> As ever, your reward is to suffer more
Well, I’m back again …
If there are no “final answers (conclusions)” it is at least important to ask
the right questions ... So, thank you for your questions. Thanks also for ‘retranslating’
the graphs in words.
First, let me show a graph which refers to Fast Midfielder’s post on this topic
(keyword: “Hungary v Netherlands”). If
one take a look at the orange and green dots, it can be seen (roughly) a
diagonal cross (X shape). The trend: a large backlog developed into a big lead;
and The Netherlands exchanged (‘X‑changed’…)
the levels... Fast Midfielder, you’re right!
BTW, we forgot to mention the Dutch NT … (1954 – 1978 about 3 levels…, net 1½ levels from 1968)
The numeric values on the y-axis are basically ‘irrelevant’. Measurable are merely the power intervals. A gap of 200
(points) is equivalent one level, defined as an interval ±1
normal distribution (Simply: a range ±1 = range 2 → multiplied by 100 to obtain manageable numbers). All gaps then can be embedded in a
In my preferred scaling, the respective top teams of the world always achieve a
value of roughly ≤2800 (compare
dots); >2800 can be ranked as a ‘natural
candidate for World Champion’ …
But – the dots allow just a static view. I think the assumption is reasonable that sixty
years ago a top team played at a lower level than a top team today. So I
combined the "static values" with a value based on a "(dynamic) function”. The gaps are not affected. I think, by
combining two values many things are clarified by itself in a simple way.
The dots show the strength, relative to the respective period; the curves represent
an ‘estimate’ of the ‘absolute’
levels (from today's perspective).
What means ‘(dynamic) function’? Let me give an example to illustrate a
characteristic profile of a (‘reasonable’)
function. I have picked ‘the development
of the world record in the triple jump’. Triple jump is one of the most
complex sports which are 'absolutely measurable'; the outcome is less dependent
by very few or individual factors (e.g. 'medical progress' ).The second
reason for my choice: possible ‘quantum leaps’ are considered in retrospect as a
part of a (normal) development.
graph 2Each world
record = 1 blue dot. Current WR = red dot. From these few data points, ‘a function’ can be derived
(red curve)… Please, don't equate the figures for the years (for triple jump) with the
development in football. The
(red) curve, however, has the characteristic S‑shape.
Jonathan Edwards’ records can be regarded as ‘quantum
leaps’. The world record in
the triple jump was on 03/02/2016 still 18.29 m – all graphics in this
post refer to this date.
A ‘quantum leap’ is clearly not visible in the curve. I mention this in such
detail because this is also valid vice versa.
World War II was certainly a turning point – at least in a temporal context,
not necessarily causal. At the end of 1940s/early 1950s skyrocket the
importance of international football. There was a kind of quantum leap. From late 1930s to the end of 1940s there
was a huge leap; depicting this by a curve would give the false impression that
during WW2 was a significant
Of course, I can not provide a graph for each question. I have selected the
most interesting ones.
> On a
smaller scale of leap (within the upper echelons), France weren't up to much
before the 1980s.Their curve could look interesting compared to the teams of
the same level now.
I was a
little bit surprised when I saw the French graph …: in my memory there was no long-term upswing of France. Maybe I was a little biased…
My brother, who could explain
the universe, said in the 1960s: France play as ‘Camembert’ in the Cheese League;
they play against Remoudou, Edam
cheese, Emmental cheese and Havarti … (at
that time all these teams were really – also relatively – much weaker than
On the other hand: I think it's usual to notice a change in the level only when
it revealed in a competition. However, the curve shows a continuity of
improvement, starting about 1970.
thinking again, perhaps Denmark
would be an interesting graph to see, if I give back your computer first. There
we have a team which had its leap but then fell back a bit since. There
may also be other teams which have experienced strong oscillations - this
wasn't quite my original question, but is interesting nevertheless - for Europe
I'm thinking maybe Northern Ireland and Wales, both capable of sudden dramatic
changes in level.
Northern Ireland plus
complicated case may have to be considered separately. Basically, I agree. Both
have no competitive home leagues. They are very highly reliant that their
players can play in good clubs in other leagues. After the English top league
became more and more internationalized, it has become increasingly difficult.
The structural conditions for Northern Ireland,
Wales, but also for Scotland, have
become progressively worse; therefore a long-time standstill or even a decline.
