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Is Germany Overrated and England Underrated? Reflections on the FIFA Rankings

 Is Germany Overrated and England Underrated? Reflections on the FIFA Rankings

How accurate are the FIFA rankings? With the recent update of the rankings and England, to the surprise of many, moving up to seventh and Uruguay slotting in ten places up to sixth, are they an accurate measure?

When first introduced in 1992, the rankings were not taken seriously. However, with updates and revisions, the rankings are slowly gaining some credibility. FIFA now state point calculation on the following basis:

  • Points for a win, draw or defeat (3, 1, 0)
  • Status of match (multiplication factor of 1 to 4)
  • Strength of opponent (multiplication factor of between 0.50 and 2.00)
  • Strength of confederation in question (multiplication factor of between 0.85 and 1.00)

Cross checking the ELO ratings and FIFA rankings demonstrates close enough results. England are ranked seventh according to FIFA and sixth in the ELO rankings. If you’re interested, the Wikipedia page of both (click here and here) rankings provide the formula of calculation. However, like all statistics calculations, there is always some detachment from the nuances of grounded reality. For example, Uruguay’s ten position leap was mainly based on reaching the World Cup semi-final. However had Asamoah Gyan scored his penalty things would have been very different. Penalties are a lottery. Last World Cup Uruguay and Paraguay won a shoot-out, enabling both to progress but how useful is tournament progression when ranking a team? Friendlies carry weight but in what manner was a friendly played and what teams were fielded? Was the manager testing formations and fringe players?

More weight could be added to the ranking if friendlies were made more important. To increase the competitiveness of friendlies, FIFA could ensure there are more consequences on their results – for example, more importance in future seedings in either qualifiers and World Cup Finals or entrance into a mini-tournament – maybe replacing the Confederations Cup.

As a football purist, I would rather the best team won on merit and there is no league competition in international football – so ranking international teams is very limited. Socrates, Brazilian player from the 1982 World Cup, opines that “There are no assurances in football. And this is even more evident in a tournament like the World Cup. The World Cup is actually a football fair; not a proper championship. In a championship, you would expect to win the title with that side. But in the World Cup, where more than half of the matches are knock-out ties, anything is possible. Merit doesn’t count.”

In a championship the proactive teams are rightly rewarded and reactive/destructive tactics show their limitations over 38 matches, but not necessarily over a one off cup game.

How good are Germany?
Very good but not that good as France (1998-2000), Brazil (2000-2006) and currently Spain. This German team, despite talk of breakthrough players, are limited and I can’t see how they could measure to any of the previously listed teams, in the near future. Last World Cup, apart from two freakish results against England and Argentina, they predictably melted against a superior Spanish team. Of course, the manner of defeat was not as emphatic as in 2008 but it was emphatic enough. I don’t see this team measuring against the German teams of 1974 and 1990 but they are an improved team, considering 2006 and even 2008. In fact, they remind me of Holland – four to five exceptional players but overall limited.

As for tactics, well a similar comparison can be made with the 2008 version of Holland. Netherlands adopted a similar counter attacking game and demolished both Italy (3-0) and France (4-1), in what were similarly freakish results. Setting up with two deep holding midfielders and playing a disciplined reactive game can yield these type of results, if performed to near perfection and game dynamics go your way, as happened with Germany, but this is a percentage game, with a low margin of error. The true test is when conceding a goal and chasing a game – what then? Once Spain took the lead against Germany, in their semi-final match-up, there was only going to be one result. Where to rank this current German team? Fifth, just below Holland.

Quarter-final England
I don’t agree with the idea that England are perennial underachievers. In fact they have shown a consistency that belies this claim. England are a quarter-final team and the recent poor showing at 2010 World Cup doesn’t reverse this trend – as noted comparing teams in international football can be difficult, so at most we can record trends from either games played or tournament performances over longer periods. FIFA rankings have consistently placed England as a quarter-final team. They are a good team, usually within the top ten, but nothing more. The better question to ask is not if England have under-achieved but why have they hardly improved?

