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Debate - World footy rankings 2008 - Where to place non-IC08 teams?

  • Friday, January 23 2009 @ 12:30 pm ACDT
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This will most likely be our final article on unofficial World Rankings for 2008 until our final list is released, based on the user comments so far and a final vote by worldfootynews.com staff.

In this article we consider where to rank the countries that did not attend IC08 but which have been deemed eligible for ranking based on good numbers of players that would qualify under International Cup rules. These countries are: Tonga, Spain (Catalonia), France, Germany and Croatia (see Debate - World footy rankings 2008 - other countries to consider for further discussion).

In terms of the IC08 countries, after discussion in Debate - World footy rankings 2008 - IC08 placings and amongst worldfootynews.com staff, we have decided to leave the IC08 finishing order unmodified, despite a general belief that Denmark probably deserved to finish a little higher, and Japan a little lower. Given that such a major tournament was played it was felt best to stick to those rankings, and that the argument for change was persuasive but not overwhelming. Note however that is a guide, the final rankings will be based on voting of staff.

So here are the IC08 rankings, with Australia slotted in at number 1 (so all others shift down one spot).

1. Australia
2. Papua New Guinea
3. New Zealand
4. South Africa
5. Ireland
6. Nauru
7. Canada
8. USA
9. Japan
10. Great Britain
11. Samoa
12. Denmark
13. Sweden
14. Peace Team
15. Finland
16. China
17. India

You can view all the IC08 results here.

Another pair of countries not widely discussed are Argentina and Chile, with the South American nations playing their first international in 2008. However to the best of our knowledge it's unlikely that they fielded enough locals to qualify for our rankings under International Cup rules.

The other controversial decision to be made was the Catalonia/Spain question. Ultimately we just can't see it appropriate to rank them as Catalonia when it is not the accepted international norm. But likewise to ignore their efforts would be wrong, so the compromise was to rank them as the country that they would be required to internationally, which is Spain.

So where in that list should we put Tonga, Spain (Catalonia), France, Germany and Croatia? Do we simply put them at the end because they did not attend IC08? I don't think that would be fair - not attending the tournament should not be penalised in any way, and certainly not rankings.

So what matches did these nations play in 2008? Tonga played two games at the Multicultural Challenge, played next to IC08. One was a Tonga-Australia team and the other much more closely a Tongan side under the conditions required here. That side lost narrowly to Team Africa, made up mostly of young players from African immigrant families. The Africans also played a warm-up match against South Africa prior to the Cup, losing 21 to 103, giving us a very rough guide to their form. Given that information (and noting South Africa held China scoreless) and that Tonga has had some form of senior league in 2008 and juniors prior to that, it seems reasonable to rank them above the new boys from China and India.

France, Catalonia, Germany and Croatia all fielded sides in the 9-a-side EU Cup. The results can be seen here (click on the number at the end of each row to get more match details, including the handicap). When examining results one has to remember it is a handicap event, so scores were inflated for teams with few Australians. It's also difficult to know whether the teams were close to full strength or not.

France also sent a squad to a "World 9s" hosted by the Catalonians but their opposition there is also a relatively unknown quantity so doesn't help our quest for rankings. At the EU Cup both France, Germany and Croatia were reported as fielding all-local sides, and Catalonia's Pere Moliner was very clear that his team believed internationals should be played only by citizens of that country. But does all-local mean the same as International Cup eligibility? It would be interesting to get confirmation on the typical player background. Australia has many Croatian-Australians, so perhaps some of the Croatian Knights are dual citizens but not quite IC eligible? That's speculation. Speaking with Aussie Rules Europe's Philip Porublev, one of the main organisers of the tournament, he stated that the Croatians had confirmed that their players had not played in Australia. So we must consider them as fully eligible.

If we did treat those four teams based exactly as they were at the EU Cup, we have to remember that the proposed rankings are for full field games, 18 per side plus interchange. In their matches, they notionally took on countries like Sweden, Finland and England who attended the IC08 (in the latter case as part of Britain). However the EU Cup sides were known to bare little resemblance to the IC08 sides due to player injury, unavailability and internal politics. England won the tournament but the mostly-English Great Britain have easily defeated them previously, and themselves finished 9th at IC08. Sweden and Finland finished 4th and 5th at the EU Cup, but their stronger IC08 sides finished 10th and 14th.

So, armed with that information, where do Spain (Catalonia), France, Germany and Croatia fit in? France narrowly lost to Finland in their 5th/6th EU Cup playoff, but Finland, taking into account the handicap, were probably slightly below IC08 strength. So France would go a bit below Finland in the IC08 rankings. Catalonia lost to Finland by 46 points, so would be further down.

Germany defeated Sweden in the 3rd/4th playoff, but we estimate Sweden were well below IC08 strength. So Germany finished above France, but would they go above Finland? With Croatia coming second overall in the EU Cup I'd suggest they finish above Germany, but again, where relative to Finland? And they only just squeezed past Germany.

And where does that group finish relative to the next rung of IC08 teams, China and India? Neither of those new footy countries got near their opposition, except India losing by 4 goals to Finland and China losing by 1 goal to the Peace Team. It suggests that there would have been very little between Germany, France, Catalonia, China and India, and possibly the Peace Team and Finland too. When Germany defeated Finland, they started with around a 4 goal head-start due to handicap with Finland fielding some "non-locals", but Germany pulled further away to win by around 6 goals. So despite having some Aussies, which should have gone some way to allowing for Finland being under IC08 strength, Germany still drew away. And by tournament's end, China and India had greatly improved, and featured some athletic young men who simply needed a few more games under their belts.

It's all somewhat subjective and based on insufficient data, but that was a given when we started this project. So, with all that in mind, here is a suggested order:

1. Australia
2. Papua New Guinea
3. New Zealand
4. South Africa
5. Ireland
6. Nauru
7. Canada
8. USA
9. Japan
10. Great Britain
11. Samoa
12. Denmark
13. Sweden
14. Croatia
15. Germany
16. Peace Team
17. Finland
18. France
19. Tonga
20. Spain (Catalonia)
21. China
22. India

As usual, feel free to add comments and seek to influence any final decision. The final rankings will be based on voting by some of the worldfootynews.com staff, taking into account any consensus reached in these discussions.

The bottom line in motivation to produce this list is to imagine you are new to the sport, one of the recent converts or potential converts. You know you have a national side. I think pretty soon you would ask the question "where are we ranked in the world" or "how do we compare with other countries". This ranking attempts to answer that basic question, without pretending to be perfect.