But - from time to time, favourable circumstances included ...
Considering the growing
importance of the top leagues (in my view
international football degenerates increasingly to a branch of the top leagues),
we can expect that additionally other countries will be affected (or are alreadyaffected). The importance
of national structures (in football) will decline, the imponderables (how many players from smaller countries
will have access to top leagues – at any given time)
will rise. An increase of erratic changes would be
Denmark … or Norway?
Sweden is added to complete Scandinavia.Incidentally, Sweden is a prime example of teams with strong oscillations and sudden dramatic changes in
level (in the past).
The curve of Sweden is striking - very erratic,
even at times that were less changeable. After a continuous upward in the 1980s
a totally unexpected slump at the WC 1990, looks in
retrospect less amazing. Analyzing the results of European leagues (plus
UEFA competitions) for many years: the 'Swedish uncertainty factor' was also
striking. (Actually I associate with Sweden more
terms such as solidity, stability and pragmatic approach). For clubs I have found a plausible explanation…
clarifies: the gap narrowed noticeably towards Norway. The ‘polynomial’ graph shows approximately three periods: a
little closer to DK, constant distance (1982-87), accelerating convergence. The increase is in the case of Norway a bit bigger. Apart from a
few episodes was Norway's
leap consistently steeper in the trend.
DEN versus NOR: With
the naked eye hardly recognizable whose leap was bigger – and in what period?
CONCACAF: perhaps Jamaica,
pretty poor before 1998, decent since. Trinidad
similarly but earlier. Panama
graph 6Added is Venezuela (somewhere else you asked for
a comparison Venezuela / Panama). The chart is not in contrast to what you
have written. But, I think it's interesting that four very different
developments can be shown (therefore this diagram is included).
Trinidad & Tobago: A – low
oscillations, slightly upward trend until 1986 – but actually a standstill; B – sharp increase to about
2000-01, afterwards strong oscillations
Jamaica: A – until 1986 a similar standstill but much more ups and downs; B – extremely sharp increase (in a
relatively short time, two levels!), afterwards unsteady trend
not - here in this one post - discuss fully all possible reasons why something
is the way it is. I can only mention key points and express some
considerations. Assuming, T & T and Jamaica have managed to organize
the inclusion of in Diaspora living professionals this would correspond to the diagram.
A rapid rise is
possible without internal structural changes within the country. If sometimes
the professionals are not available → no adequate substitute is available… If
you have to play with very different teams, strong oscillations are
It might be that the most important point is correctly described. But, actually
exists in real life – in complex cases – rarely monocausality…
Venezuela: A – until 1983 steadily slight
increase, then a standstill until 1998. If you compare the red curve of graph 2
(1950-98), it looks like they would be (in
the 1990s) at their ‘natural’ limit… But, what actually
happened afterwards? B – Venezuela
started a kind of second development – much brighter than ever before.
With a little
imagination you can see the pattern of the S-shape at
all three, in the case of Venezuela even twice (2nd
S-shape, e.g. 1990-2016).
> The second
development phase is interesting. Before 1996 these countries didn't have
regular competitive fixtures (as European teams did) but since then Conmebol
introduced the 10 team league for qualifiers. This change is often cited
by "experts" as a reason for the current strength of South American
teams - but it is interesting that the effect since 1996 is very clear for Venezuela but
not so much for the others. Both Colombia
saw the end of a good generation of players around that time, which seems to
have delayed the development for them; or perhaps they just suffered from the
improvement of others around them. And then as you say, the most recent
years seem to coincide with a rise in key players at strong clubs in Europe.
I think basically the ‘experts’ are right. But - explanatory
patterns must be analyzed in detail in order to obtain a more differentiated
view. I agree with your analytical considerations regarding Chile and Colombia. The temporary buckling of
general trends (in the case of Colombia;
more pronounced at Chile)
was probably a mixture of all the causes that you’ve mentioned.
In respect of Venezuela
but I'm not sure that the main reason of the 2nd development phase
(amazing in its extent) was really the changing of the qualifying format. Well,
the change of the format might have favored the motivation to start ‘activities’...
In terms of structure and size of population, it was really amazing that Venezuela
was ‘traditionally’ the distant #10 of Conmebol: it could be assumed an untapped (or ‘underused’) potential. Oil money was
available to provide at least basal structures to develop football. If we would
know something about whether and to what extent public money flowed in
promoting football, we could have a clearer view. I do
not know enough about it to say anything, but this aspect needs to be checked. The topic here is Nicaragua.