With the resources available and one of the more affluent football associations, England, at all levels, have under-achieved. That’s the question that perplexes me and can be asked about other case points. For example, why have the west Asian Gulf countries stagnated, while their south eastern Asian counterparts (South Korea and Japan) improved? After all, the resources are there but it does not translate into better footballing standards. Obviously each case must be studied and we should be careful with any generalisation but can we speak of certain recurring trends, leading to either stagnation or improvement – what makes a locality more successful, in footballing terms? Many football books have been written on this subject but some are travesties, utilising pre-suppositions in the form of folk sociological categories. In future posts, I will look at the case study of Belgium, an interesting case.

In conclusion, I would produce the following top 10 rankings, a prediction on how each team would finish in a league table, after a whole season of football:

  1. Spain
  2. Brazil
  3. Argentina
  4. Holland
  5. Germany
  6. France
  7. England
  8. Portugal
  9. Italy
  10. Croatia or possibly Uruguay

Quick pointers
Some might question the ranking of Argentina above Germany but aberrations aside – their quarter-final match-up, which was a tactical victory for the Germans, Argentina still have more attacking power. As noted, in a league system, better teams find themselves at the end of a thrashing – the dynamic of a one off game: naive tactics, defensive errors and poor discipline etc. e.g. Liverpool heavily defeating Manchester United, only for United to win the league in 2009. Over a league system, Argentina with a more mature management team could finish just above Germany but we will never know.

France? Mutinies aside, they have the players and now the manager to potentially push them into third in the rankings. The U19 team are doing very well and with young talent coming through, Les Bleus have potential. They are sixth, due to their bad run, but can break into the top five – the same cannot be said about the current set-up of English football.

A final note, the rankings are not only on current form – also considered would be potential (young players and potential breakthrough talent) and current players available. In mind is a league system and considering which squad have how each team would finish, with consideration given to a long and tiring 38 match season.

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46 Responses to Is Germany Overrated and England Underrated? Reflections on the FIFA Rankings

  1. larry says:

    the rationalization hamster begins its run.

    you maaaaaaaaaaaaaaad!

  2. icebreaker says:

    Okay this is bull****! I normaly don’t use such language but this!

    1) Increasing the importance of friendlies is counterproductive, since for many nations they are a chance to blood new players and/or give fringe players a chance, for coaches to fiddle the formantions, etc…

    2) Germany are limited? Did you watch the world cup at all? Yes, we lost against Spain, the best team in the world, with the same score as Holland did, and we did not try to kick them of the park! The two games against England and Argentina were no aberrations at all (you’re just making statements without prove), and we did not just counterattack but played a great passing game too.

    Also, ranking Argentina and Brazil above Germany is a joke, perhaps they have one or two better players but football is a f****** team sport, and tactics are an important part of that!

    And the young players that are coming through are the best since 1990, Müller, Özil, Kroos, Khedira…

    Phew, rant over…

  3. Jam says:

    This guy obviously has no idea what he’s talking about….. France doesnt even belong on this list, and Germany are way better than Argentina and Holland.

    This guy is a moron. Sorry but anyone who half-watches soccer could come up with a better top ten than this.

    • icebreaker says:

      @Jam,

      yeah, the list is really strange. France at six? Also Croatia so high up?

      I find it very problematic to take probabilities like young players coming through and player qualitiy so much into consideration. For one its not clear how players will develop (that goes for the young German players too) and on the other hand things like the coach, team spirit, tactics, etc seem to be completely disregarded when it comes to his list.

      Whats the use of having great players when the coachs an idiot and the players dislike each other so much they won’t pass to each other, like it was the case with France?

      Also, the whole point of international football is that its different to club football, thats why great club coaches can struggle as a national coach and vice versa…so making a list of what countries you think would do well in a league like structure pointless

  4. Matt says:

    Croatia?!?! Seriously?!?!

    Not even in the top 20. Trying to rationalize england’s ranking as number 7 by bolstering the strength of their qualifying group, are we?

  5. basem says:

    Ha ha ha, these are just fantasy reflections a ‘what-if’ silly musing – what if we had a league championship, where would they finish – please relax, football is just fun and having silly discussions like this!

