Correlation between Population, GDP and other stats and the Ranking of World Cup Teams

Discussion in 'World Cup 2014: General' started by Iranian Monitor, Feb 9, 2014.

  1. Iranian Monitor

    Iranian Monitor Member+

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    The correlation between population, GDP and related stats, and how various countries do in the Olympics is more, or less, evident. The only exceptions are generally the ex-Soviet states and Cuba, who punch above their weight in the Olympics. Otherwise, with few exceptions, the correlation is actually quite stark and efficient. Even in the case of Iran, which frankly find itself underrated in the combined medal table because it doesn't medal in women sports, the correlation is nonetheless rather perfect! Iran rated #17 in the 2012 Olympic medal table and ranks #17 in the GDP (PPP) table as well!

    This correlation, however, is lacking in football. This probably because as in any other particular sport, football has its own history and traditions and started in some countries and regions long before in others. When it comes to football, therefore, we see European and South American teams overrepresented among the top teams while many of the top GDP countries aren't nearly as accomplished in football. Leaving aside India, which doesn't do well even in the Olympic medal count (#55), we have an Olympic powerhouse like China with the world's largest population and second biggest GDP who isn't even among the top 50 in football and we also have the US (#1 GDP) which barely rates among the top 20.

    My own sense, however, is that overtime the European and South American advantage will diminish and the football rankings will begin to show a closer correlation to population and GDP. The only exception may turn out to be African teams, whose arguably superior atheltic talent may nonetheless be absorbed by more prosperous countries and therefore still not show as much.

    Anyway, while I was trying to figure out how Iran rates on the basis of the following statistics, the order and lists that emerged might have broader interest for many here as well. I will therefore post what I had come up with in this regard below.

    Population:

    The country with the largest population in the World Cup is the United States and the country with the smallest population is Uruguay.

    Iran ranks #18 in the world with 78.8 million people and #8 among World Cup finalists.

    World Cup finalists ranking above Iran in Population: (7) (USA, Brazil, Nigeria, Russia, Japan, Mexico, Germany)

    World Cup finalists ranking below Iran in Population: (24) (France, UK/England, Italy, South Korea, Spain, Colombia, Argentina, Algeria, Ghana, Australia, CIV, Cameroon, Chile, Netherlands, Ecuador, Portugal, Greece, Belgium, Switzerland, Honduras, Costa Rica, Croatia, Bosnia H, Uruguay)

    GDP (PPP):

    The country with the largest GDP (PPP) in the World Cup is the United States and the country with the smallest GDP (PPP) in the World Cup is Bosnia H.

    Iran, with a GDP (PPP) of 1.003 trillion USD, ranks # 17 in the world and #12 among World Cup finalists.

    World Cup finalists ranking above Iran in GDP: (11) (USA, Japan, Germany, Russia, Brazil, UK (England), France, Italy, Mexico, South Korea, Spain)

    World Cup finalists ranking below Iran in GDP: (20) (Australia, Argentina, Netherlands, Colombia, Nigeria, Belgium, Switzerland, Chile, Greece, Algeria, Portugal, Ecuador, Croatia, Ghana, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Cameroon, CIV, Honduras, Bosnia H)

    GDP- Per Capita (PPP):

    The country with the highest GDP-Per Capita (PPP) in the World Cup is the United States and the country with the lowest GDP-Per Capita (PPP) is the Ivory Coast.

    Iran, with a GDP-Per Capita of 13,200 USD ranks #93 in the world and #21 among the World Cup finalists.

    World Cup finalists ranking above Iran in GDP-Per Capita: (20) (USA, Switzerland, Netherlands, Australia, Germany, Belgium, UK/England, France, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Croatia, Argentina, Chile, Russia, Uruguay, Mexico)

    World Cup finalists ranking below Iran in GDP-Per Capita: (11) (Costa Rica, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Bosnia H, Algeria, Honduras, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, CIV)


  2. Sandinista

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    Why?
  3. Iranian Monitor

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    Countries like Brazil can expect to enjoy a relative advantage, as besides the tradition, history and following, they also have the population and GDP as well. But once the interest and the following the game enjoys becomes more evenly spread between regions, it is natural that the larger the population, the larger the pool of football players, and the greater the resources to develop and properly utilize that talent, the better the results. And that won't favor many of the CONMBEOL teams such as Uruguay or even the mid-level teams in S.America. There won't be a perfect correlation, as football is a bit different than individual sports that rely on records that are being set, but there is also no reason to think that young kids in many of these S.American countries are inherently more gifted than young kids elsewhere.

