Tuesday, June 29, 2010

208 to 1: World Cup 2010 Eliminations Timeline

UPDATE: Completed!

Yes, we know now who qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. In the future, it will be easy to look at the qualifying standings to see how things turned out. However, one thing that can't easily be determined from a simple glance at the standings is exactly when each team fell out of contention. It's fairly obvious if you look at the schedule for a minute or two, but that takes some effort. So what I set out to do is to make a list of exactly when each team was officially eliminated, and here it is.

You'll see the overall order of each team to the left of their name, counting down from 208 (the number of FIFA members, hence this post's title). The number to the right of the team is their order of elimination within their region.

Order of Elimination

March 30, 2007

206 (tie). Brunei Darussalam (AFC-44th, tie)
206 (tie). Laos (AFC-44th, tie)
206 (tie). Philippines (AFC-44th, tie)

The only three FIFA members not to enter qualifying.

May 25, 2007

204. Papau New Guinea (OFC-11th)

Were listed as participating in qualifying but apparently "failed to meet the official accreditation" (Wikipedia) before qualifying started.

August 7, 2007

205. Guam (AFC-43rd)

Withdrew immediately after the AFC preliminary draw.

August 29, 2007

203. American Samoa (OFC-10th)

First team out during South Pacific Games.

August 31, 2007

201 (tie). Central African Republic (CAF-52nd, tie)
201 (tie). São Tomé and Príncipe (CAF-52nd, tie)

These two CAF members withdrew before the preliminary round.

September 1, 2007

199 (tie). Cook Islands (OFC-8th, tie)
199 (tie). Tahiti (OFC-8th, tie)

September 3, 2007

198. Samoa (OFC-7th)
197. Tonga (OFC-6th)

September 7, 2007

196. Solomon Islands (OFC-5th)

Only four teams remained after the first round of OFC qualifying (aka the South Pacific Games). The first tiebreaker during qualifying is goal differential, and I have Samoa being eliminated before Tonga because of it. Allow me to explain: With one match in the round robin remaining and the second spot to advance still undecided, Vanuatu has 6 points, Samoa 6, and Tonga 3. Samoa has completed all their games with a +1 goal differential; Vanuatu (+17) and Tonga (-1) face each other in the final match. A Tonga win would mean a three way tie, but it is impossible for Samoa's goal differential to be tops in that scenario.

September 13, 2007

195. Bhutan (AFC-42nd)

Also withdrew from qualifying.

October 15, 2007

194. Macau (AFC-41st)

October 26, 2007

193. Afghanistan (AFC-40th)

October 28, 2007

191 (tie). Mongolia (AFC-38th, tie)
191 (tie). Timor-Leste (AFC-38th, tie)
190. Myanmar (AFC-37th)
189. Nepal (AFC-36th)
187 (tie). Bangladesh (AFC-34th, tie)
187 (tie). Palestine (AFC-34th, tie)
186. Chinese Taipei (AFC-33rd)
184 (tie). Maldives (AFC-31st, tie)
184 (tie). Pakistan (AFC-31st, tie)
183. Malaysia (AFC-30th)
182. Cambodia (AFC-29th)
181. Vietnam (AFC-28th)
180. Sri Lanka (AFC-27th)
179. Kyrgyzstan (AFC-26th)

October 30, 2007

178. India (AFC-25th)

First round of Asian qualifying. I'm basing the order on the starting times of the matches as well as the time zones of the host countries. Extra time is taken into account too. There are not really any ties here, but I have no way of knowing which games ended first. I would also be unaware if any games were delayed or anything like that, so keep that in mind.

November 16, 2007

177. Somalia (CAF-51st)

November 17, 2007

176. Comoros (CAF-50th)
175. Guinea-Bissau (CAF-49th)

These three lost in the preliminary round of African qualifying.

November 18th, 2007

174. Tajikistan (AFC-24th)
173. Yemen (AFC-23rd)
172. Indonesia (AFC-22nd)
171. Hong Kong (AFC-21st)

Four teams gone in the small second round of Asian qualifying.

March 25, 2008

170. Eritrea (CAF-48th)

Withdrew after the group stage was drawn.

March 26, 2008

168 (tie). Turks and Caicos Islands (CONCACAF-34th, tie)
168 (tie). U.S. Virgin Islands (CONCACAF-34th, tie)
167. Dominica (CONCACAF-33rd)
166. Aruba (CONCACAF-32nd)
165. Montserrat (CONCACAF-31st)
164. Saint Kitts and Nevis (CONCACAF-30th)
162 (tie). Anguilla (CONCACAF-28th, tie)
162 (tie). Nicaragua (CONCACAF-28th, tie)
161. Dominican Republic (CONCACAF-27th)

March 30, 2008

160. British Virgin Islands (CONCACAF-26th)
159. Cayman Islands (CONCACAF-25th)

First round of North American qualifying done.

