Fifa’s new system leaves Bafana hanging

20 July 2018 - 12:41 By Mark Gleeson
Bafana Bafana during the 2018 COSAFA Cup quarter final match between South Africa and Madagascar at New Peter Mokaba Stadium on June 03, 2018 in Polokwane, South Africa.
Bafana Bafana during the 2018 COSAFA Cup quarter final match between South Africa and Madagascar at New Peter Mokaba Stadium on June 03, 2018 in Polokwane, South Africa.
Image: Philip Maeta/Gallo Images

Fifa were scheduled to release their monthly world rankings on Thursday but have held them over for another month‚ leaving South Africa lingering in 74th position.

“We are introducing a new formula for our rankings and are now in that transition process so there will be no rankings as scheduled. The next will be released on August 16‚” a Fifa spokesman in Zurich said when contacted on Friday by TimesLIVE.

It is unusual for the normally uber-efficient Swiss to schedule the release of rankings only to not stick to their schedule.

It suggests that while change is imminent‚ the old formula did not have new world champions France at No. 1 despite victory in Russia‚ and world football’s governing body were saving themselves the bad publicity that would have ensued.

The rankings were eagerly anticipated to see the movement after the World Cup finals although over the years they have come in for increasing derision and are seen as being often unrealistic.

In June it led to the Fifa Council announcing an overhaul‚ which comes after more than two years of studies and reviews‚ and could have major implications for international soccer.

Fifa’s previous formula weighted matches by differing importance with World Cups‚ or African Nations Cup finals results getting more points than those of friendly games.

In fact‚ the way friendly matches were weighted encouraged teams to play less friendlies and unfairly penalised those who did.

That is why hosts Russia were ranked the weakest team going into the World Cup finals‚ having just played friendlies over the last two years‚ not being part of the qualifying process.

The old rankings formula also gave more weight to Uefa (Europe) and Conmebol (South America)‚ and less weight to the other confederations‚ leading to the top 50 places being full of European and South American teams.

Fifa’s decision to change the way rankings are measured is supposed to end these problems.

The new method adds or subtracts points based on the result of a match rather than calculating an average.

The amount added (or subtracted) is calculated based on the strength of the opponent and the importance of the match.

Teams also will find it more difficult to rig the system‚ for example by playing very few friendly matches.

As the new system does not reward teams for avoiding friendly matches‚ it will most likely result in more friendly games‚ which is a positive for the game.

Each country will start the new system next month in their previous position in the Fifa rankings‚ which for Bafana is 74th.

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