Sports Features of Wednesday, 2 July 2014
Source: Kuunifaa, Cletus D.
By Cletus D Kuunifaa
The World Cup matches have been very exciting. They have been full of surprises, thus underlying the fact that there are no more soccer minor nations. The sport has developed tremendously and countries have responded and adjusted to this growth and development with an equally measured and improved performance exhibited during this tournament.
The nations of Honduras, Costa Rica, Chile, Colombia, and the USA have been major revelations at this World Cup, where as England, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Germany have had or having a rude awakening as to their supposed dominance in the sport. By the way, who even classified them as dominant soccer nations? Soccer is a collective sport and demands team work, training together for long as it takes and practicing and rehearsing strategy, formation and tactics, then the team blossoms and plays as a unit, a strong and cohesive unit.
The Netherlands had come full circle on that. The Dutch came out with their new 3-4-1-2 formation, while keeping their traditional 5-3-2 strategy intact. They tried their new formation in the friendly match against Ghana’s Black Stars and it worked very well. They then perfected it and it will become a killer dose for Spain. The Dutch used their new formation to demolish and rout Spain as if they wanted to wipe Spain off the soccer map. And the surprises at this Mundial go on unabated.
The other day, I listened to ESPN’s commentators before the Ghana vs. Germany match and you will be surprised by the commentaries from Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Michael Ballack.
Michael Ballack, in particular, expressed disbelief about how an African team should think about winning the World Cup? To which I wondered…Why not? Isn’t soccer a collective sport and propelled by team work and hard training? Why are the teams in Brazil to compete, if not for the ultimate? I do not know if he intended positively from what he opined, but one thing is clear that Ghana is a soccer nation!
We crashed out of the tournament due to poor planning and subdued organization as well as a subpar manager. Suffice to state that we exited from the Mundial owing to an incompetent technical bench from whence player selection became a major setback. Why will a competent coach not parade his best eleven against the USA in our opening match? Was there a special reason and or motivation not to do that? Or the technical bench just underrated the USA team? Why will you gamble such a game on poor player selection? The opening match was one in which we needed all of our “top guns”…no experiment what so ever! But as it turned out to be, we lost that match that could have easily been won. We all watched the match and saw the difference when K P Boateng and Michael Essien were introduced into the second half of the game. Their performance showed their quality. This is not berating the younger players, but much as they are good we needed so badly the three points to commence on a good note and announce our presence on a sound footing, hence our “top guns” in that match was in dire need.
Also, there was no need for the swoop of officials from both GFA and from the Ministry of Sport to trail the team from training preparations in Ghana to the Netherlands via the USA to Brazil. Even if that being the case, the player bonuses and their appearance fees should have been paid to them in advance to dispel any rumor fueled by propensity for corruption. Of course, the adage has it that there is no smoke without fire, and Sulley Muntari would have been right and justified by his outburst, given his experience with the team being a senior player.
Regardless of our exit, Ghana is still a force to reckon with in the sport. We are two-time FIFA U-17 World Cup Champions in 1991 and 1995 and a two-time Runner up in 1993 and 1997. We won the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2009 and a two-time Runner up in 1993, 2001 and finished third in 2013.
If this achievement is not enough to signal some respect for Ghana, then, Michael Ballack should watch again the match between the Black Stars and his home nation Germany, which was described as one of the epic encounters at the ongoing tournament. I do believe he will have some respect now for Ghana.
These ESPN commentators would always render their pre-match commentaries, sometimes warped, albeit, I believe, based on the FIFA ranking of the nations. They will then be forced to eat humble pie after their hypothesis has been proved wrong after the matches. The Ghana vs Germany match is a case in point. All the ESPN commentators did not give Ghana a chance at all. They summarily dismissed the threat of Ghana before the match and the post match commentary that day was just as you can imagine watching them eat their words.
But who can blame them for their lopsided opinioned commentaries? It presumably would have been informed by the FIFA rankings so jarred up in their minds and thoughts. Now that some of the supposed soccer power houses have been eliminated from the competition, we will only wait to see the next FIFA rankings.
I honestly do not know what type of methodological design that FIFA employs to gather data, analyze to get the results for the ranking. I last checked and it is a complicated procedure just as the results are so conflated to not reflect the reality on the ground.
According to FIFA website, the basic logic of these calculations is simple: any team that does well in world football wins points which enable it to climb the world ranking. A team’s total number of points over a four-year period is determined by adding: the average number of points gained from matches during the past 12 months;
and the average number of points gained from matches older than 12 months (depreciates yearly)
The number of points that can be won in a match depends on the following factors: Was the match won or drawn? (M) How important was the match (ranging from a friendly match to a FIFA World Cup™ match)? (I) How strong was the opposing team in terms of ranking position and the confederation to which they belong? (T and C). These factors are brought together in the following formula to ascertain the total number of points (P). P = M x I x T x C (http://www.fifa.com/worldranking/rankingtable/index.html)
Other factors used to determine the calculation of the points are the importance of match, strength of opposing team and strength of confederation. They then assign values (points) depending on the confederation. When calculating matches between teams from different confederations, the mean value of the confederations to which the two competing teams belong is used. The strength of a confederation is calculated on the basis of the number of victories by that confederation at the last three FIFA World Cup™ competitions. Their values are as follows UEFA/CONMEBOL - 1.00, CONCACAF - 0.88,
AFC/CAF- 0.86, OFC - 0.85.
As you can infer from the above, a team from CAF will have a value of 0.86 as compared to values of other confederations. Question: Why assign only 5 slots for Africa as compared to the numbers from other confederations?
Well, much as I find FIFA’s ranking to be rubbish, I am intrigued at the juxtaposition of the performance of the lowly placed nations to the highly placed ones given the strength of the former. I therefore like to submit that it is so evident how statistically insignificant the values arrived at from FIFA’s conflated calculation of points for their supposed ranking order is.
In fact, we have soccer minor nations playing the game with dexterity and eliminating the supposed FIFA big boys at this ongoing tournament.
My stand on FIFA’s ranking is unshakable for as long as the lowly positioned teams are dealing exit strategies to the supposed FIFA big nations. It is high time FIFA revisited their factors for calculating points to make results statistically significant and appear fair and acceptable to small nations. Indeed, as fate will have it, Brazil found Chile a hard nut to crack in one of the round of sixteen matches of the tournament. It was clear that Chile had the better of the exchanges in terms of skills, strategy, and formation in that match. The Mexican team coach will blame their exit on poor calls from the officiating officials, while Ghana held Germany to a pulsating drawn game and the match might go down FIFA’s history as one of the best matches played at the tournament.
FIFA must perfect their ranking system. FIFA must use this tournament as a mirror to reflect on the factors used for calculating the points for their ranking.
By Cletus D. Kuunifaa,
LIU Post, New York.
Can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or Follow him on twitter @ckuunifaa