    Just a few notes:

    I don’t think there is really that much of a difference between Holland and Germany, so the ranking is meaningless. Similarly, I would change the rankings and push Portugal above England, possibly Italy, as well. I didn’t say Germany are nothing but a counter-attacking team, the interplay and passing is very good – they have very good players but can’t see how they rival Spain. However, they are a reactive team, playing an essentially defensive set-up – very similar to Holland in Euro ’08, they are no 1974 or 1990 vintage Germany. This is based on personal observation and also upon the informed tactical observations of Jonathan Wilson:

    Which brings us to Germany. They too play a 4-2-3-1 and, although Philipp Lahm breaks forward occasionally, theirs is essentially a defensive set-up. Here again goals are the great betrayers; it was bewildering how much praise was heaped on their supposedly fresh, open approach just because they scored four goals in three games. This Germany was superb on the counterattack, and the interaction of the front four of Miroslav Klose, Thomas Müller, Lukas Podolski and Mesut Ozil was at times breathtaking. But this was reactive football.

    In three games, Germany scored an early first goal – against Argentina and England, it was essentially handed to them – and in those games they ruthlessly took advantage of the space opponents left behind them as they chased an equaliser. England, Argentina and Australia all defended idiotically against them, and were severely punished. In the other three games, teams defended decently against them and the early goal didn’t arrive surrounded by watercress on a silver salver. In those games Germany managed one goal, and that a wonder-strike from Ozil. Against Spain their poverty of ideas was such they ended up sending the lumbering centre-back Per Mertesacker forward as an auxiliary striker, an idea so bereft of subtlety that the only time I remember it working was when Dennis Smith once sent Gary Bennett forward for Sunderland against Oxford in 1990.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2010/jul/09/world-cup-2010-tactics-the-question?CMP=twt_gu

    • Karol says:

      Well, Jonathan Wilson is a great writer but whenever he writes about German football he is showing an extreme bias…

      He doesn`t understand that Germany usually plays “pro-active” when the match starts and change to “re-active” mode after they have scored one or two goals.

    • George D says:

      By the same measure, the Arsenal Invincibles were reactive? Man Utd 2008 were reactive? Brazil 2002 were reactive?

      Who cares, their tactics worked, it is up to the opponent to find a counter tactic, and only Spain did. And since when did counter attacking become a sin? Why did their opponents give Germany early goals knowing they’d rip them apart?

      As for Wilson, he is a very good writer, but did you hear him lambast Cappello for sending on Heskey, a striker who cannot score? What did he expect Germany to do? They’d used all the subs and had to play percentages against a superior side, no shame in doing that, everyone does it.

      Either way, this writer can say Germany are not good and are over rated, they’ll keep doing well in tournaments and leave critics with egg on their faces as per usual.

  6. basem says:

    Not even in the top 20. Trying to rationalize england’s ranking as number 7 by bolstering the strength of their qualifying group, are we?

    England are just about an OK quarter-final team, I mean they can muster a wins over Paraguay, Croatia, Ukraine, Poland or Mexico. Once against anything above them, they’re usually knocked out. Yeah, in retrospect, I would push them below Portugal and Italy. That’s the trend.

  7. basem says:

    Croatia is a serious ranking, forget the World Cup, that sometimes gives a myopic picture of the game and very short term one. ELO ratings put them at sixth, their record under Bilic:

    Played- 42 Won – 30 Drawn – 8 Lost – 4 Win percentage – 71.42

    That is worthy of a top ten team.

  8. George D says:

    Hahaha, Gaffer, what has happened to your once great website?

    “This German team, despite talk of breakthrough players, are limited and I can’t see how they could measure to any of the previously listed teams, in the near future.”

    Wow, 2002 Finalists, 2006 Semi Finals, 2010 Semi Finals, and they are limited? What more do you want? Are you really Hansen in disguise? Why hate Germany? 16 Goals in 7 games, what more do you need to say this isa good side? Tell me another team that has come from behind against Spain to win?

    Yes, this is EPL talk, so it focusses on EPL, but don’t insult our intelligence, the whole world saw Germany, ask anyone on the street, they’d name Spain-Brazil-Germany as the Top 3 nations in the World today, it seems only you think otherwise.

    Just how does one get to write for EPL Talk these days? I really wonder Gaffer…….

