June 26, 2010

More World Cup Than You Know What To Do With

We're now two weeks and 48 games into the World Cup and transitioning from the opening round to the round of 16. Last week, we gave you our alternative rankings of the sides in this year's World Cup, based on the number of Google Maps references to "football" in each country, as a percentage of the total amount of content.

And while our rankings certainly caused a shake up in terms of where teams stood in the pecking order of the footballing (or is it soccer?) world, they didn't seem to have too much effect on the outcome of the matches themselves. Frankly, it's probably a good thing you didn't bet the farm on our upset pick of South Korea over Argentina (Argentina won that game 4-1). However, were you to have used our rankings to bet on Serbia (#15 by FIFA, #8 by FS) over Germany (#6 by FIFA, #14 by FS) last week, you would have gone away quite rich. Likewise, with just .09% separating them, it's no surprise to the Floatingsheep collective that our #1 and #2 overall teams, Algeria and England, played to a draw.

After recognizing the flaws in our system, however, we've come back with a new way of ranking the sides. Like any map or statistical analysis, we were forced to exclude some things in favor of others, and much to our detriment. Because our original rankings used references only to the term "football", and not local linguistic variations of it, our rankings were highly skewed. For instance, the world's #1 team, Brazil, was ranked dead last of the 32 teams in the World Cup by our rankings.

So we come back with a new set of rankings, based on the local variations on the word "football" - from "calcio" in Italian to "futebol" in Portuguese, we've taken a finer grain approach to our newest series of rankings, seen below.

With these new language-based virtual rankings, a number of countries have improved their position. While Algeria, England and Cameroon remain #1-2-3 in our rankings, traditional football powerhouses Germany, the Netherlands, Argentina, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Brazil all do substantially better when taking into account their local terms for the game we've all been adjusting our sleep schedules to watch for the last two weeks.

Of course we continue to face methodological issues with this newest set of rankings. Because we don't have a complete set of data including the Arabic, Danish, Greek, Serbian, Slovak and Slovene words for football, we were forced to use the generic "football" for each of these. While Slovenia, Slovakia and Denmark take a hit from this oversight, Algeria, Greece and Serbia have all managed to come through it unscathed, still ranking considerably high, given their disadvantage.

Based solely on picking the team with the higher ranking in our new, language-sensitive ranking system, we're going to make the following predictions for the knockout round portion of this year's World Cup finals:

Although England has the toughest row to hoe in facing the #4 team and, potentially, the #7 team in our rankings, we're going to go ahead and pick our highest ranked team to go ahead and win it all. Based on the matchups, expect #5 Uruguay to make it to the finals, with the Netherlands at #6 edging out the #10 Spaniards for third place.

If you're a betting type and you win big, we'll collect our share at a later time and date. If you happen to lose big, we sincerely hope you won't hold it against us...

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