June 7, 2008

158. Turkmenistan (AFC-20th)
157. Lebanon (AFC-19th)

June 14
, 2008

156. Jordan (AFC-18th)
155. Thailand (AFC-17th)
154. Singapore (AFC-16th)
153. China (AFC-15th)
152. Oman (AFC-14th)
151. Kuwait (AFC-13th)
150. Puerto Rico (CONCACAF-24th)

June 18, 2008

149. Bahamas (CONCACAF-23rd)

June 20, 2008

148. St. Vincent and the Grenandines (CONCACAF-22nd)

June 21, 2008

146 (tie). Fiji (OFC-3rd, tie)
146 (tie). Vanuatu (OFC-3rd, tie)
145. Seychelles (CAF-47th)
142 (tie). Belize (CONCACAF-19th, tie)
142 (tie). Grenada (CONCACAF-19th, tie)
142 (tie). St. Lucia (CONCACAF-19th, tie)

June 22, 2008

140 (tie). Iraq (AFC-11th, tie)
140 (tie). Syria (AFC-11th, tie)
139. Mauritania (CAF-46th)
138. Djibouti (CAF-45th)
137. Niger (CAF-44th)
135 (tie). Mauritius (CAF-42nd, tie)
135 (tie). Tanzania (CAF-42nd, tie)
134. Barbados (CONCACAF-18th)
133. Guyana (CONCACAF-17th)
132. Antigua and Barbuda (CONCACAF-16th)
131. Bermuda (CONCACAF-15th)
130. Netherlands Antillles (CONCACAF-14th)
129. Panama (CONCACAF-13th)

AFC and CONCACAF are now getting into the heart of their qualification methods. Iraq is the first of the reigning confederation champions to be eliminated. I wonder how many such teams have failed to qualify throughout the history of WCQ? Can't be too many.

June 28, 2008

128. Lesotho (CAF-41st)

September 6, 2008

127. New Caledonia (OFC-2nd)
126. Namibia (CAF-40th)
124 (tie). Equatorial Guinea (CAF-38th, tie)
124 (tie). Liberia (CAF-38th, tie)
123. Burundi (CAF-37th)

September 7, 2008

122. Botswana (CAF-36th)

New Zealand became the champion of Oceania and also advanced to the Confederations Cup. They'll now wait a year to play their next qualifiers. Also, South Africa was eliminated from the qualifying competition on this date. Of course, they're still guaranteed a spot in the World Cup.

September 12, 2008

121. Ethiopia (CAF-35th)

Kicked out of the competition by FIFA, in one of the rare instances where they actually followed through on their threats.

October 11, 2008

120. Congo DR (CAF-34th)
119. Zimbabwe (CAF-33rd)
115 (tie). Angola (CAF-29th, tie)
115 (tie). Cape Verde (CAF-29th, tie)
115 (tie). Libya (CAF-29th, tie)
115 (tie). Madagascar (CAF-29th, tie)
114. Sierra Leone (CAF-28th)
113. Swaziland (CAF-27th)
112. Senegal (CAF-26th)
110 (tie). Chad (CAF-24th, tie)
110 (tie). Congo (CAF-24th, tie)
109. Canada (CONCACAF-12th)

Angola and Cape Verde were hard to figure out because of the second placed teams advancing. I believe they were officially eliminated at the same time, when groups 5 & 7 were settled. Angola becomes the first team from the 2006 World Cup to be eliminated.

Meanwhile, Canada surprisingly is the first CONCACAF team out in the semifinal round. Who would've thought that a year after their great 2007 Gold Cup?

October 12, 2008

108. Uganda (CAF-23rd)
107. Gambia (CAF-22nd)

We're now done with the second round of African qualifying. First of all, I'm really glad that both Angola and South Africa failed to advance. It makes things a whole lot simpler (due to these qualifiers also counting for the 2010 Nations Cup). Of the final 20 teams, in the previous round 10 were #1 seeds. The only two to miss out were Angola and Senegal. 5 were #2 seeds (Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, and Zambia), 4 were #3 seeds (Gabon, Malawi, Rwanda, and Sudan), and 1 was a #4 seed (Kenya).

I have to say I'm disappointed to see The Gambia out. They were my surprise pick for a first time qualifier, due to their youth successes recently. Then, seeing some of their players move to MLS only made me more interested in their fate. They played really well, finishing second ahead of Senegal, so they have nothing to be ashamed of. If they're disappointed, they certainly aren't showing it; the president of the country has declared today a public holiday due to the away draw against Senegal.

October 15, 2008

106. Cuba (CONCACAF-11th)
104 (tie). Haiti (CONCACAF-9th, tie)
104 (tie). Suriname (CONCACAF-9th, tie)

October 19, 2008

103. Jamaica (CONCACAF-8th)
102. Guatemala (CONCACAF-7th)

Semifinal round of North American qualifying ends. The hex is set.

April 1, 2009

101. United Arab Emirates (AFC-10th)
100. Malta (UEFA-53rd)
99. San Marino (UEFA-52nd)

After a near-six month break (by far the longest in the process) we finally can eliminate a couple more teams. The first European casualties are here, and now the number of teams remaining is reduced to double digits.

