Based on the FIFA Rankings, the hosts of the 2018 Russia World Cup have the worst team in the tournament.
Russia is ranked 70th by FIFA, three places below Group A rivals Saudi Arabia.
But FIFA rankings are deeply flawed. The formula used to calculate them gives countries less points if a match is a friendly game, which discourages teams from playing friendlies, and pulls down the ranking of tournament hosts who often lack competitive fixtures as they qualify automatically for tournaments. So if Russia isn’t the worst team in the tournament, how good are the hosts?
Based on the Elo rankings, another way of measuring teams, Russia is the 27th best side in the tournament (and 44th in the world). Still pretty bad, but Group A opponents Saudi Arabia and Egypt are ranked lower. In fact, according to the Elo rankings, they are the two worst teams in the tournament, so Russia’s chances of making it out of the group stage don’t look too bad.
Another way of looking at a team’s quality is looking at its value. Based on the average values of each player on transfermarkt.com, Russia has the 18th most valuable side in the tournament with a squad value of $195 million.
This places Russia third in Group A, just behind Egypt’s squad which is worth $238 million, but $180 million of the Egyptian team’s total value comes from Mohammed Salah who is still an injury worry for the North African nation.
These stats, combined with Russia’s home advantage, give the hosts an excellent chance of reaching the knockout stages. Or they would if Russia didn’t have the worst form of any side going into the World Cup.
Spain is the other nation that is massively underrated by the FIFA rankings system. The 2010 World Cup winners are ranked tenth in the world according to FIFA. That’s even lower than Chile who will be watching the tournament on TV.