent Kompany, the Manchester City stalwart, who is currently sidelined with an injury. The midfield is bolstered by the electric Eden Hazard and the effective Marouanne Fellaini who’s stellar season last year with Everton earned hims a transfer to Manchester United. The forwards may not be as awe-inspiring as Robin Van Persie or Neymar but Benteke, Mirallas, and Lukaku are quality goal-scorers especially with such a creative midfield behind them.
Lastly, this team is young and have been playing together for awhile. Although they under-performed at the Euro 2012 that was more of a learning experience for them. The more they play together the better they will get as exemplified by how easily the breezed through FIFA World Cup Qualifying. This team will only get better before the World Cup and if they make it out of the group stages (which I assume they will) then they will be a force to be reckoned with in the knockout round. Belgium has a history of being a small fractured nation when it comes to not only developing footballers but also the fractitious history of the country has prevented them from being fully unified behind their national football team. However, with a team as a special as this many Belgians are realizing that a “golden generation” like these players only comes around once in a blue moon. When they start firing on all cylinders they will be a force to be reckoned with which might just happen in Brazil so prepare a glass of Chimay and some Belgian chocolates in case your team bows out early.