Wednesday, December 02, 2009

World Cup 2010 Draw Revisted - Probabilities

Just today the South Africa 2010 Organizing Committee has confirmed what I predicted a couple weeks ago, with one exception. France is not seeded. Despite winning in 1998 and being a finalist in 2006, the SAOC and FIFA have not rewarded France with a seed. I wonder why. I don't really wonder - this was clearly the result of Thierry Henry's handiwork. (see what I did there?)

Here are the pots for the draw which will be held on Friday.

Pot 1 (Seeded Teams): South Africa, Brazil, England, Spain, Argentina, Netherlands, Italy, Germany (5 of 8 are previous winners).

Pot 2: (AFC, New Zealand and CONCACAF: North Korea, South Korea (...Marilyn Monroe - I am feeling humorous today), Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Honduras, Mexico, USA

Pot 3: (CAF and CONMEBOL): Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria, Ghana, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile

Pot 4: (non-seeded UEFA): France, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Denmark, Greece, Serbia, Switzerland)

So, from my prior predictions, the only differences are that France and Holland traded places and the numbering of the groups. Both of those changes are irrelevant to my prior analysis as I still rate France as Group of Death worthy (GoD) team. So, why post again? Well, as someone pointed out to me on BigSoccer, it would be extremely unlikely that the hosts are placed in a GoD. The host country has made it to the second round in every single World Cup. If I were a betting man . . . guess what I would bet on right now?

Okay, so assuming South Africa is not capable of being placed in a GoD, that means there is 7/8 chance that a Pot 1 team will contribute to a GoD.

Out of Pot 2, I rate the US.

Out of Pot 3, I rate Ivory Coast, Ghana and Paraguay as GoD teams. (3/8)

Out of Pot 4, I rate France, Denmark and Portugal as GoD teams. (3/8)

Now, let's reexamine what exactly constitutes a GoD. Is it that every team should have a reasonable shot at advancing? Or that 3/4 of the 4 would be feared. I think it's the latter.

Let's look at the GoDs for the last 3 World Cups. I wanted to include 1994 as well, but that tournament only had 24 teams so 3 teams could advance from any group - and the GoD there was Ireland, Italy, Mexico and Norway - and Ireland, Mexico and Italy actually advanced.

In 1998: Nigeria, Spain, Paraguay and Bulgaria. Nigeria and Bulgaria were stars in 1994 and Spain is Spain. Paraguay were not highly rated in 1998 having failed to qualify for either 1990 or 1994.

In 2002: England, Argentina, Sweden and Nigeria. Here, England, Argentina and Sweden were all highly rated. Nigeria were not rated so highly as the stars that carried them to the second round in 1994 and 1998 had aged by this point. In fact, they were pretty fruitless on the pitch as well, scoring a lone goal.

In 2006, we had: USA, Czech Republic, Italy and Ghana (USA, Czech and Italy were all top 15 teams per FIFA rankings) and Ghana was in its first world cup. Out of the 64 teams that made the second round in the four prior world cups, only 3 were debutants (Senegal '02, Saudia Arabia '94 and Costa Rica '90). In 2006, the group with Argentina, Ivory Coast, Serbia and Netherlands was also considered a GoD by some, but we had 2 debutants in that group - debutants are very unlikely to advance (again, only 3/64 teams that qualified for the 2nd round between 1990 and 2002 were debutants).

So, let's say a GoD is established if there are 3 teams that can be considered reasonably likely to advance to the second round.

I decided to be unlazy and have attempted to calculate this both if we assume the US is a GoD team and if the US is considered the weak team. In the case of the latter - we'll call that LEG (learning experience group). For clarity - I've included LEGs into the God calculations.

Anyway - if we draw a CONMEBOL team from Pot 1, then we have a 0.09% chance of drawing into a LEG and a 3.0% chance of drawing into a traditional GoD. So there is a 3.9% chance of at least a GoD.

If we draw a UEFA team from Pot 1, we have an 2.2% chance of drawing into a LEG and a 7.5% chance of drawing into a traditional GoD. So there is 9.7% chance of at least a GoD.

If we draw South Africa, then we have 0 chance of getting a GoD - based on the warm ball theory.

So, we have a 13.6% chance of being drawn into a Group of Death.

What does this all mean? Very little until Friday. That's the beauty of the game and these tournaments. No matter who we draw, we will need to win. And, if our group is like the Confederations Cup, maybe we just have to win once. (by the by, since 1990, the US has only picked up 9 of a possible 45 points in group stage games. And people wonder why we haven't been seeded).

Let´s hope we draw Argentina or South Africa.


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