June 6, 2009

98. Georgia (UEFA - 51st)
97. Andorra (UEFA - 50th)
96. Albania (UEFA - 49th)

June 10, 2009

95. Qatar (AFC - 9th)
94. Iceland (UEFA - 48th)
93. Kazakhstan (UEFA - 47th)
92. Liechtenstein (UEFA - 46th)
91. Peru (CONMEBOL - 10th)

June 17, 2009

90. Uzbekistan (AFC - 8th)
89. Iran (AFC - 7th)

Four teams have qualified from Asia, along with the Europe's first, the Netherlands. Iran becomes the second 2006 World Cup team to be eliminated. That's certainly a more shocking elimination than Angola.

August 12, 2009

88. Azerbaijan (UEFA - 45th)

September 5, 2009

87. Rwanda (CAF - 21st)
86. Armenia (UEFA - 44th)
85. Moldova (UEFA - 43rd)
83 (tie). Guinea (CAF - 19th, tie)
83 (tie). Malawi (CAF - 19th, tie)
82. Estonia (UEFA - 42nd)
79 (tie). Cyprus (UEFA - 39th, tie)
79 (tie). Faroe Islands (UEFA - 39th, tie)
79 (tie). Montenegro (UEFA - 39th, tie)

September 6, 2009

76 (tie). Mali (CAF - 16th, tie)
76 (tie). Benin (CAF - 16th, tie)
76 (tie). Sudan (CAF - 16th, tie)

African teams in the final round are beginning to drop, as Ghana and Brazil both punched their ticket to the finals. We've gotten to the point now where you can pretty much say, it's either this time or that team for that spot. I'd say of the remaining teams, a good 20 or so have virtually no shot at qualifying.

September 9, 2009

75. Belgium (UEFA - 38th)
74. Belarus (UEFA - 37th)
73. Luxembourg (UEFA - 36th)
71 (tie). Macedonia (UEFA - 34th, tie)
71 (tie). Scotland (UEFA - 34th, tie)
69 (tie). Finland (UEFA - 32nd, tie)
69 (tie). Wales (UEFA - 32nd, tie)
68. Saudi Arabia (AFC - 6th)
67. Bolivia (CONMEBOL - 9th)
66. Trinidad & Tobago (CONCACAF - 6th)

The Saudis became the third 2006 qualifier to be eliminated this cycle, in heartbreaking fashion by Bahrain. It was funny, because I watched them score around the 90th minute to take the lead. Then, one of their players decided to not to take the ball to the corner a minute later, instead trying to score again. I was thinking it was nice to actually see a player try to go at goal for once in that situation, and of course it costs them. AFC qualifying is now completed. Later on in the day, Trinidad became the 4th 2006 team to fail this time around. Of the other eliminations, Scotland is the only notable one. The others have had no chance for a while now.

October 10, 2009

65. Zambia (CAF - 15th)
64. Burkina Faso (CAF - 14th)
62 (tie). Morocco (CAF - 12th, tie)
62 (tie). Togo (CAF - 12th, tie)
61. Turkey (UEFA - 31st)
60. Bulgaria (UEFA - 30th)
57 (tie). Lithuania (UEFA - 27th, tie)
57 (tie). Poland (UEFA - 27th, tie)
57 (tie). Romania (UEFA - 27th, tie)
56. Austria (UEFA - 26th)
54 (tie). Colombia (CONMEBOL - 8th)
54 (tie). El Salvador (CONCACAF - 5th)

October 11, 2009

52 (tie). Kenya (CAF - 10th, tie)
52 (tie). Mozambique (CAF - 10th, tie)

It was a weekend of many eliminations, but only Colombia looked to have any real hope of making it (and even that was a longshot). At this point, 19 teams have qualified. The dates of qualification can be found on Wikipedia (link).

Many of the 32 teams left alive fighting for a berth have only a microscopic chance. We should see another 10 eliminations on Wednesday, and only one (one of Argentina/Ecuador/Uruguay) should give us any drama. Some teams are only alive based on crazy scenarios; what are the odds of Andorra, Luxembourg, Malta, or San Marino getting a result?

October 14, 2009

51. Croatia (UEFA - 25th)
49 (tie). Israel (UEFA - 23rd, tie)
49 (tie). Latvia (UEFA - 23rd, tie)
47 (tie). Czech Republic (UEFA - 21st, tie)
47 (tie). Northern Ireland (UEFA - 21st, tie)
44 (tie). Hungary (UEFA - 18th, tie)
44 (tie). Norway (UEFA - 18th, tie)
44 (tie). Sweden (UEFA - 18th, tie)
42 (tie). Ecuador (CONMEBOL - 6th, tie)
42 (tie). Venezuela (CONMEBOL - 6th, tie)

None of the crazy scenarios came to pass, so these eliminations were expected. Ecuador will be disappointed at losing to an already qualified Chile. Looks like all the big names will once again make it after Argentina scraped through.

All that's left now is African qualifying and the playoffs. For the remaining 9 spots, it's going to be one of two teams: Algeria/Egypt, Cameroon/Gabon, Nigeria/Tunisia, Bahrain/New Zealand, Costa Rica/Uruguay, and the four UEFA playoffs.

