Friday it kicks off – the big dance, the big show, the main event. THE WORLD CUP! Every 4 years we set our body clocks to nocturnal and enjoy the extravaganza that is football! Now at this time you can read any type of preview imaginable – from your basic break down of each team and their star players to ones that can state which team will win based upon the selections of an ocelot.
So at Mike or The Don we have stripped back all the fluff and have compiled arguably the most comprehensive form guide to give you all a slightly different perspective of each team’s chances heading into the World Cup. The process involved an analysis of each team’s last 10 matches; as the international football calendar has to fit around the club competitions around the world, this generally means we are looking at each team’s last 12-15 months of football. Although this is a large amount of time, once each nation’s 10 matches are broken down their form and ability can be accurately assessed. A typical 3 point for a win, 1 for a draw and zero for a loss were calculated over this span of matches. Then, the aggregate of the current world rankings of their opponents was then divided by this sum. Confused yet? Let’s take a look at one nation to give you a clearer idea:
From the above, Australia’s last 10 matches give them a ‘form score’ of 473/8 = 59.13. A high score is bad – it means a nation has played poorly ranked teams and/or has lost or drawn a lot matches. Conversely a low score is good, meaning a nation has picked up a lot of points while playing against highly ranked opponents. It is worth mentioning that whether a team wins more games home or away has not been taken into account. This was because a large number of matches were played at neutral venues (take Australia’s game vs Ecuador which was played in East London) and, even so, it was found that each team played a good mix of home and away matches.
Nonetheless, here is a list of all team’s form lines based upon the Mike or The Don analysis as outlined above:
|WORLD RANKING||NATION||FORM SCORE|
|21||Bosnia and Herzegovina||31.78|
And here are the final standings as predicted using the Mike or The Don analysis:
|Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D|
|Cameroon||Australia||Ivory Coast||Costa Rica|
|Group E||Group F||Group G||Group H|
|France||Bosnia and Herzegovina||USA||Belgium|
To break it down even further, let’s analyse each group as the standings have indicated above: Group A
Not too many surprises here to kick things off. If there was one thing I am reasonably certain of it’s that Brazil will win this group, and win it comfortably. Not so much because of their form (which is outstanding) but also the quality of opponents they have played – and beaten. There is only a sole loss to Switzerland among 9 wins in their last 10 hitouts, including wins against Spain, Chile, Uruguay, Portugal and – wait for it – even Australia! Honestly, the runner up in this group will be making up numbers with a match-up against Chile, Spain or the Dutch in the Round of 16 to follow. All three have similar formlines, all capable of beating teams below or around their quality but struggling when they have to play a tough opponent. Mexico have lost their last 2 matches but didn’t lose any of the 7 games prior to that (mind you, 2 of those were against the might of New Zealand); Croatia’s most 4 recent wins have come against Australia, Mali, Iceland and South Korea while Cameroon have good recent form with a draw against Germany but the highest ranked opponent they have beaten in their last 10 matches is Tunisia (currently ranked 48 in world rankings).
“But Neymar would never do that”
Australia to win this one. Just kidding! Australia will be lucky to score a goal, let alone get a point (unless Tim Cahill reaches his Demigod status as we previously predicted). Their form is horrendous with 3 wins in their last 10 coming against Costa Rica, Canada and Iraq with the disastrous loss to Ecuador, a limp draw against South Africa at home and a somewhat OK loss to Croatia coming most recently. They are ranked bottom for all teams in my analysis – and by some margin.
My analysis has Chile on top in this group on form with 6 wins and only 2 losses in their last 10, those being against Germany and Brazil. Spain has been solid if uninspiring – a loss to South Africa 3 outings ago shows as such, however there are also 7 wins in their last 10 matches. Netherlands have been similarly solid with only 1 loss in their last 10 matches – against France – however they have also had 5 draws, something they will need to avoid to ensure they get out of the group.
Proof – DEMIGOD status
Ivory Coast will be a lot of people’s dark horse in this tournament however their form ranks them bottom in this group – only 3 wins vs Senegal, Nigeria and Tanzania in their last 10. Furthermore they have played only 3 opponents ranked in the top 30 in their last 10 matches for only one draw – against Belgium, the two losses against Mexico and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Colombia top this group on form with only a sole loss (to Uruguay) in their last 10 matches, which also includes a win against Belgium and draws to Chile and the Netherlands. Greece have only lost one match as well in their last 10 however the quality of opponents they have played have been poor – every opponent is currently ranked outside the top 30 except for Portugal who they played quite recently for a draw. Japan’s form has been so-so, a win against Belgium ranks among 7 wins in their last 10 matches however 5 of these have been against Zambia, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Guatemala and Cyprus. They have also lost to Uruguay, Serbia and Belarus in this span of matches.