    The only possible exception to me, actually, is among African countries and the like. Among them I do see some athletic advantages which are clearly observed in track and field type sports which are to football what mathematics is to science.
  4. Blondo

    Blondo Member

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    Brazil & Mexico => 2 behemoth countries
    GDP => not a big gap (was even smaller before)
    Tradition, history and following => both are hardcore

    => Brazil holds the best WC record while Mexico has records too ... just not the ones you'd be proud of (e.g. most losses = 24, worst GD = -37, etc.) ... also the Mexicans never made a deeper run than QFs (with home-field advantage x2) ... even the Welsh have managed to reach the QFs (away from home).

    At best I believe in 'too small to succeed' ... until a team like Iceland disproves my assertion.

    To counter the argument that an increase in wealth correlates with success at the WC ... the average Spanish citizen has lost a lot of wealth + job opportunties decreased since 2008 (Portugal, Italy, ... too) ... especially young people have felt this ... those hit worse by the crisis still belong to the top performers in Europe while other UEFA NTs (that were less affected by the crisis), e.g. Scandinavians, didn't outperform them ... I'd agree that below a minimum tresshold, you'd be at a disadvantage (e.g. in post WWII Europe the WC wasn't a priority ... as soon as countries had rebuild, they became competitors again) ... also you can't ignore the 'illnesses of luxury', e.g. obesity or even choosing to pursue an academic degree instead of the uncertainty of a career in sports ... plenty of potential is lost in rich countries too.

    PS the last time a small country, Uruguay, lifted the cup has been a while ... 1950 was imho still one of those wacky 'ol cups ... I'm hoping a small country will go all the way in Brazil, yet it's again unlikely ... population might be a conditio sine qua non yet your 'equation' is far from complete.

    PPS you can't compare a multi-sports event like the Olympics with the WC ... maybe you could compare a similar sport and even then you'd look at distorting variables, e.g. formats of both trnys could be an explanation for (dis)similarities ... still you don't always have to look to other sports ... football yields insights too ... maybe a crazy idea but you could look at football data to learn something about football.


  5. Iranian Monitor

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    I am not sure I understood what you are getting at. However, I don't think there is any logical correlation between per capita incomes and the success of a country in football, even though statistically the large number of European states that are among the top footballing countries might suggest such a correlation. The more likely explanation for that, however, lies elsewhere including in the early start Europeans had in the game.

    GDP (which is as much a product of population as it is a reflection of per capita income), however, should play a role in the longer run. That seems self-evident and is particularly true if you are going to have a sustained level of success. You need to have a certain level of development to be able to have the requisite facilities, support the kind of leagues that you need, and have the kind of football program that can produce consistent results over time.

    To me, therefore, the most significant factors are (1) football history/tradition (2) GDP (3) athletic atrributes in the popultion pool that are relevant to success in football.
  6. Blondo

    Blondo Member

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    The contrasting stories reveal that you're lacking factors in your equation for success in football and where you see correlation there probably are other explanations as it can easily be falsified (= example that disproves your hypothesis) ... also define 'athletic atrributes' ... e.g. in the German masterplan a lot of emphasis is placed on trainability: they know that they can't make a slow kid run faster yet they can improve upon a lot of other 'athletic atrributes' (yet I don't know if we share the same definition).

    PS apply your formula to the results of Brazil and Mexico ... explain why Mexico isn't as good as Brazil.
  7. Iranian Monitor

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    My thoughts on what leads to success or failure in football overtime involve more variables, but the ones I mentioned are the most significant ones in order to have a consistently successful program.

    As for athletic attributes, all things being equal, I give African players (or players of African descent) a comparative advantage in the requiste traits (speed, physique). The comparative advantage is not as great as it is in basketball or American "football", but I think its there. Doesn't mean that the attributes Africans have an advantage in are the only ones that matter. But they are quite significant.
  8. Iranian Monitor

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    I should also mention that my initial message came about as a result of something I was working on specific to Iran. In particular, I was trying to figure out what Iran lacks and what it does have to become something like a first rate nation in football?