November 14, 2009

41. Bahrain (AFC - 5th)
40. Tunisia (CAF - 9th)
39. Gabon (CAF - 8th)

November 18, 2009

38. Egypt (CAF - 7th)
37. Ukraine (UEFA - 17th)
35 (tie). Bosnia & Herzegovina (UEFA - 15th, tie)
35 (tie). Russia (UEFA - 15th, tie)
34. Ireland (UEFA - 14th)
33. Costa Rica (CONCACAF - 4th)

After two years, qualification has finished. It started in Samoa with the 2007 South Pacific Games, and ended with Uruguay defeating Costa Rica on aggregate.

June 19, 2010

32. Cameroon (CAF - 6th)

June 21, 2010

31. North Korea (AFC-4th)

These were the first two teams eliminated at the World Cup finals, and the only two eliminated before the final round of the group stage. That seemed like a low number, no? In 2006, it appears that no fewer than seven teams were already done (Poland, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Serbia & Montenegro, Cote d'Ivoire, Iran, Togo).

June 22, 2010

29 (tie). France (UEFA-13th)
29 (tie). South Africa (CAF-5th)
28. Greece (UEFA- 12th)
27. Nigeria (CAF-4th)

June 23, 2010

25 (tie). Algeria (CAF-3rd)
25 (tie). Slovenia (UEFA- 11th)
24. Serbia (UEFA- 10th)
23. Australia (AFC-3rd)

June 24, 2010

22. New Zealand (OFC - 1st)
21. Italy (UEFA- 9th)
20. Denmark (UEFA-8th)

June 25, 2010

19. Cote d'Ivoire (CAF-2nd)
18. Honduras (CONCACAF - 3rd)
17. Switzerland (UEFA- 7th)

Group stage complete. Eliminations are based on which games finished first. For example, Mexico-Uruguay finished before France-South Africa. After the first game finished, Mexico had 4 points and France/South Africa had 1. It was still possible for both of those teams to pass Mexico, so they were both still alive until the final whistle.

Another example was New Zealand's game. They finished their game with 3 points before Italy-Slovakia. They finished 0-0, and an equal result in the other game would've kept them alive, but we already knew that was impossible in the other game.

From here on out, it's all pretty simple to follow.

June 26, 2010

16. South Korea (AFC - 2nd)
15. United States (CONCACAF - 2nd)

June 27, 2010

14. England (UEFA - 6th)
13. Mexico (CONCACAF - 1st)

June 28, 2010

12. Slovakia (UEFA - 5th)
11. Chile (CONMEBOL - 5th)

June 29, 2010

10. Japan (AFC - 1st)
9. Portugal (UEFA - 4th)

July 2, 2010

8. Brazil (CONMEBOL - 4th)
7. Ghana (CAF - 1st)

July 3, 2010

6. Argentina (CONMEBOL - 3rd)
5. Paraguay (CONMEBOL - 2nd)

July 6, 2010

4. Uruguay (CONMEBOL - 1st)

July 7, 2010

3. Germany (UEFA - 3rd)

July 11, 2010

2. Netherlands (UEFA - 2nd)
1. Spain (UEFA - 1st)


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

World Cup 1998-2010: Fewest Minutes Leading in the Group Stage & Still Advanced

EDIT: The USA's next opponent, Ghana, joins the list after only leading for 5 minutes.

For the group stages in the 1998-2010 World Cups (with the current format, where only two teams advanced from each group rather than three). Stoppage time is counted as one minute, so each team has 270 minutes to work with.

1 2006 Australia 1
2006 Sweden 1
2010 United States 1
1998 Mexico 16
1998 Norway 21
2006 Mexico 22
2010 Mexico 26
1998 Paraguay 41
2002 Sweden 56

Due to not knowing the exact times in the matches, and also the ease of counting each match as 90 minutes, I've listed the US as tied for first. However, the goals in the other matches (Australia-Japan and Sweden-Paraguay) were both in the 89th minute. Landon Donovan's goal against Algeria was in stoppage time. Depending on the amount in each of the games, they could actually be first.

On the flip side, Algeria only trailed for 12 minutes in their three matches (1 vs USA, 11 vs Slovenia) and still didn't advance. The only country that can better that is 1998 Belgium, which drew three straight times and never trailed. So close to being the USA's fate this time around... Algeria also spent 258 minutes tied, which is the most from this time period.

Also, how about Mexico listed three times? They certainly get the job done every four years.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

USMNT: Number of Caps for World Cup Openers (1990-2010)

Looking at the opening games of the World Cup for the USA in each of the past six tournaments, here's how many caps the entire team had at that moment:

Caps AvgMedian
1990 297 27.0029
1994 549 49.9146
1998 548 49.8249
2002 539 49.0041
2006 730 66.3671
2010 562 51.0952

2006 stands out, while it's interesting to see how similar 1994, 1998, 2002, and 2010 are. I wouldn't have expected the 2010 lineup to be the second most experienced.

