Sunday, February 25, 2007

The India Equation

In March 2007, FIFA will begin a new pilot scheme which, it's hoped, will reinvent the game of football in a country that perpetually underperforms on the world stage - India.

India have never reached the World Cup Finals - in fact the only footballing success they've enjoyed came with a fourth place finish in the 1956 Olympics and a gold medal in the 1962 Asian Games. It's now over forty years since India did anything of note in footballing terms, and for a country with a population of around 1.1 billion, it seems staggering that they haven't achieved more before now.

All of which got us thinking... how many other countries are there around the world that are failing to find success in relation to their population? We decided to look into the matter...

First we needed some sort of equation - a mathematical way of correlating who had achieved what and who was concealing the biggest set of inhabitants within their borders. It seemed all very easy at the outset, but once we ended up hip-deep in statistics, we soon found it was anything but.

So let's start off with 'achievement'. Quite honestly, if you haven't played in the World Cup Finals, you're not going to score very highly. Yes it's all very well to say you've reached the Finals of your own continental tournament, i.e. the European Championships, Copa America, and so on, but it pails into insignificance compared to the World Cup. Case in point: Greece won Euro 2004, yet failed to qualify for World Cup 2006. Need we say more?

In our equation, each country scores a point for every round reached in a World Cup Finals tournament, with an extra point awarded to the outright winners. For every World Cup that a country failed to reach after they affiliated to FIFA, we've knocked off a point. To round things off, we then gave each country a rank based on the number of points scored (so Brazil got 1, Germany 2, etc.) and that sorted out the 'achievement' side of the equation.

So onto the 'population' bit. Quite straight forward - we divided a country's population by a million, knocked off the stuff after the decimal point, then ranked it. Having got the rank, we then divided it by 10. (Example: China has the biggest population of all the 206 countries, so 206 became its rank. 206 divided by 10 is 20.6 so China's population rating is therefore 20.6.)

Add the achievement rating to the population rating and there's your final score for each country. So according to our figures, who are the biggest under-achievers in world football? Yes, you've guessed it - India. They scored 94.5 on our system, 0.4 ahead of near neighbours Pakistan in second. In third place were Bangladesh (who have a population greater than that of Russia), and just behind them on 93.5 points were the Philippines.

The highest-placed African country were Ethiopia in sixth place on 93.1 points and Europe's biggest under-achievers were Kazakhstan in 23rd place on 88.7 points.

At the other end of the table are Uruguay who, with a population of just under 3.5 million, have won the World Cup twice. In a system where lower points means a higher rating, Uruguay did exceptionally well to score just 17.2 points. Second best were Sweden with 19.2 points, then in third were Brazil - population: 188 million - followed by (West) Germany in fourth and Italy in fifth.

England came in seventh with a score of 23.2 ahead of France in tenth, but Scotland did well to come in 18th on 32.4 points. Ireland were two places behind in 20th while the United States showed how a heavily populated country can be successful by finishing 23rd.

So what can we derive from our final list? Well we can gather a greater sense of admiration for those countries who have achieved much despite having a small population from which to make team. The likes of Belgium, Hungary, Switzerland and Austria may not hit the headlines very much these days, but they deserve our respect for what they've done up to now.

Conversely one can look to the opposite end of the list and see which countries should be doing better. What we see are mainly Asian and African countries that we can only assume have a wealth of talent waiting to be discovered and honed into a force to be reckoned with. Until then though, the world awaits a World Cup Finals that introduce the likes of Thailand or Sudan, and thanks to FIFA's new scheme, it might happen sooner rather than later.

197th Tanzania
198th Sudan
199th Myanmar
200th Thailand
201st Ethiopia
202nd Vietnam
203rd Philippines
204th Bangladesh
205th Pakistan
206th India

1st Uruguay
2nd Sweden
3rd Brazil
4th (West) Germany
5th Italy
6th Argentina
7th England
8th Belgium
9th Hungary
=10th France / Spain

14th Netherlands
15th Mexico
18th Scotland
20th Republic of Ireland
23rd USA
25th Portugal
27th Northern Ireland
43rd Australia
45th Wales
59th China
64th Greece
71st Canada

You can download a PDF version of the list by clicking here.

1 comment:

nick johnston said...

"we can only assume [they] have a wealth of talent waiting to be discovered and honed into a force to be reckoned with"

think about it, have you ever seen an Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi/Thai/Sudanese athlete challenging in the Olympics? Its not just that football is not widely played in these nations, they clearly are not physically able to compete in these professional sports at the top level. Even British born Indians dont reach premiership standard. Michael Chopra is the only pro I can think of and he plays in the C-C championship for Cardiff


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