Nigerian & Russian teams have the same ELO??

Jamaican native David Nichols e-mailed me and raised the question, "In what sport does Nigeria and Russia have the same ELO ratings? And Cameroon, Egypt and Jamaica ranks above Bulgaria, China and Hungary?" Because I was once a footballer, I knew the answer. However, he gave me the following link…

What do we have? Football (soccer) ratings!!  If these ratings look familiar, this is why:

The World Football Elo Ratings are based on the Elo rating system, developed by Dr. Arpad Elo. This system is used by FIDE, the international chess federation, to rate chess players. In 1997 Bob Runyan adapted the Elo rating system to international football and posted the results on the Internet. He was also the first maintainer of the World Football Elo Ratings web site. The system was adapted to football by adding a weighting for the kind of match, an adjustment for the home team advantage, and an adjustment for goal difference in the match result (read statement here).

Nigeria's Augustine Okocha

Jay-Jay Okocha leads Nigeria's attack in the midfield. Okocha is the ultimate tactician with serious ball-handling skills. Photo by George Herringshaw.

Brazil is on top with a 2009 rating, but the threshold for a strong team seems to be about 1700 (Nigeria and Russia are at 1727)… seemingly the minimum rating for would-be World Cup qualifiers.  What is so interesting about this page is it shows a variety of matches (including friendlies) and calculates the post-match rating for each team.  There is even a link for biggest upsets and of course USA's 1-0 win over England in the 1950 World Cup is there. That was certainly quite an upset! According to this list, the USA was then rated 1601 (England 1942), but is now 13th overall with a rating of 1842.

The site also has a lot of useful information for the football enthusiast such as federation links and news sources. It has the same feel of a chess website. There are also regional rankings. Looking at the African region, they show Nigeria as being number one, but the FIFA rankings have
Cameroon (#26 in the world), followed by Egypt (28), then the "Flying Eagles'" of Nigeria (29). The ratings show no correlation with their status in chess. Many of the top football nations are second-tier or third-tier chess nations, but at least the rating system allows a chess player to understand the strength of international football teams. To see how strong these teams are, be sure to watch some of the classic videos at FIFA website below!

Dr. Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum


World Football ELO Ratings

FIFA (World Football Federation) - Main Page - Video Page

The Chess Drum, "World's Premier Chess Event: The 2002 World Cup ,"
2 June 2002.

The Chess Drum, "You're Right Bert… Brazil is the Grandmaster of Football!"
30 June 2002.

Posted by The Chess Drum: 16 July 2005