Here's the individual lineups with cap totals (as of those matches):

1990 vs Czechoslovakia

Mike Windischmann 43
Bruce Murray 39
Paul Caligiuri 34
John Harkes 30
Steve Trittschuh 30
John Stollmeyer 29
Tab Ramos 24
Peter Vermes 21
Tony Meola 18
Desmond Armstrong 15
Eric Wynalda 14

1994 vs Switzerland

Marcelo Balboa 88
Tony Meola 84
Paul Caligiuri 80
Eric Wynalda 53
Tab Ramos 47
John Harkes 46
Alexi Lalas 45
Thomas Dooley 40
Mike Sorber 37
Earnie Stewart 17
Cle Kooiman 12

1998 vs Germany

Cobi Jones 108
Eric Wynalda 100
Thomas Dooley 78
Mike Burns 74
Claudio Reyna 60
Earnie Stewart 49
Kasey Keller 33
Eddie Pope 24
Chad Deering 11
Brian Maisonneuve 8
David Regis 3

2002 vs Portugal

Jeff Agoos 131
Earnie Stewart 81
Brad Friedel 77
Brian McBride 61
Eddie Pope 51
Frankie Hejduk 41
Tony Sanneh 33
Landon Donovan 24
John O'Brien 16
DaMarcus Beasley 13
Pablo Mastroeni 11

2006 vs Czech Republic

Claudio Reyna 110
Kasey Keller 94
Brian McBride 93
Landon Donovan 82
Eddie Pope 81
Eddie Lewis 71
DaMarcus Beasley 59
Pablo Mastroeni 49
Bobby Convey 40
Steve Cherundolo 36
Oguchi Onyewu 15

2010 vs England

Landon Donovan 124
Carlos Bocanegra 80
Clint Dempsey 63
Steve Cherundolo 61
Oguchi Onyewu 55
Tim Howard 52
Michael Bradley 44
Ricardo Clark 30
Jozy Altidore 26
Jay DeMerit 20
Robbie Findley 7

The ten most capped players:

1 2002 Jeff Agoos 131
2 2010 Landon Donovan 124
3 2006 Claudio Reyna 110
4 1998 Cobi Jones 108
5 1998 Eric Wynalda 100
6 2006 Kasey Keller 94
7 2006 Brian McBride 93
8 1994 Marcelo Balboa 88
9 1994 Tony Meola 84
10 2006 Landon Donovan 82

The ten least capped players:

1 1998 David Regis 3
2 2010 Robbie Findley 7
3 1998 Brian Maisonneuve 8
4 1998 Chad Deering 11
4 2002 Pablo Mastroeni 11
6 1994 Cle Kooiman 12
7 2002 DaMarcus Beasley 13
8 1990 Eric Wynalda 14
Desmond Armstrong
9 2006 Oguchi Onyewu 15

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Working on Transcript

I'm going to be transcribing the USA-England broadcast as I did with the USA's first games in 2002 and 2006, so I can add Martin Tyler and John Harkes to the World Cup announcer analysis. Eventually, I'll need to add the first games of 1990, 1994, and 1998 as well.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

World Cup 2010: Group A & B

Why I picked France & South Africa to advance:

For all the talk that France is in rough shape (including from former and current internationals), they still have the most talented players in the group (despite being weaker than 2006). I don't believe that qualifying form has much to do with World Cup performance, at least when it comes to the title contenders. It seems like every four years, people don't expect a lot from the top teams that struggle in qualifying. In 2002, it was Brazil and Germany, in 2006 it was France, and this year it's Argentina and France once again. Normally, people expect teams like that to still do reasonably well, just not win the entire thing. So it's a bit unusual for so many people to think that France won't even make it past the group. They're still favorites to me. For a big team of their caliber, we should expect them to reach the quarterfinals.

For second place: Everyone knows that every World Cup host has advanced. That includes the weakest in recent memory, USA 1994 and South Korea 2002. Even though I'd like to see that streak broken just so I don't have to hear about it every four years (along with complaints over the new ball), I don't expect it to happen in 2010. South Africa have been in great form in recent friendlies, while they were highly competitive with the world's top two teams in the Confederations Cup on home soil last year.

In addition to the host advancement streak, no host has ever lost their opener. That's bad luck for Mexico to open with them, and just a bad draw in general. Because if they can't beat South Africa, then they'll have problems with France as well. Uruguay seem like a weaker team than Mexico, though I certainly remember how everyone wrote off Ecuador four years ago.

Why I picked Argentina & Nigeria to advance:

Argentina in first place is an obvious choice, despite their erratic coach, the USA-hating Diego Maradona. I'd like to see the man fail, but the talent is too great for there to be an early exit.

It's a wide open three way race for second. Like most people, I expect African teams to do well with the tournament held on the continent. Now, that doesn't mean that getting to the semifinals, or having all six teams do well. In 2002, China and Saudi Arabia didn't exactly light it up in Asia. I mean actually having two African teams advance to the round of 16, which has never happened before. They've had one team advance in each of the past six World Cups, so if there's any time to do better, this is it.