    I looked at our experience in other sports. Not long ago, Iran set about the goal of challenging the supremacy East Asian countries used to enjoy within Asia in teams sports like volleyball, basketball and some others. We succeeded brilliantly despite devoting a lot less to these sports than we do to football. Iran is currently the back-to-back champions in both volleyball and reigning Asian champions in basketball in Asia (having won 3 of the last 4 titles). Internationally, Iran ranks #12 in volleyball and #20 in basketball (the FIBA rankings completely overrate China because of its past dominance in Asia. Today they get beat up by Iran by lopsided scores,). In football related sports such as futsal and some others, Iran also ranks high not just in Asia but internationally. We are a dominant power in Asia in futsal for instance. In fact, Iran has won 10 of the last 12 Asian futsal championships and ranks among the top teams in the world (#6).

    In football itself, we certainly have pedigree in Asia (our 3 Asian Cup titles and 4 Asian Games titles are still not surpassed by anyone else). We clearly rank highly in Asia: #1 according to FIFA and #2 according to ELO and have the highest average ELO ranking among all Asian teams (not counting Australia). Our professional football leauge was rated recently by the AFC as the 2nd best in Asia behind only the J-League (even if I admit the K-League -- which is Asia's most successful league -- should have probably been rated above us as well). Hence, organizationally, while Iran does suffer from weaknesses, we have still be able to put together successful programs in a host of team sports not to mention in certain individual sports where Iran is pretty good and among the best in the world (wrestling, weightlifting in particular).

    Nor can someone claim Iran is "too small" or "too poor" or anything of the sort. Iran rank #18 in the world in population and #17 in the world in GDP (PPP). A country like Iran, which is capable of building everything on its own and has been able to survive despite sanctions and the like and which is actually quite developed despite the negative press that tries to undermine its accomplishments, and which does have a passionate football tradition, doesn't seem to lack the main ingredients to succeed in the game at all.

    The only area that Iran does enjoy a comparative disadvantage is probably the fact that our athletic talent base is not as diverse as some countries and while decent, is not stellar when it comes to track and field type sports. We generally produce very "strong athletes": plenty of medals in wrestling, weightlifting (the strongest men in the world or Olympic gold medalist in the heavy weight weight lifting category have been Iranians since 2000 and both the gold and silver medals in this category was won by Iran in 2012). We even do alright in marital arts sports! However, even our recent first ever Olympic medal in track and field was in disc throw, which tests physical strength, and not in any of the fields that are more closely tested in football such as speed, jumping etc. This is the only area where I think Iran does have a comparative disadvantage. I look at other teams, including your's (Belgium), and I see many of them feature a lot of players of African origin. We don't have that.
  9. izzzy

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    yup.. maybe only correaltion is GDP and strength of national league...
    but overall.. theres no connection...

    best example is my country (Croatia)... only 4,5 mil of people, with relative poor income.. but still we left a mark in a lot of sports.. not just football...
    Pipiolo repped this.
  10. Iranian Monitor

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    There are definitely interesting exceptions that make for good case studies. But I don't think the exceptions can prove sustainable in the long run in a world which is no longer as isolated and therefore quite capable of picking up other people's recipes for success. And then implementing it with a larger population base and the greater resources of countries with a large GDP.
  11. izzzy

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    yeah.. maybe im wrong, but in sports you need to calculate one important variable..
    and that's "talent" .. somethin that money just cant buy..
    as you can see in many examples ( Brasil, Mexico, European countries etc..)... big amount of talented players come from slums, poor city blocks or plain school yards.... where kids are passionate for sport and still dont look at it as "job"..
    money can provide just better sports academies, where they can polish their talent... but today that doesnt matter..

    as you said.. world is no longer isolated.. and many of kids are going to play football to other countries to develop their skills...
    is their success product of wealth of coutry they are playing or country where they were born and raised?

    UK is good example.. very wealthy country, with maybe hardest football league in the world.. but still success of their national team dont follow "numbers" :)..
  12. Blondo

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    Marital arts = euphemism for sexual techniques? Most Persian girls will disagree that you do alright :D
    Just kidding ... I was into athletics myself ... physical strength isn't enough, you also need an impeccable technique.

