Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Champions League draw favours English group winners

The importance of winning your Champions League group was demonstrated to the English teams left in the competition by yesterday's draw.

Manchester City and Arsenal (who both failed to win their group) drew Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively, while Chelsea and Manchester United drew Galatasaray and Olympiakos respectively.

According to the Football Ranking System, Manchester City are 2nd, Barcelona 3rd, Bayern Munich 4th and Arsenal 5th. They would have all liked to have avoided each other!

Of course, winning the group has still given Barcelona and Bayern tough ties, and they are mouth-watering prospects when the competition resumes in February.

Other leading lights include Atletico Madrid (top of the Football Ranking System), drawn to play struggling AC Milan (52), and Real Madrid (6), drawn to play Schalke 04 (30).

The complete draw is:
Manchester City v Barcelona
Bayer Leverkusen v Paris St-Germain
Arsenal v Bayern Munich
AC Milan v Atletico Madrid
Olympiakos v Manchester United
Zenit St Petersburg v Borussia Dortmund
Galatasaray v Chelsea
Schalke v Real Madrid

Friday, 13 December 2013

Tigers: what's in a nickname need not be in a name

I'm right behind Hull City supporters in their fight against the proposed name change of their club to Hull Tigers.


Current Hull City owner Assem Allam has applied to the FA to change the club's name from next season. I have to confess I didn't know a club had to apply to the FA for a name change - I thought that would be a club decision. However, if applying to the FA helps stop this nonsense, then the application process is obviously a good thing. It seems that an FA council has "absolute discretion" over the name change decision.

Hull have been City since their formation in 1904, the nickname "Tigers" seemingly coming from a Hull Daily Mail reporter the following year.

Hull City supporters have formed a "City Till I Die" campaign, and they hope the FA will deny the name change application. It seems that the FA will consult Hull City supporters on the name change. If they do, then it's dead in the water. Allam has allegedly said that opponents "can die as soon as they want". That's helpful and encompassing, isn't it? He reckons the renaming will help with the branding of the club. Not where it matters - in Hull - it won't.

Football could learn a lot from other sports (use of technology, timing of play, treating injuries while the game goes on, among others), but silly suffixes to names is certainly not one of them.

Monday, 9 December 2013

How deadly is England's Group of Death?

So apparently England find themselves in another "Group of Death" in Brazil 2014. But just how deadly is it?

Group D consists of England (13th in the FIFA rankings), Uruguay (6), Italy (7) and Costa Rica (31). If we use a simple addition of the ranking positions to get a total for the group, this comes to 57, and is the second toughest group in these terms.

The hardest group of all is Group G, consisting of Germany (2), Portugal (5), USA (14) and Ghana (24). I can't imagine Germany being too fazed, though, can you? 45 points.

Next is Group C (perhaps surprisingly), consisting of Colombia (4), Greece (12), Ivory Coast (17) and Japan (48). 81 points.

Fourth hardest group is B, with Spain (1), Netherlands (9), Chile (59) and Australia (59 - currently the lowest ranked team in the competition). 84 points.

Fourth easiest group is E, with Switzerland (8), France (19), Ecuador (23), Honduras (41). Total 91 points.

Next is Group A, consisting of Brazil (10), Croatia (16), Mexico (20), Cameroon (51). Total 97 points.

The second easiest group, by rankings, is Group F, with Argentina (3), Bosnia-Herzegovina (21), Nigeria (36), Iran (45). Total 105 points.

And, presumably, the Group of Cruise is Group H, with: Belgium (11), Russia (22), Algeria (26), South Korea (54). Total 113 points.

It is interesting to note that England are the highest third ranked team in any group. and four groups have a second best team that is lower ranked than England. England's group also has the second best fourth ranked team.

Also, by World Cup Winners (by descending order of total rankings);
Group G has one (Germany) with three wins in total.
Group D has three winners (Uruguay (2), Italy (4), England (1)) for seven wins in total.
Group C: Nil wins.
Group B: One winner, Spain (1).
Group E: One winner, France (1).
Group A: One winner, Brazil (5 times winners).
Group F: One winner, Argentina (2).
Group H: Nil wins.

England's group is indeed a killer.

I know that FIFA don't actually "seed" teams, but put them in pots according to Confederation and other political considerations. It doesn't always lead to the most level of playing fields.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

World Cup seedings mystify us again

It is now just over six months until the World Cup begins in Brazil and we are just a few days away from the draw.

The recent collapse of part of the stadium under construction in Sao Paulo was very sad, and has brought the usual doubts about whether the venues will be ready in time. Indeed, Brazil has admitted that six stadiums might not be ready in time. FIFA have announced that there are no plans to move the World Cup to a different country, despite the problems. I hope Brazil works through the difficulties and is ready in time.

As for the draw, there is the usual scare-talk of England being in a potential "Group of Death" with the likes of Brazil, USA and France.

However, with the likes of Switzerland in Pot One, how about a group with Switzerland (World Ranking 8), Australia (59) and Cameroon (51). We couldn't complain at that!

The Pots will NOT be organised by World Rankings alone, but I am mystified as to why Switzerland (8) and Belgium (11) are said to be top-seeded, whereas Portugal (5) and Italy (7) are not. Other Pots will hold teams from the same Federations as far as possible.

If the teams were grouped by the latest rankings the Pots would be:

One: Spain (1), Germany (2), Argentina (3), Colombia (4), Portugal (5), Uruguay (6), Italy (7), Switzerland (8).

Two: Holland (9), Brazil (10), Belgium (11), Greece (12), England (13), USA (14), Chile (15), Croatia (16).

Three: Ivory Coast (17), France (19), Mexico (20), Bosnia-Herzegovina (21), Russia (22), Ecuador (23), Ghana (24), Algeria (26).

Four: Costa Rica (31), Nigeria (36), Honduras (41), Iran (45), Japan (48), Cameroon (51), South Korea (54), Australia (59).

Incidentally, with talk of cutting Europe's representation in future World Cups, the top eight teams not to qualify for next year's tournament are: Ukraine (17), Denmark (25), Sweden (27), Czech Republic (28), Slovenia (29), Serbia (30), Romania (32), Scotland (33). ALL are European.