So if I'm going to pick another African team, why Nigeria? Besides the hosts, I feel like they're in the best position of the African teams to advance due to their competition. Even though it took Tunisia messing up on the final day of qualifying in Mozambique to get them here, they have an easier UEFA matchup than Denmark (Cameroon) or Serbia (Ghana) and that may be the difference. They may not have a global superstar the likes of Drogba or Etoo, but they are always solid.

I'm pretty high on Denmark and Serbia's chances, as well as the USA and Portugal, and Greece/South Korea aren't as good as any of those four.


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

2010 World Cup Predictions

Four years ago, I predicted 12/16 teams right to advance to the round of 16. I missed Ecuador/Ghana/Switzerland/Ukraine, picking Poland/USA/South Korea/Tunisia instead. I did get France going to the final, though I predicted Brazil to defeat them to win the title. Eight years ago, I also got one of the final two correct (picked England over Germany). Let's see if I can keep that streak going.

I'll be posting more thoughts on the groups over the next week, but for now I'll just post the picks. In the meantime, this is always the best time to read American soccer articles, even if they're not about the World Cup. Seems like the journalists are in World Cup form as well. I recommend checking these out if you haven't already:
  • How A Soccer Star is Made - New York Times (long article on the Ajax youth academy)
  • The Bad Old Days - ESPN Soccernet (Jeff Carlisle writes on the USMNT's dark days from 1950-1990)
  • The Gospel of Soccer - Globe & Mail (interesting info on ESPN's approach to the 2010 cup)
  • Single-Striker Formations Will be Predominant in South Africa - SI.com (I highly recommend this and any other articles by Jonathan Wilson, also of the Guardian. Nice to see SI pick him up)
  • World Cup final squads statistics - Football-rankings.info (updated info on ages, clubs, heights, etc from Edgar)

Group Stage

Group A

1. France
2. South Africa
3. Mexico
4. Uruguay

Group B

1. Argentina
2. Nigeria
3. South Korea
4. Greece

Group C

1. England
2. United States
3. Slovenia
4. Algeria

Group D

1. Germany
2. Serbia
3. Ghana
4. Australia

Group E

1. Denmark
2. Netherlands
3. Japan
4. Cameroon

Group F

1. Italy
2. Paraguay
3. Slovakia
4. New Zealand

Group G

1. Brazil
2. Portugal
3. Cote d'Ivoire
4. North Korea

Group H

1. Spain
2. Chile
3. Honduras
4. Switzerland

Knockout Stage


France over Nigeria
England over Serbia
Denmark over Paraguay
Brazil over Chile
Argentina over South Africa
Germany over United States
Netherlands over Italy
Spain over Portugal


England over France
Brazil over Denmark
Argentina over Germany
Spain over Netherlands


Brazil over England
Argentina over Spain

Third Place

Spain over England


Brazil over Argentina


Monday, June 07, 2010

2010 World Cup: Who Do the Rating Systems Predict to Advance?

Four years ago, I looked at a number of factors in an attempt to see which would best predict the 16 teams to advance out of the group stage: form, GDP, odds, qualifying record, population, etc. In the end, the best predictors were the ELO rankings and the betting odds, which both got 13/16 right. Both missed Australia/Ecuador/Ghana. Actually, ELO had Iran and Mexico with the exact same ranking, and I'm giving them credit for Mexico. So count it as 12.5 if you like. The much-maligned FIFA rankings only got 10/16, missing the same three as well as Italy/Switzerland/Ukraine (remember the Czechs and USA both being ranked in the top 5?). So it's no wonder that they changed the formula immediately afterward.

Since the FIFA rankings began in 1993, here's how both systems have done predicting the advancing teams:

2006 13 10
2002 10 12
1998 14 11
1994 13 12

Total 50 45
PCT 78.1% 70.3%

Who's favored to advance in South Africa? Let's take a look. I'm also including betting odds, SPI, Voros' simulations, and the Castrol Index.

2010 FIFA World Cup: Predicted to Advance


EDIT: SPI's final pre-World Cup sims showed Denmark advancing instead of Cameroon.

Some notes on how I determined this. For FIFA, I just took the highest rated teams to advance. For ELO, I'm using the current rankings as of today (which may change a bit before the tournament). So it's fair to say that FIFA may be at a disadvantage since they only update once per month, and don't take into account the pre-tourney friendlies. For the betting odds, I looked at several top sites and they were all the same. Some sites had Cameroon equal to Denmark for the runner up in group E, but I didn't see any that had them ahead. For Castrol, I looked at their group predictions, which somehow are different than their listed advancement chances for each team (otherwise Australia and Portugal would be listed).