    About Belgium: although football is the most popular sport, we're lacking in silverware ... I discount Olympic medals/results (as most fans in Belgium would ... that is if they even know about it), losing the final at Euro1980 and 3th place at Euro1972 was as close as we came within UEFA ... and at the WC we never made it past the SFs (punching above our weight in 1986 but also unlucky/underperforming at other WCs) ... so far we've been modestly successful ... compare that to sports like cycling (E.Merckx regained his throne after ... well you probably know about Armstrong), tennis, sailing, etc. and we should conclude that we're better at other sports ... still we're a stubborn little people ... need more proof: look at ping pong at the Olympics = a lot of Chinese flags and then a Belgian combo-breaker called J.M. Saive.

    Players of African origin in our team ... even FIFA pays more attention as it promotes their own agenda ... still the NT is a reflection of Belgian society (multi-culti while the majority is caucasian) ... many of our players are of mixed heritage which is also a trend in our society ... more often than not the roots of our players have been in Belgium for many generations (either 1 or both lineages) ... actually only Benteke came to Belgium as an infant = before he started playing the game (Januzaj could be a 'new Belgian' too as he was born & raised in Brussels and during his formative years played at Belgian clubs ... yet if he feels more for Kosovo, we can only show respect) ... still asserting that Kompany's strengths do away with those of Courtois, Van Buyten (still current top scorer - mainly headers), Vermaelen (small but jumps high), Alderweireld, Lombaerts, Vertonghen, etc. is stretching it ... we'll depend on our GK and the best possible back 4 who are all ball playing defenders that can find a solution by playing football and that can also add goals ... and for speed we mainly look to our pacy wingers: Mertens, Mirallas, KDB, ... and of course Hazard. Try to look closer at our players and you'll see that there are other reasons for success ... e.g. learn more about Dembele & Witsel's family, their background, the neighbourhood they grew up in, etc. = they almost seem destined to go after a career as a pro football player ... immigration has been going on long before we even heard of FIFA, it's just too simplistic to state: all that we lack is players of African origin.
  13. Iranian Monitor

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    Generally, not the pretty ones, although you probably wouldn't know.;) Kidding aside, I obviously meant martial arts sports.

    All sports require technique as well, but without physical strength, I can't see an athelete do well in a sport like weightlifting or disc throw. Generally speaking, I actually find it intriguing that Iran's Olympic medals are in wrestling, weightlifting, martial arts, and disc throw. As I mentioned, we also have become the top Asian team in many team sports and are fast climbing in the international ladder in these sports, but I will never bet on an Iranian winning the 100 metres dash. If it happens, I think that would be a truly exceptional story. On the other hand, the fact that a couple of Jamaicans have the world and Olympic records in 100 meters, or you might find someone from Kenya or some similar place win in other track and field type events, to me is not purely conicidental. Nor does it say much about anything peculiar to Jamaica's or Kenya's sports programs per se. Similarly, I don't think its purely coincidental that the majority of basketball players in the NBA are African Americans or that African Americans dominate most positions in American "football".

    I kind of think its more than a mere reflection. The ratio of African and Carribean players on your team appears higher than what I think exists in Belgium society more generally. Which is the case in the NBA and NFL in the US. Nothing wrong with it, but perhaps shows something about the atheletic attributes I was referring to.

    I wasn't trying to suggest that anything nepharious or inapproriate in the composition of the Belgium team or any other team that has a large number of players of African origin.
    I said that is an area we suffer from a comparative disadvantage. That doesn't mean that is the only thing that is preventing Iran from doing better in football! But we have every other ingredient to eventually be consistently among the top 10-20. The only area that I do see a comparative disadvantage for Iran is the one I mentioned.
  14. Lemonade

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    All these events can be explained trough social, cultural or geographical aspects. If you' re born in a mining town, the chances are good you'll end up working as a miner. And if you're born in certain high altitude regions in Kenya or Ethiopia, chances are good you'll end up in one of the few sports that gets funds or sponsoring.
  15. Iranian Monitor

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    To put it succinctly: there is more to it than that!
  16. raviept

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    It has to do, although not reduced to, the fact that quality in football has its roots in street football. In certain countries, kids have the tradition to play on the streets, which not only increases the chances of finding true talent, but also allows these kids to develop their skills at playing football. For historical reasons, this happens both in developed and under development countries. But there is the GDP factor as well, since you need some investment in formation and infra-structures to further develop the talent raised on the streets. Countries like Brasil may not have the highest GDP in the world, but they do invest in football and have many connections with the best European leagues, where competition is at its highest. This is where it lies the difference between Europe and South America on one hand, and the rest of the world on the other. The USA, in particular, has probably the best system for developing athletes, but regarding football they seem to lack that talent from the street part. However, they do have it with regard to Basketball, for instance.
  17. Iranian Monitor

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    You make a valid point about football which is learned in the streets. So-called "improvisational players", the kind that most fans enjoy watching and can turn a game around on their own, are often developed in the streets. Team like players, on the other hand, are more the product of organized football systems of the kind that some of the developed countries excel in more than others.

