An analytics approach to the FIFA ranking procedure and the World Cup final draw
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This paper analyzes the procedure used by FIFA up until 2018 to rank national football teams and define by random draw the groups for the initial phase of the World Cup finals. A predictive model is calibrated to form a reference ranking to evaluate the performance of a series of simple changes to that procedure. These proposed modifications are guided by a qualitative and statistical analysis of the FIFA ranking. We then analyze the use of this ranking to determine the groups for the World Cup finals. After enumerating a series of deficiencies in the group assignments for the 2014 World Cup, a mixed integer linear programming model is developed and used to balance the difficulty levels of the groups.
KeywordsOR in sports Analytics Ranking FIFA World Cup Football
We would like to sincerely thank two reviewers for their valuable suggestions that allowed us to considerably improve a preliminary version of this work. We also thank ISCI, Chile (CONICYT PIA FB0816) for its support. The second author was partially financed by ANPCyT PICT Grant 2015-2218 (Argentina) and UBACyT Grant 20020170100495BA (Argentina).
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