All five have the exact same picks for groups C-D-F-H. Apparently Serbia is a bigger favorite than I'd thought. In fact, all five pick 12 of the same teams to advance (including the USA), which means that there are only differences of opinion on 4 spots. Here's the differences:


No love for South Africa, even at home. Despite virtually everyone being down on their chances, all six have France advancing from group A. Given Mexico's recent success at the World Cup group stage, it's surprising to see Uruguay with strong support. However, Mexico is ranked first in the group by ELO. On the other hand, Nate Silver's SPI ranks Uruguay as the group's top team. Quote: "Uruguay was a constant source of debate during the creation of the SPI." As probably the biggest difference between the systems, SPI may be judged solely by that pick. Also, I'll note that A is the only group with more than one team picked to finish first.

Group B is the only one with all four teams picked to advance by someone. If all three non-Argentina teams are evenly matched, will home continent advantage for Nigeria be the difference? South Korea has the WC experience, while Greece boast the greatest achievement (Euro 2004).

Denmark vs Cameroon is considered a toss up in terms of advancement by most of the betting sites, and may be the most up in the air spot of all. Nobody is giving Japan any chance, and that seems fair. Their coach said earlier this year that they could reach the semifinals, but reportedly offered to resign after losing to South Korea.

With Drogba's injury, Portugal is even more favored to move on. Even Castrol, the only one to pick Cote d'Ivoire, lists Portugal with a slightly better chance of advancing (51.7% vs 51.1%). Once again, I can't explain why it's listed that way.

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Top 25 Youngest MLS Players

Also see:
EDIT 7/19/2011: This season, Diego Fagundez and Omar Salgado have entered the top 25 overall youngest; DaMarcus Beasley and Gabe Gala drop off. On the regular season list, Salgado and Luis Gil have made it at the expense of Devin Barclay and Amadou Sanyang.

EDIT 12/9/2010: Forgot to update Miguel Montano as Seattle's youngest player.

EDIT 12/6/2010: A few more things to update after the end of the season. Agudelo/Henry/Linsday all made their league debuts, while Oscar Cordon played his first TFC game and is now at #22 in the overall list. Linsday is no longer in the top 25 regular season list, but he debuted at #25 and for the record was a part of it for a brief period.

All this means that Seth Trembly and Quavas Kirk are no longer in the top 25 regular season list, while Jorge Flores is no longer in the overall top 25.

EDIT 6/2/2010: Bumping this post due to a huge day of young debuts. First, let's talk about Toronto's final 2010 Canadian Championship game against Vancouver. They'd already clinched the title, so this match was meaningless and gave them an opportunity to play some youngsters. As a result, three academy players saw action for TFC. Defender Doneil Henry (17.12) and Forward Allando Matheson (18.26) started, while midfielder Nicholas Lindsay (17.74) came off the bench. Matheson was a little too old to make the top 25 in all competitions, but Lindsay comes in at #21 and Henry at #13.

On a side note, none of those three players are on Toronto's official roster. Apparently, the Canadian Soccer Association allowed the team to use them regardless, which is bizarre. I mean, I would like to see teams able to use academy/reserve players whenever they feel like as in Europe, but I think it's unfair to the other MLS teams to allow this. If an American MLS team wants to use non-roster players in the Open Cup, would that be ok? It's strange to allow non-roster players to play in an official competition like this, even if the outcome is already decided.

The other big debut of the night was Real Salt Lake's Luis Gil. The much-hyped prospect got his first official minutes in the Open Cup qualifier at DC, and he became the third youngest player in all competitions at 16.55 years of age. He was born on November 14, 1993, which is only a month before the MLS was officially announced (12/17/93). Gil also becomes the youngest RSL player of all time. He's exactly one day younger than Nik Besagno on his debut in 2005.

Three players drop out of the top 25 after today: Devin Barclay, Amadou Sanyang, and Seth Trembly. The last two were 18 years old, which means that the top 25 in all competitions now consists only of players below 18 (Barclay is listed at 18.00, but is actually 17.996).

Finally, I'd previously forgotten to change Houston's youngest ever player: Francisco Navas eclipsed Danny Cruz upon making his debut back in April.

EDIT 5/11/2010: On April 27th, Juan Agudelo made his NY debut in the Open Cup qualifier against the Union. The academy signing debuts at 13 on the overall list, knocking another academy player off (Cesar Zamora). Neither have played in the regular season yet.

Also, we're only a couple more debuts away from making these top 25's all U-18.

EDIT 4/25/2010: Jasseh plays in his first regular season match, making it onto both lists (and knocking Brek Shea off).

EDIT 4/18/2010: Omar Jasseh of SJ has become the 13th youngest player in all comps after playing in the Open Cup qualifier (Quavas Kirk drops off). He also is the youngest player in Quakes history, previously held by Arturo Alvarez since his debut in 2003.

EDIT 3/28/2010: Homegrown signing Andy Najar of DC United started the opener. Born in 1993, he becomes the 10th youngest player in league history. As a result, Tim Ward & Brek Shea fall off the regular season/all comps categories. respectively.

EDIT 3/26/2010: Updated for the new season. As it turns out, Bowen didn't debut in MLS in time to make the top 25. However, last year, Amadou Sanyang debuted at #20 on August 1st (knocking off Rodrigo Lopez on the regular season list). In addition, he and Cesar Zamora (at #22) both made the top 25 in overall competitions (knocking off Bowen and Kyle Beckerman).

