Monday, 18 June 2012

Russian To Judgment - Czech First

The Czech Republic became the first Euro group winners ever with a negative goal difference. Had Group A been a World Cup (FIFA) group, rather than a Euro (UEFA) group, Russia would be through, and Greece would be exiting the Euros, but because football can't decide the best way to break ties, Russia is out and Greece move on. Even the top leagues in Europe can't agree on the best way to separate teams level on points.

Historically, goal average was the tie breaker used in football, but in 1970 FIFA adopted goal difference for that year's World Cup. In 1962 and 1966, goal average was the tie breaker, and in 1958 three of the four groups needed play-offs to decide the second placed team to advance. Northern Ireland and Wales won theirs, although both would have been eliminated on both goal average or goal difference, while England lost theirs.

While UEFA has long favoured the head-to-head result in its Euro tournaments, individual countries favour different rules. The EPL of course uses goal difference, as does Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga while Serie A and La Liga use head-to-head. Other top leagues are similarly divided - the Dutch go for goal difference, the Portuguese for head-to-head. Whether or not it is true that UEFA wishes to avoid the Peru '78 scenario, (where an already eliminated team rolls over), I have no idea, but head-to-head are the rules, and Russia, who traded at 1.02 To Qualify, have only themselves to blame, as indeed does the person who thought 1.02 was a value bet.

In small groups in major tournaments, it's rare to see Team A beat Team B who beat Team C who beat Team D, (Group B notwithstanding), which opens the door to all sorts of interesting possibilities. After two rounds this year, not one team was guaranteed a quarter-final place.

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