L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

19 June 2006 Blog Home : June 2006 : Permalink

World Cup Qualifications

I saw Hugh Hewitt had a question about how to read the chances of the US progressing in the world cup, which reminds me that many people get confused by the scoring system. So here's the $1 basic tour:

There are 4 teams in a group and they each play everyone else (i.e. 3 matches total), the top two teams then progress to the knock-out stage, with the top team in one group playing the runner up in the next group and so on.

You get 3 points for a win and 1 point for a draw. With three matches that means if you win all three you get 9 points and that mathematically if you get 6 points (two wins) after two games you are bound to have qualified no matter what. Hence in group A (Germany, Ecuador, Poland, Costa Rica) with Germany and Ecuador on 6 points each the only question is which one of the two becomes the top team and which the runner up.

In group B there has been one draw (between Sweden and Trinidad) which means that although it is clear that England will qualify (2 wins) and Paraguay will not (2 losses) it is uncertain which team out of Sweden and Trinidad will be the other team. If England lose or draw with Sweden then Sweden qualify. If England win then Trinidad will be the runner up if they beat Paraguay by a sufficiently good margin so that they have more goals than Sweden does (the question devolves to goal difference then if that ties, total goals scored and then by some number of more exotic statistics).

So what does that mean for the US?

The US is bottom of its group (E) with one point, but it could still qualify. The final games are Italy:Czech Republic and USA:Ghana; although the US has to win it also depends on the other match.

If Italy beat the Czechs then the US will be the runner up in the group (Italy 7 points - US 4 points - Czech Republic and Ghana 3 points). If Italy lose then the US will qualify so long as their goal difference is ahead of Italy's (at present the US has a GD of -3, and Italy has one of +2) and if the other match is a draw the US will qualify so long as their goal difference is ahead of the Czech Republic's (CR currently has a GD of +1).

Thus the US would prefer it if Italy win; if there is a draw or the Czechs win then the US will go through if they beat Ghana by a big enough margin and that is going to be tough. By my calucaltions if there is a draw the US have to win by better than 4-0 which is going to be a stretch but if the Czechs win then the more goals the Czechs score the less the US have to score - a 3-0 Czech win and a 3-0 US win would do for example as would a 4-0 Czech win combined with a 2-0 US one (and I think a US 2-1 win would be OK too).

Personally I would prefer it if Ghana qualifies (which means they have to beat or draw with the US) because I greatly preferred their football style to the US one and (FWIW) I'd prefer the Czechs to beat the Italian prima donnas but I don't really have a dog in that group so if Italy and the US qualify that's fine by me,

Moving on to other groups

In group C we already know that Argentina and the Netherlands will go through

Group D is like Group B with Portugal qualified and Iran out but the possibility of either Mexico or Angola going through.

In group F Brazil have qualified but any of the other teams could (in theory) also qualify although Japan will only qualify if they beat Brazil by some large amount (as if) AND Australia don't win.

In group G, Togo cannot qualify and France must win their last match against Togo to qualify. The other two teams will both qualify no matter what so long as Togo beats or draws with France. If Frence wins and Switzerland:Korea is a draw then the who goes through depends on goal difference and that calculation is complicated. I think France need to win by at least 2-0 to be qualify but I could be wrong.

The only group where things are completely up in the air is Group H where the second matches are being played this evening.

My Predictions and thoughts

I was completely wrong with my "Japan will do well" prediction so this is probably pointless. So far I have not been impressed with any team other than Argentina and Spain. Brazil have been OK but none of the other European teams have really shown any flair at all. My heart hopes that England will progress - certainly I see no reason why they should not beat either Ecuador or Germany and they will play one of those teams, but it really all depends on Rooney and Owen finding their form. I have enjoyed Ghana and I would like Angola to progress because they are new too. I don't expect France to qualify, in fact I would be unsurprised if they lose to Togo. No matter what happens in the group stages I expect three of the four semi-finalists will probably be Brazil, Spain and Argentina. I hope England will be the fourth but it could well be Ecuador or Germany.

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