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Are England international football’s most consistent team?

24 December 2013

As the Football Association prepares to evaluate the current state of English football, I thought I’d provide a different perspective on the results of the national team, by looking at the consistency of performance.

The term ‘consistency’ in this post doesn’t refer to match-to-match consistency, but rather the variability of the strength of a national team on a year-to-year, or even decade-to-decade basis.

By using the year-end Elo rating of the 8 World Cup winning nations, plus the Netherlands, it’s interesting to see how much the results of the teams vary over the course of 40 years.



Indeed England have the smallest range of Elo ratings – never worse than 1800 and only once better than 2000. To give some perspective, Belgium’s current team has a rating of 1807 and Argentina 1994.

Taking the last 23 years, the same pattern emerges, though England’s median Elo rating is now only better than Uruguay’s.



So, a few questions:

  • Are England international football’s most consistent team, at least of the major nations?
  • Why is this the case?
  • What are the implications of this – if any – for trying to ‘structurally’ improve the national team?

Thoughts welcome.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Simon permalink
    12 January 2014 11:45 am

    An interesting piece of work. Have you attempted to calculate how much of the variation is due to the lack of competitive matches for a team in the two years before they host a major tournament? That is certainly a major contributor to Brazil’s current position.

    • 12 January 2014 12:19 pm

      I haven’t, and it’s quite possibly a factor. Brazil still ranked number one by Elo, though.

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