It is hard to ignore the fact that Euro 2012 is taking over the country at the moment and who knows, this year may be England’s! I’m in no way a football fan, but this is one of the few competitions I will actually watch (or “watch” as I fell asleep just before England’s only goal in the last match), with an optimistic – or naive - view on England’s chances each year.
So what is the likelihood of England winning? Where do they stand compared with the competition in Europe?
One measure is FIFA’s World Ranking System, which is used to compare national teams. It is calculated using a points system based on the teams’ successes in FIFA-recognised international matches (taking into account the importance of the match and the regional and opposition strength) to provide a ranking order with 1 being the highest (currently Spain). All such matches over the preceding four years are taken into account with the most recent given the highest weighting to best represent the teams’ current states.
This all works well, but it seems a bit unfair for those smaller countries that have a much fewer people to choose from. What if they were rewarded for having a higher proportion of talent within the country? This is what we shall look into.
Taking only the top 20 rated countries in Europe to avoid filling the page with a table, the FIFA points are divided by the population (figures taken from ONS and European Commission eurostat page) to get the relative points per head for each country. The table below shows the resulting ranking. Unsurprisingly, this method does not help England out very much – but at least we are still ahead of Italy in preparation for Sunday night!
Russia was never going to benefit from this measurement, with roughly 140 million people in the country and has hence dropped to the bottom of the table. In fact, they also drop to the bottom of the table when the whole of Europe is included!
Praise should be given to Slovenia though, who turn out to have the most talent per head in Europe as they only have around 2 million inhabitants! This did not help them in Euro 2012 though as they did not even make it through the qualifiers, but next time you watch them please give them some respect for being a talented little country.