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Russell Berrisford

Russell Berrisford

Russell’s support of Derby County eventually led him to leave the country. He has lived in Canada since 2007 and currently writes about soccer for The Vancouver Sun.


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Norwegian Good?

Written by on October 27, 2011 | 5 Comments »
Posted in General

In a recent piece Bobby marvelled at the fact that Norway had somehow manged to get themselves seeded for the 2014 World Cup draw despite failing to get to a major tournament since 2000.

The simple answer as to why they got there of course is that it was all down to their FIFA ranking, but the more complex answer is that the Norwegians seem to be exceptionally proficient at winning games that don’t actually mean that much (except for when it comes to FIFA rankings).

The fact that FIFA now take into account the last four years of results, instead of the previous eight, when determining who will be seeded also helped Norway, for it shrunk the sample size and meant that any team putting together an exceptional run of results could benefit greatly.

Norway waited until they had effectively been eliminated from South Africa 2010 to go on such a run, and between October 2009 and October 2010 they won 9 of their next 10 matches (six of which were friendlies).

Bizarrely they were also helped by the fact that their nearest rivals for a top seed position had to play in the World Cup in South Africa and therefore faced tougher games than the non-qualifying Norwegians (their rivals were also likely putting out experimental sides in the build up to the tournament).

A dip in form followed, and failure to beat Denmark at home and a loss away in Portugal meant that any chance of getting to the Euro 2012 Finals was reliant on winning away in Denmark.

The bad news for the Norwegians is that they lost that game 2-0 and failed to get to 2012, but the good news was that FIFA decided to bring forward the draw for Brazil 2014 from its originally scheduled date of October of this year to July, which meant that the game in Copenhagen didn’t count towards the rankings and actually kept Norway safe as a seeded side.

Even more frustrating for the Danes must be the fact that they would have been the ones to replace Norway in the first pot of that draw had it actually taken place on its originally scheduled date (on a side note; Wales would have moved from Pot 6 to pot 3).

A good run at the right time and a quirk of the FIFA calendar then were enough to earn the Norwegians that coveted top seeding (and don’t let anybody tell you again that results in friendlies “don’t matter”).

Hat-tip to the Football Rankings website which provided so much background detail to the labyrinthine world of FIFA rankings.

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5 responses to “Norwegian Good?”

  1. Gus Keri says:

    Russell:

    “and don’t let anybody tell you again that results in friendlies “don’t matter”

    Results of friendlies matter only if your average points is lower than what the friendlies give you.

    For example, if your average is 6 points and the friendly game gives you only 3 points for a win, your average goes down.
    In this situation, you would rather not play at all.

    Holland took the top spot in August because they didn’t play their friendly agianst England. If they played they would not have taken the top spot, even if they win.

    In general, playing frienlies is not good to the top ranked teams, because their agerave points are very high.

  2. Russell Berrisford says:

    Gus-I think that’s right but Norway are not a top ranked team and gained a lot of FIFA points by winning a series of games that their opponents didn’t attach that much importance to.

  3. Gus Keri says:

    Russell:

    There is no doubt, and it goes without saying, that winning is better than drawing and drawing is better than losing for the overall ranking.

    But Norway’s average points in 2010 was 615 points.
    Considering that the maximum amount of points any team can gain from winning a friendly is 600 points (and Norway gained less than that), you know that Norway’s average would’ve been better if they didn’t play any friendlies at all during that period.

    Now, saying that, I didn’t disagree with your statement that “Friendlies do matter”. But I tried to clarify that not all friendlies are equal. And sometime not playing them might be better than playing them, if team worry about the ranking.

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