    • The Gaffer says:

      George, the website is doing fine, thank you. We’ve experiencing the most traffic we’ve ever received. But as far as the posts go, they’re an opinion. You may not necessarily agree with them, but that’s your choice. Different people have different opinions, which makes for a healthy debate.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • George D says:

        I wouldn’t want you to censure posts, but surely even you cannot agree this post and some of the contents are logical? I’m all for freedom of expression and all of that good stuff, but don’t look for controversy to get hits like TalkSport, this site shouldn’t be like that.=

        Another post saying Man City aren’t getting big enough stars, as if Chelsea were ever going to lure Nesta-Ronaldinho-Cassillas-Zanetti when Abramovich came, the same way Messi-Ronaldo-Pato-Eto’o won’t go to City, let alone any other storied club right now.

        • The Gaffer says:

          George, it doesn’t matter whether I agree with the opinions or not. I’m not endorsing the opinion. It’s the writer’s opinion and he’s free to post it. Some of the readers have agreed with the poster, some have not.

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

  9. I actually agree with you, I too would describe the German National team as a counter attacking side, their tactics work great when they manage to score the first goal but I just knew when Spain went a goal up it was over. Germany having to come out and score to try and get back in the game doesn’t suit them. I’m not saying Germany is a bad team but I think people who base too much emphasis on a 6 week tourny of knockout football are kidding themselves.

    I am also more reserved when describing teams as good or bad on the back of a world cup. I’m not going to sit here and start saying Uruguay are good just because they have a good run in the world and I am also not going to sit here and describe France and their players as bad just because they have a bad world cup.
    People in America seem happy to slag off France and call them crap yet when Henry (a player that is seen as no longer good enough for the national team) goes over to NYRB he is the best thing since sliced bread.
    Knockout football is knockout football, when Barnsley beat Chelsea in the F.A Cup do people start ranking them above Chelsea? No, of course they don’t, they realise that it is knockout football and things like that can happen. If you were to put these teams in a league 99.9% of people would know where each team would end up. But in any form of knockout football every dog can have its day.
    I personally don’t think your top ten is far off from where it’s at.

    How a team performs over the year or over 2 years is how you should rank them not over a 6 week tourney.
    I would take France any day of the week over Uruguay before the world cup and that certainly wont change just because of a 6 week tournament of Knockout football in the world cup.

    • Karol says:

      “I just knew when Spain went a goal up it was over. Germany having to come out and score to try and get back in the game doesn’t suit them. I’m not saying Germany is a bad team but I think people who base too much emphasis on a 6 week tourny of knockout football are kidding themselves.”

      It doesn`t suit England either. England haven`t won a match at a WC after falling behind since 1966…

    • George D says:

      Tell me who has managed to let Spain score first and then come back and win? Nobody has done that for a few years now.

      I’ll openly admit Spain are far superior to Germany, but whatever level you put Spain on, Germany are below that, and the vast majority of the rest of the world are below Germany. You don’t score 16 goals against sides ranked 5 (Argentina), 6 (Uruguay), 7 (England), 20 (Australia), 23 (Ghana), and not be good.

      • It was not suppose to be a point about Spain, we didn’t see them come back against serbia either, it is just not their game at the moment. They like to go a goal ahead and counter teams when they know the other teams will have to attack, they did it very well against both England and Argentina.
        I think you’d have to be blind not to think the 3rd and 4th goals that Germany scored against England were not Counter attacking goals. Both were scored from a break when moments before England were attacking at the other end.

        The tactics also worked very well against Argentina, the moment Argentina went a goal down, Germant knew they would have to attack, bingo, we’ll sit and break quick on the counter 4-0

        • George D says:

          Instead of having a negative slant that they are only counter attack, why not also acknowledge they are good to actually get the first goal and put the opponent exactly where they want them?

          Against Serbia, they had the chances to win it, even missing a penalty with 10 men, they had the answers, although not all of them vs Serbia, against Spain, they had none though.

          England should have also known Germany would do it, 2-1 down with over 20 mins to go is no need to be so rash, Germany cashed in full that mistake, and why shouldn’t they, everyone else would have.

