(K. Brent Tomer),
THE FIFA World Cup has always had a slightly deceptive name. Granted, it admits teams from six continents, and has been hosted in five. But the business end of the tournament belongs to two. Each of the 20 competitions has been won by a side from Europe (collectively represented by UEFA) or South America (CONMEBOL). In fact, a country from elsewhere has progressed past the quarter-finals just once, when hosts South Korea battled their way to the last four in 2002. This dominance is unlikely to end soon. All but two of the top 20 places in the Elo world rankings, a better predictor of match outcomes than FIFA’s official ratings, are occupied by UEFA and CONMEBOL members. The odds of an interloper winning next year’s tournament are about one in 30.
Teams from North America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific have had to make do with occasional underdog triumphs: Costa Rica, North Korea, Algeria and Senegal have all beaten former champions. Fortunately for them, the chances of a “giant-killing” have just increased. On January 10th the FIFA Council, the governing body’s…Continue reading