    That said, street players are partly a cultural phenomenon of countries which didn't quite have the facilities for all the kids to play in football fields, and partly a reflection of the popularity of the sport in some countries as opposed to others. But they are also increasingly becoming a thing of the past in more and more countries. Or at least, they are becoming less noticeable, even in countries like Iran where not long ago kids playing football in the streets was completely the norm, not the exception. That is no longer quite the case in bigger cities like Tehran.
  18. Rickdog

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    Their population and GDP has nothing to do with whom they are in football.

    The only reason why they are whom they are, is because football is deep within their culture and heritage. Same thing as it happens in most Conmebol countries (Venezuela might be the only exception, where football has the same status as other sports).

    Back here, when a child is born and he reaches the age to understand things, no one will ask him what sport will he play. The only thing they might ask him, is in what position (goalkeeper, defense, midfielder or forward), he wants to play. For many recently born childs back here, kicking a ball, comes even before learning to walk or even talk. (that is how deep within the culture, football really is).

    And according to some uruguayan fans, when their kids are born they don't cry like other kids cry around the world, but instead, they shout "GOOOOOOOOOL ........."



    :p;)
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2014
  19. Pipiolo

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    Brazil's GDP per capita is same as Argentina and Chile, so how can it be below Iran's if Argentina and Chile are above?

    In regards to the correlation with GDP, it's only strongly correlated for nations without the deep footballing tradition of most European and South American countries, such as Iran. I think you are seeing a pattern specific to your team and some others and generalizing it for the entire world.

    Uruguay, Croatia, Costa Rica, Denmark, all quite small countries with varying GDP per capita but in common is that they rank above where they "should" be in footballing talent. On the other hand, small countries Bolivia, El Salvador, Finland, Iceland are not quite as successful.

    On the other side of the scale, Brazil is huge in population, but so are Mexico, Russia, USA, Nigeria without coming even close to their success. Tradition and footballing culture is a bigger factor than population, GDP, area, etc. in football.

    @Iranian Monitor
  20. Iranian Monitor

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    There are different measures of GDP per capita. You can have what is called "nominal" value per capita, or you can look at purchasing power parity (PPP) per capita. For cross-comparison purposes, PPP (which measures actual buying power) is considered much more accurate. When you say Brazil's GDP per capita is equal to Argentina and Chile you are probably referring to nominal per capita GDP.
  21. Sandinista

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    Simply as that.

    No way around it.
  22. Iranian Monitor

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    I agree with that. Which is exactly why there is little correlation in football between population and GDP and the pegging order in the game right now. I mentioned that already in my initial post. But these advantages can be countered and evened out over time. Especially since we are going to see a lot less of the "street football" culture in the modern age (that will hurt S.American teams), while we also will have more parity economically and organizationally (which will hurt European teams). That is at least how I see things down the line into the future.
  23. Rickdog

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    You wish it will. The same way as many before you wished and thought the same thing, but till now after 100 years, we still manage to be at top, or at least competing for the top spots.

    "Street" football, as you call it, will never die.
    At least not back here in South America.
  24. guri

    guri Member

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    It's the Uruguay River's water. It starts deep in Brazil, then it runs between Argentina and Uruguay, before emptying into the Rio de la Plata.
    Good luck trying to replicate that.
  25. Blondo

    Blondo Member

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    In quantity we can't compete ... yet the quality of the springs in Spa is unrivaled ... this small Belgian city boasts the worlds first spa and oldest casino ... all those kings and emperors throughout history can't be wrong ... there's something really good in the water. Still you can't stop others from copying ... even Spa's Grand Prix track has been an inspiration.

    Likewise your football culture will influence others ... while other cultures can enrich your own.

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