          • You can still be a counter atacking team when the score is nil-nil, it is when you go a goal down that you need to do something different and Germany despite being a good team don’t seem to have that in their locker.
            As for this great passing football that allows them to get their first goal, well all I can say is the first goal against England was route 1 longball at its best. It took be back to Wimbledon team of the 80′s

          • Dave C says:

            Who cares whether a team is counter attacking or whatever. They still scored FOUR GOALS. That’s quite an acheivement against anyone in the WC. It’s not like they parked the bus Bolton style, and knicked a 1-0 win on a counter attack. They dominated Argentina and England. And I think it’s kind of sour grapes to say “ah yes, but it was because they were counter-attacking”, as if that is some dastardly underhand tactic from which gentlemen should refrain.

            And Poker, the difference between Germany’s opening goal against England, and Wimbledon’s 1980′s Route-One tactics is that Wimbledon did it against better opponents.

          • I have no problem with counter attacking teams, my problem comes when you don’t seem to be able to do anything else.
            You want to sit here and slag off England for being long ball but when Germany slam it from goalie to striker it’s the dogs b******.
            One long ball and two counter attacking goals does not make a team the business. That’s all i’m saying, winning and winning and winning over time like Spain have done makes you the business.
            Germany are nothing more than a decent team with a good manager who has managed to get the best out of them.
            If they go on a run for the following 2 years and keep winning and winning I’ll be happy to come back on here and give them the credit they will deserve but I’m not gonna do that after a 6 week knockout tourney.

            It wasn’t a million years ago that England slammed the German team 5-1 in Germany, did that mean that England was the best thing since sliced bread? No, it just meant they had played well that night.

          • Dave C says:

            Poker,
            I’m not sure if the “reply” function on this website works the way I think it does, so apologies if this post does not appear where I expect it to, but I want to try and address some of what you said:

            “You want to sit here and slag off England for being long ball but when Germany slam it from goalie to striker it’s the dogs b******.”
            Well if England had actually scored in such a long ball manner, and THEN proceed to score another three on the counter-attack, then they would be the dog’s bx too. No-one’s saying that Germany’s opening goal in itself was a thing of beauty. But to be able to get an opening goal (through whatever means), and then crush the opposition as effectively as they did is, as a whole, pretty impressive (although I admit that England flattered them).

            “If they go on a run for the following 2 years and keep winning and winning I’ll be happy to come back on here and give them the credit they will deserve”.
            Well they got to the final of Euro 2008, and they qualified comfortably for the 2010 WC with an unbeaten record (including home-and-away victories against Russia, the only “blip” was drawing with Finland twice), so you could say they’ve ALREADY been on such a run.

            Personally, I think Germany are a notch beneath Spain (and maybe Brazil too), but still should be no lower than 4th on that list.

  10. Ben Ruskin says:

    His rankings reflect what he believes would be the final league table in a national team league, and he provides sufficient proof that the likes of Argentina could finish above Germany as one game rarely reflects the outcome of an entire season. Also, there is no doubt Argentina has the better starting 11 and is significantly deeper, which favors league play and not a 4 week tournament that dooms teams that have a poor stretch of form at that time (Italy, England). However i disagree that France should be on that list as we don’t even know how Blanc will change the squad following their debacle in South ‘Africa.

  11. Diego says:

    Argentina played a terrible qualification and hasn’t made it past the quarter finals in a WC since 1990. All their attacking talent didn’t show against Germany. Not sure why you would rate them above Germany.

  12. Cricketlover says:

    Gaffer,
    What empirical evidence do you have to support your thesis that in a league format your list would prevail? You’ve offered no proof to support your thesis.

  13. Cricketlover says:

    Gaffer,
    Sorry. I’ve been reading too many of your posts recently and I went into automatic pilot :).

  14. RVPFan says:

    “Some might question the ranking of Argentina above Germany”. What about Argentina above Holland, Gaffer?
    Holland has lost only 2 International matches to date since the qualifications of Euro 2008, dating back to 2006, Russia and Spain are the only two teams to beat them. They came off a perfect qualifying record (being the first team to qualify) in the World Cup, had a run of winning 23 consecutive matches before the finals, and yet they stand behind Brazil and Argentina in the rankings. They beat Brazil and Argentina had problems qualifying and reached only quarters. I am finding it hard to understand how they go ahead of Holland. Talk about being biased.

