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I'm sitting here watching Ecuador beating Costa Rica 2-0 and outplaying them in most aspects of the game. If this score holds up, Poland will be eliminated. That's too bad. Poland does not deserve to be sent home; then, of course, neither does Ecuador, who could surprise the world by winning their group if they beat Germany next week.

The problem lies in the way the first round groups are chosen, essentially pulled at random from a hat. This creates imbalanced groups, such as the two Groups of Death—Groups C and E, each with three elite teams (Argentina, Holland, Ivory Coast; Czech Republic, Italy, USA) and a good team (Serbia & Montenegro; Ghana)—and Group H, with one elite team (Spain) and three very mediocre teams (Ukraine, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia).

It would make much more sense to seed the groups according to world ranking. Group A, for example, would include teams seeded 1, 16, 17, and 32, while Group H would include teams seeded 8, 9, 24, and 25. This would create more balanced groups and would better ensure the most deserving teams advancement to the knockout phase.

Using May's FIFA world rankings, this is how the 8 groups would have looked this year (First number is tournament seed; second number is world ranking):

Group AGroup BGroup CGroup D
1. Brazil (1)
16. Iran (23)
17. Croatia (23)
32. Togo (61)
2. Czech Republic (2)
15. Tunisia (21)
18. Costa Rica (26)
31. Angola (57)
3. Holland (3)
14. Germany (19)
19. Poland (29)
30. Ghana (48)
4. Mexico (4)
13. Japan (18)
20. South Korea (29)
29. Trinidad & Tobago (47)
Group EGroup FGroup GGroup H
5. USA (5)
12. Sweden (16)
21. Ivory Coast (32)
28. Ukraine (45)
6. Spain (5)
11. Italy (13)
22. Paraguay (33)
27. Serbia & Montenegro (44)
7. Portugal (7)
10. England (10)
23. Saudi Arabia (34)
26. Australia (42)
8. France (8)
9. Argentina (9)
24. Switzerland (35)
25. Ecuador (39)


Now, of course, there are still some imbalances (Groups C, E, and H seem killer, while Groups A and B become laughable). Next we have to fix FIFA's essentially flawed ranking system! Still, I think this is an improvement, and I think they could do even better.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
trowa_barton
Jun. 15th, 2006 05:53 pm (UTC)
England vs. TnT felt off until the last 5 minutes, especially given the stats (England overshot TnT 23 to 7, contained 63% of possession time, and only 1 goal during the 90 minutes of standard play).
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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