On opening day 2010, the Philadelphia Union had four teens making their MLS debuts. The youngest was Jack McInerney, who easily made the top 25. He's the 13th youngest player in league history, and knocks off Beckerman and Tim Ward in the regular season and overall categories respectively.

EDIT 4/8/2009: In yesterday's Open Cup qualifier, Tristan Bowen made his Galaxy debut. He became the first academy player to play for an MLS club, and he also barely made the top 25 in the overall category. He enters at #24 and knocks Rodrigo Lopez off the list. I expect I'll need to update this again shortly once he gets into a regular season game.

EDIT 3/29/2009: Last night, Danny Cruz became the Houston Dynamo's youngest ever player. Previously the record was held by Stuart Holden.

EDIT 3/24/2009: No new debuts, but I did correct an error. I'd previously listed Craig Capano's age as the same for both lists. I've put up a list of the youngest players for each team as well.

EDIT 7/20/2008: Abdus Ibrahim has become the 8th youngest player ever at 16.91, knocking Nino Da Silva (18.27) off the list. With that change, the top 25 is now comprised solely of players making their debut in the

Top 25 Youngest MLS Players - REGULAR SEASON ONLY

Age Team Year
1 Adu, Freddy 14.84 DC 2004
2 Besagno, Nik 16.55 RSL 2005
3 Quaranta, Santino 16.57 DC 2001
4 Gaven, Eddie 16.64 NY 2003
5 Capano, Craig 16.82 CHI 2002
6 Convey, Bobby 16.83 DC 2000
7 Altidore, Jozy 16.84 NY 2006
8 Ibrahim, Fuad 16.91 TOR 2008
9 Sesay, Israel 17.02 LA 2007
10 Najar, Andy 17.03 DC 2010
11 Johnson, Eddie 17.11 DAL 2001
12 Szetela, Danny 17.17 CLB 2004
13 Gil, Luis 17.36 RSL 2011
14 Gonzalez, Guillermo 17.46 LA 2003
15 Jasseh, Omar 17.48 SJ 2010
16 Henry, Doneil 17.51 TOR 2010
17 Salgado, Omar 17.58 VAN 2011
18 McInerney, Jack 17.63 PHI 2010
19 Bradley, Michael 17.67 NY 2005
20 Mapp, Justin 17.76 DC 2002
21 Alvarez, Arturo 17.81 SJ 2003
22 Beasley, DaMarcus 17.82 CHI 2000
23 Agudelo, Juan 17.88 NY 2010
24 Gala, Gabe 17.92 TOR 2007
25 Flores, Jorge 17.98 CHV 2007

Certainly, Adu's record is one that should never be broken. You can see the history of the youngest player title by clicking the link.

Top 25 Youngest MLS Players - ALL COMPETITIONS

Age Team Year
1 Adu, Freddy 14.84 DC 2004
2 Fagundez, Diego 16.19 NE 2011
3 Quaranta, Santino 16.47 DC 2001
4 Gil, Luis 16.55 RSL 2010
5 Besagno, Nik 16.55 RSL 2005
6 Gaven, Eddie 16.64 NY 2003
7 Capano, Craig 16.69 CHI 2002
8 Altidore, Jozy 16.79 NY 2006
9 Convey, Bobby 16.83 DC 2000
10 Ibrahim, Fuad 16.91 TOR 2008
11 Sesay, Israel 17.02 LA 2007
12 Najar, Andy 17.03 DC 2010
13 Johnson, Eddie 17.11 DAL 2001
14 Henry, Doneil 17.12 TOR 2010
15 Szetela, Danny 17.17 CLB 2004
16 Agudelo, Juan 17.42 NY 2010
17 Jasseh, Omar 17.45 SJ 2010
18 Gonzalez, Guillermo 17.46 LA 2003
19 Salgado, Omar 17.58 VAN 2011
20 McInerney, Jack 17.63 PHI 2010
21 Bradley, Michael 17.67 NY 2005
22 Alvarez, Arturo 17.71 SJ 2003
23 Lindsay, Nicholas 17.74 TOR 2010
24 Cordon, Oscar 17.75 TOR 2010
25 Mapp, Justin 17.76 DC 2002

Players in red have a different overall debut age compared to their MLS debut age.

Youngest Player for Each Team

CHI Capano, Craig
CHV Flores, Jorge
CLB Szetela, Danny
COL Trembly, Seth
DAL Johnson, Eddie
DC Adu, Freddy
HOU Navas Cobo, Francisco
KC Da Silva, Nino
LA Sesay, Israel
MIA Beckerman, Kyle
NE Fagundez, Diego*
NY Gaven, Eddie
McInerney, Jack
RSL Gil, Luis**
Montano, Miguel
SJ Jasseh, Omar
TB Barclay, Devin
TOR Ibrahim, Fuad

* Fagundez is the youngest for all competitions. For regular season action, it's Sainey Nyassi.

** Gil is the youngest for all competitions. For regular season action, it's Nik Besagno.