    • icebreaker says:

      Well, the original post is not from the Gaffer, but still I agree with your point. The original posters images how this ten teams would rank if they played in some sort of league competition against each other.

      However, ranking Argentina above the Netherlands simply on the basis that they have more talented players (something I’m not sure of, Argentinas defence is terrible) and would thus be able to finish above the Netherlands is a very questionable assumption, imho, especially if you take the qualifying records of the two countries into account too.

  15. Dave C says:

    In this little scenario, are we imagining that this is a ten-team league, and that the teams listed above would be the final league positions. Or is it simply the top half of a 20 team league that we’re talking about.
    Because if that were a ten-team league, I honestly think England would struggle to pick up ANY points from most of those teams in competetive games (and I base that on England’s record against top level teams over my whole lifetime). So I think we’d be lucky to finish anything other than last.

  16. Eric Altshule says:

    England will never improve until people realize how far from the top they are. Are they in the top 10 in the world now? NFW! England has played a team from your top 10 list 23 times since 2004 (fiendlies included with normal caveats about using friendlies as a marker), and has won a total of 6 times, of which four have been against Croatia and Uruguay. They have lost 12 times and drawn the other six. If we are to ignore friendlies, outside of the highly questionable Croatia, when is the last time they beat one of your top 10 teams in a meaningful encounter?

    That would be over eight years ago when they beat a terrible Argentina in the group stages of the 2002 World Cup. That is an entire generation ago (there were only three players who played against Argentina who also played in the 2010 World Cup). This entire current generation will not have beaten any of your top 10 teams (outside of Croatia) in a meaningful encounter for their entire career.

    England is not a good team. To call them overrated is to highlight the intrinsic artistry of Brittany Spears or the Shakespearian talents of Steven Seagal.

    • Dave C says:

      Eric – agree completely (see my post above – I doubt we’d pick up any points in a ten-team league).

      I do feel you’re being slightly unfair on Steven Segal though. Just remember, this is the man who brought us Under Siege, which (if I remember correctly) included a scene where the girl from Baywatch bursts out of a cake with no clothes on (or am I imagining that??). That alone is more than England have ever done in my lifetime.

  17. basem says:

    Thanks for the feedback, everyone – so many points.

    “What empirical evidence do you have to support your thesis that in a league format your list would prevail? You’ve offered no proof to support your thesis.”

    I personally rely upon games played record, historic trends, squad available etc. I’m not putting forward a thesis, other than the World Cup is an overrated competition and ruins perceptions – anything else are musings, not any thesis.

    Regarding the Argentina question, news seems to question if he will continue and I premised there position on a better overall squad and a more mature management. However, there really is little between those three (Holland, Argentina and Germany) and would think they’d battle it out for a Champions League spot. Put them in whatever order…I have no problem with Argentina below Germany or Holland.

    “I honestly think England would struggle to pick up ANY points from most of those teams in competetive games”

    Agreed. That is why they are near bottom of that table (I noted that I’d place Portugal and possibly Italy above them), so that’s 8th or 9th at most but they could pick-up points from teams below them (Switzerland, Paraguay, Ukraine, Egypt etc.) and so their position – the Aston Villa of international football.

  18. Patrick says:

    Call me crazy but: How could an overated team thrash an underated team?

    There is no question in my mind that Germany should be rated higher…

  19. Andre Medrano says:

    In the last four years Germany have lost a World Cup semifinal in overtime, reached the European final, and lost another World Cup semi to the eventual champion by a goal. They stomped their way through qualifying. They are clearly not the best team in the world but ranking them any lower would be silly.

  20. ScottM says:

    “World Cup is an overrated competition and ruins perceptions” I Disagree Strongly. The flaws in the world cup are directly proportional to the flaws of football as a sport, but the teams’ performance cannot be ignored while watching the WC. England has always been over-rated because IMO the EPL has the strongest clubs which are full of international players. The few Englishmen dispersed in the top clubs make hopes of a stellar WC performance plausible but very unlikely.

