World Cup by Continent

By james
Monday, June 28, 2010 14:39 EDT
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I have a friend who frequently makes the complaint to me that every continent except Europe is over-represented in the World Cup. With only six of thirteen teams advancing, I’ve not heard from him recently, but he does raise an interesting question about what is the right way to allocate places in the World Cup. For this World Cup, we had 31 slots allocated as follows:

Continent Entries Advance Percent
South America 10 4.5 45%
Europe 53 13 24.5%
Asia 43 4.5 10.5%
North/Central America 35 3.5 10%
Africa 53 5 9.4%
Oceania 10 0.5 5%

(Half teams are those that went to inter-continental playoffs: Uruguay beat Costa Rica and New Zealand beat Bahrain.)
Of the teams that are in South Africa, this does not match the same ratio as those that advanced:

Continent Teams Advanced Percentage
South America 5 5 100%
North America 3 2 66.7%
Asia 4 2 50%
Europe 13 6 46.2%
Africa 6 1 16.7%
Oceania 1 0 0%

Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela were close behind Uruguay for fifth place in South American qualifying. With the performance of the five South American teams so far, one does wonder if any of them might have knocked out other teams from the second round, had they been allowed to compete, perhaps instead of France, North Korea, or Cameroon. Sadly, once again, the African nations have underperformed. Three of six teams finished in last place in their groups. This is actually a worse performance than in 2006, when only one team finished fourth and three finished third. The weakness of their performance is only enhanced when one looks at the points per game:

Continent W D L PPG
South America 10 4 1 2.27
Europe 11 10 8 1.48
Asia 4 2 6 1.17
North America 2 4 3 1.11
Oceania 0 3 0 1.00
Africa 2 5 11 0.61

(Only includes inter-continent group games

For the European Champions League, the number of teams sent per country varies based on the performance of that country, as measured by the Country Coefficient. It seems to be that a similar metric ought to be used to re-jigger the number of teams for the next World Cup in Brazil. Africa should lose some teams, or at least have them put at jeopardy in final intercontinental qualifiers. The shift that makes the most sense to me would be to raise South America to a full five qualifiers, as they’ve earned it. (Plus the host in 2014 would give them six teams.) Oceania proved they should have a full team. Africa should be dropped to three confirmed teams. The fourth place finisher in North America and the fifth place finisher in Asia should play off against the fourth placed and fifth placed African finishers.
What do you think?

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