A lot of people are writing off the Poms at this stage – most notably themselves – however, their form puts them second in this group – only 2 losses in their last 10 (against Chile and Germany) with 5 wins. Mind you, none of these wins have been against teams competing at this World Cup, Denmark and Scotland being the highest ranked teams they have beaten. Uruguay has been more inspiring with wins against Argentina and Colombia among their last 10. It is worth mentioning that the win against Argentina was a dead rubber for their opponents as they had already qualified for the World Cup, and their last match against Italy was a loss. Speaking of the Italians, there is nothing to crow about regarding their form: 6 draws and 2 losses (against Spain and Argentina) make up their last 6 matches with their last win coming way back on 10 September 2013! Costa Rica have been as you would expect – nothing fancy with wins against Paraguay, Mexico and USA in their last 10 matches but they lost to Australia in this block too, so that kind of gives you an indication to their form and ability in a quick snapshot.
This is one of the more even groups when it comes to form with Ecuador narrowly on top – somewhat surprising given they have lost 3 matches in their last 10 however these have been against reasonable teams in Mexico, Chile and Colombia. On the flipside there are only 2 wins in the same span of matches – against Australia and Uruguay. Hardly impressive. Their high ranking in this group comes from the fact that 8 of the teams they have played in their last 10 matches are now ranked inside the top 40. France are next having had only one loss (to Ukraine) in their last 10 matches (who they then beat in their next match to qualify for the World Cup). Switzerland rank 3rd in this group, primarily due to the poorer quality of opponents they have played although there is only a sole loss (to South Korea) and 6 wins (Brazil being among these) that make up their last 10 matches. Honduras has won only 3 matches in their last 10 with only one of these inside the top 30 (Mexico). In fact, this win against Mexico is the only time they have picked up a win or a draw away from home and as a result they are expected to finish last in this group.
Argentina have had 1 loss in their last 10 matches – a dead rubber against Uruguay and 7 wins, against the likes of Italy (away), Paraguay, Slovenia and Bosnia & Herzegovina – the latter being one of their opponents in this group. They should top this group and progress deep into the tournament based on this form. Bosnia & Herzegovina most recent two matches were wins against Mexico and the Ivory Coast – good form leading into the tournament. Conversely Nigeria’s 4 most recent wins have been against Zimbabwe, Morocco, South Africa and Mozambique. In that time they have failed to beat USA, Greece, Scotland, Mexico, Ghana and Mali. On this basis I expect Bosnia & Herzegovina to dust themselves off after a first-up loss to Argentina and progress to the next stage. Lastly, I expect Iran to get somewhat hammered in this group – their highest ranking recent opponents have been South Korea, Montenegro and Guinea for a win, draw and a loss respectively.
Count on Germany being there deep into the tournament – they are one of two teams at the World Cup not to have lost in their last 10 matches (7 wins and 3 draws). They have played good teams in this span as well – Italy, Chile and England were among the teams they have faced so they will go into the tournament having had to play good football in these lead-up matches. Portugal have been haphazard form-wise – 4 wins a draw and 5 losses in their last 10, beating teams like Mexico and Greece but losing to teams like Norway, Austria and North Korea! Anything could happen for them in Brazil based on this. Ghana have lost their last 3 matches and the highest ranked opponent they have beaten in their last 10 is Nigeria (currently 44 in world rankings). They will need a big turn-around to replicate or better their agonizing quarter-final loss at the last World Cup. The USA have lost only 2 matches in their last 10, (against Ukraine and Austria) and have won their last 3 matches. They will go in with confidence and could get out of the group with an upset against Portugal.
Funnily enough South Korea, although currently 57 in world rankings, are on top of this group on form. Discounting their matches against Mali and Costa Rica, every opponent they have played in their last 10 are currently ranked inside the top 20. So although they have only beaten Greece, Costa Rica, Mali and Switzerland they have had to play against very good teams leading into the World Cup, which could stand them in good stead. Belgium are 2nd in this group on form – 5 wins, including all of their last 3 matches, and only 2 losses (to Japan and Colombia) in their last 10 is quite impressive, however draws against Wales and Ivory Coast show that they are inconsistent at best. They may make the quarter-finals given a Round of 16 match up would be against Portugal, USA or Ghana but that is likely to be as far as they will go. Algeria may be one of the most inexperienced teams in Brazil however their form is blistering – only 1 loss and 1 draw in their last 10 matches with scalps including France, Scotland, Croatia and Sweden. Russia are the other team with Germany not to have lost in their last 10 matches with 7 wins and 3 draws. However, the highest ranked opponent they have played is Serbia (currently 30 in world rankings) for one of their draws. This group is the toughest to call with any of Algeria, Russia and South Korea able to get to the Round of 16 with Belgium the expected leaders.
So if you happened to get all the way to the end, here’s what you can take away:
- South American teams are high in world rankings and have amazingly good form. And the World Cup is played in South America, so they will likely dominate.
- Teams that are highly rated but have poor form include Italy, Portugal and Ivory Coast.
- Teams that are not expected to go far but have good form are Algeria, Japan and Korea Republic.
- We will cheer them on, we will make excuses, we will stay up at 2am to watch them play however it is reasonably certain Australia will perform the worst of all nations at the World Cup. Sorry, it’s kind of true.