USMNT: Which is the REAL Group of Death?
OTF’s Brian Battle is back to let the numbers do the talking…
So, while everyone is claiming their team is in the TRUE group of death, I decided to do some number crunching with ESPNFC’s SPI world rankings. Nate Silver explains in detail how these rankings are more comprehensive than FIFA’s rankings.
I took the SPI rating of each team drawn (highest was Brazil, lowest was Algeria, FYI) and averaged them to see which group had the highest average ranking.
THE OFFICIAL MATHEMATICAL GROUP OF DEATH? Group B.
To start, Group B features 2010 World Cup winners Spain in a rematch against runners-up the Netherlands. Also in the group is Chile, who ranks #5 on the SPI index. Group B is so stacked that not even lowly Australia – with the second-lowest SPI rating in the tournament – could bring down its average to #2.
The softest group (Group of Life?) is Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, and South Korea. Host Brazil, along with home-country advantage, also has the easy pickings of Cameroon and Mexico to play against on its road to the knockout round. This draw surely solidifies the five-time World Cup champions as favorites next summer.
Despite the hand-wringing, the USMNT still has a shot, albeit a tough one. Group G is third-most competitive, and SPI ranks the US (#17) just one tenth of a point behind Portugal (#16). With months to go and the rankings changing frequently, the US team may actually be favored by the time both countries’ national anthems play on June 22, 2014, in the Manaus’s Arena Amazonia.
Germany is the clear favorite in Group G, but if anyone is familiar with the inner workings of Die Mannschaft, it’s team USA’s skipper Jurgen Klinsmann. Finally, don’t underestimate Ghana (#24). As we all remember, the Black Stars spoiled the US’s 2010 campaign, and will likely look to do so again.