    Basem your list is your opinion, but to say the World Cup is overratted? Ruins perceptions yes, I can go with that..but overrated? C’mon

  21. Karol says:

    It is quite odd to have such an article on epltalk. After all – and so far it has not been mentioned in the comments – the success of English clubs in the CL (another k.o.-competition that “ruins perception”) in recent years has been achieved by playing “re-active” football. Inter also won the treble this year playing reactive football. When Chelsea almost knocked out Barca last year, I can`t remember football purists on this site applauding a victory of “pro-active” football over negative “re-active” football. Quite on the contrary, the followers of this site were pretty pissed.

    • Karol says:

      And finally a comment written by Jonathan Wilson under his piece which has served as a blueprint for the article above:

      “I am not anti-German. I have regularly said that the last great World Cup winner was West Germany in 1990 (even if they showed that greatness more in the group stage than the qfs onwards), and I spend a chapter in The Anatomy of England detailing their 3-1 demolition of England at Wembley in 1972. What I’ve said through the tournament is that this Germany play reactive football extremely well; this is a fine and legitimate way of playing (it won Inter the Champions League), and it is others who have imposed a value judgement upon it, as though proactivity were necessarily good and reactivity necessarily bad (to Arrigo Sacchi this is true; but personally I think it’s a matter of personal taste). The issue is whether a reactive side can react against sides that sit deep against them (Azerbaijan, Finland in the qualifiers) or that retains possession as well as Spain. Germany struggled. But, this is a young side and I expect it will develop. I think Germany will go on to be one of the two or three dominant European nations over the next decade. My gripe is with those who see the goals and see great attacking football.”

    • The Gaffer says:

      Karol, I remember being pretty pissed that Chelsea resorted to those tactics last year and described their soccer as anti-football. See my piece at http://epltalk.com/barca-0-0-chelsea-victory-for-anti-football/6359

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  22. Joseph K. says:

    Basem,
    “I personally rely upon games played record, historic trends, squad available etc. I’m not putting forward a thesis, other than the World Cup is an overrated competition and ruins perceptions – anything else are musings, not any thesis. ”

    This is all very dubious. Historic trends? How far back and how can that predict the present? Take England. Under Erikkson they were good, under McClaren they were bad, under Capello they won an easy group in qualification then were bad in the world cup. So what does that say about the present England team? Some would conclude they can improve while others would conclude that they are rubbish and would not make top ten. To say that the World Cup is overrated is pure rubbish. ALL tournaments and formats have their own flaws so your statement about the World Cup doesn’t shed any light whatsoever on why you think your format would result in the list you gave.

  23. basem says:

    Karol – I am not against cup competition per se but a reliance on them to crown champions. To be the top side in Europe or regionally, you have to win a championship – so my observation applies to the Champions League, as well. The standard of football is very high, obviously, but still that point stands. What makes things worse is that the World Cup is every four years – I also admit I don’t like FIFA and would prefer there be no international football, because of the nationalist sentiment it ignites.

    As for reactive football, then it is a personal choice but again it would be better for fans if teams don’t set-up to negate the other but you can’t blame Holland or Germany etc.

    I also agree with Jonathan Wilson, that Germany will be a dominant team but not a vintage team, as in Spain or Brazil. In league terms, they would be outside the top two who usually challenge but because we cup competitions then they will always be favourites and challenge. My listings are only for a fantasy league scenario and I believe Germany won’t be from the top two, there is chasm between Spain + Brazil and everyone else.

    Joesph, historic trends are limited but if it is continues into more immediate past, then that can be informative. Germany usually do well in tournaments and the past gives a psychological boost. However, it is the more limited factor, games played over say 30-40 games is far more important than even immediate World Cup performance. Croatia’s win rate of 71% is very good – Germany’s is not that better but the historic trend of tournament performance gives me the opinion they should rank higher. My opinion on the World Cup only applies, as we only have a cup competition and that is very limited (also the problems with how it is run, the interests it serves and the organisation that is FIFA). My opinion is no different than Socrates.

  24. Manxman says:

    BTW – Germany’s opening goal was not an aimless punt upfield, they had infact worked out a signal specifically for when England were out of position and of course we duly obliged.

    source: Klose himself on German national television.

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