Maybe the same aspect counts (at least there
is a politically similar oriented government that does not preach "public
Overall, the main effect of change the qualifying format was an increase of ‘transparency
of the market’ or ‘to generate a market at all’, true to the old adage: No
livestock market, no ‘purchase and sale’. The change was the necessary
condition that many players could switch to Europe.
Scouts from European clubs were given the opportunity to evaluate individual
players in a competitive environment.
The curve of Panama
looks almost ideal-typical (cf. graph 2, red curve): A – constant;
B – progressively accelerating rise;
C – slower rise … someday constant again
Idealized curve courses are extremely rare (... I thought)
graph 7Funny! The curve of the United States of America is very similar.
if we look back far enough!
I understand your point! And there is nothing wrong! But it refers to a
static view. For many years the US
fell in relation to competitors further and further back – but not by a
decreasing level, but because the competitors improved. From 1950 – 78/79 the
level of the USA
was equivalent about the level of a selection of amateur teams. And in the 1920/30s
they were not better. There was no decline. Simplified example (cf.
graph 2): The respective national champion represented his country in
international competitions. The national record remained unchanged at 15.00 m.
According to graph 2 they were less and less competitive…
This point is
important for all teams. Very often means a decline in the rankings only that
the development was slowed or stopped. Or: just a suffering from the improvement
– a real rise and fall in the 1970s (any idea why?), afterwards a period of stagnation, then
participation in the overall development. Sudan and Ethiopia: There, the time stands
still; only minimal developments at the beginning. For
Asian teams a very different course. Extremely erratic; Singapore's
curve is still ‘reasonably’ structured. Burma
a striking example of the impact of economic, social and political
"born fully developed":
(not counting countries which were components of others e.g. former Yugoslavia, USSR)
.South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia
graph 9The chart to a witty question… (“only ask questions to which you already know the answers”).
developed" implies that a characteristic development process (describable
by a sigmoid function) thereafter is no longer identifiable…
I think you knew the answer …
Finally, a curio (perhaps 'curio', mainly by the juxtaposition).
graph 10Originally I was just looking for Tunisia. I wanted to know how the
end of the Bourguiba era, which was accompanied by severe economic, social and political
upheavals, impacted the curve (The effects in real life I could assess roughly).
Domestic political upheavals are mapped. In retrospect, one can say that
development was interrupted only (cf. dashed line). Even in the case of Mexico, there
was a similar interruption. Draw a line from the values
1973 to 1986...! The reasons in the case of Mexico are not in my mind at the
moment. A nine-year negative trend (although not dramatically in detail)
usually indicates a structural problem, even if it is only a football-specific
one. (BTW, Mexico and Tunisia were only for a short time at eye level … Tunisia
3-1 Mexico, WC 1978)
Most questions have not been answered. Perhaps there are even more new
questions than answers. Then I would be satisfied! As
long as graphs or measuring instruments display oscillations, there are no
definitive answers (only when the displayed ‘oscillations’ transform into a
flatline we are close to ‘the definitive’).
In the meantime we just have to evaluate ‘measurement reports’ and try to draw
Or we can compare! Fast Midfielder says until 1956 the Dutch NT was an amateur
selection (cf. graph 1. Several times I wrote: divide line amateurs /
professionals 2000. Selection from amateur teams: plus 1 level → conforming!)
But - from other numbers sometimes can not be found a reasonable approach to a ‘solution’
In the next post I will provide two diagrams to illustrate the difference
between ‘static’ and ‘dynamic’ view. The 'static view' corresponds better to the
first glance… I don't mean it pejoratively. Uruguay: world champion 1950, last
four: 1954, 1970 …long break … 2010 → fall and rise.
In Germany, the ‘experts’
largely agree that in 1972 Germany
had its best team. If the scale is the gap to competitors (but also the best
club teams), this is very likely even correct. But no one will seriously claim
that today's team is playing at a lower level. Another point: in general, there
is a tendency that former giant gaps more and more decrease. However, this does
not mean that the good teams become worse in the same extent than (formerly)
weak teams become better...
So, I'm looking forward to your critical remarks ... (I've always been happy
about your criticism – then I do not have to do everything myself).