May 27, 2016
May 27, 2016

Euro 2016: FIFA world rankings vs. Elo ratings

Euro 2016: FIFA world rankings vs. Elo ratings
With an abundance of ranking systems attempting to compare national soccer sides, which tool has the strongest predictive power? We put FIFA rankings and Elo ratings to the test and got a clear winner. Find out which system is better at accurately ranking the top teams before placing your bets on Euro 2016.

FIFA world rankings

The FIFA world rankings is a system that weights men’s national soccer teams, based on winning games and with extra points being awarded for winning big matches and major tournament as well as for beating the best opponents.

FIFA introduced their ranking system in 1992 with Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Argentina and Brazil being the eight teams that have dominated the top positions ever since.

Due to criticism that the rankings did not effectively reflect the relative strength of the teams, FIFA revamped their methodology after the 2006 World Cup to include results over the previous four years instead of eight years as was previously the case.

The computation of a team’s rating is based on a weighted average of points during the four year period and the rankings are released about once a month, with any matches taking place in the meantime forced to wait until the next ranking.


Elo ratings

The Elo ratings system is an alternative ranking method that was originally created by Hungarian-born American master level chess player and physics professor Arpad Elo, in an attempt to rate skill level in two-player games. 

The Elo system functions as a correction to the team’s rating subject both to actual results and the expectations from their ratings prior to the match.

The method has since been adapted for several sports and is now widely used in assessing the performance of soccer teams. As with the FIFA rankings, Elo ratings is an earned rating system, with the key difference that points are updated after every match.

The Elo system is therefore seen as a correction to the team’s rating subject both to actual results and the expectations from their ratings prior to the match. For more details of how Elo ratings are computed read our article Applying Elo ratings to soccer betting.

For the latest results and ELo points exchanged between European national teams go to World Football Elo Ratings: Europe (eloratings. net).

Below are the top 10 European teams according to each ranking system. 

Top 10 European teams


FIFA ranking*



Elo rating**










































*Latest update: 05 May 2016

** Latest update: 22 May 2016

***Disqualified from Euro 2016

FIFA vs Elo: And the winner is…

When comparing the two lists, the discrepancy that jumps right out is related to France. The number 3 under the Elo formula is nowhere to bee seen in the Top 10 under the FIFA methodology, with France ranking as low as 14 for Europe.

A common phenomenon with FIFA rankings is having the host of an upcoming major tournament drift down the standings, which is the case with France for hosting Euro 2016. After having climbed to number 10 worldwide following the 2014 Wolrd Cup, Les Bleus are now as low as 21st in the world according to FIFA, despite having won 11 out of 17 matches ever since and despite the Pinnacle’s odds at 4.060* suggesting a whopping 24.6% probability to lift the Henri Delaunay trophy in July.

France is number 3 under the Elo formula, whereas under the FIFA methodology Les Bleus are ranking as low as 14 for Europe.

Considering that France have only played friendlies since Brazil 2014, while the rest of the teams have played mainly qualifies, that are considered 2.5 times ore important by FIFA rating computations, it becomes clear why France appears discredited by FIFA rankings.

Combine that with the fact that Elo ratings are updated on an on-going basis and take into account every single results in a team’s history as opposed to FIFA’s previous four years, and you ‘ve got the answer as to which ranking system is more reliable to use for betting on Euro 2016.

A comparative study of eight soccer ranking methods published in 2009 by the University of Amsterdam confirms the superiority of the Elo rating as the best predictive tool for soccer matches, with the men’s FIFA method performing poorly. 

Interestingly enough, the study found that FIFA women’s rankings perform much better than men’s ranking. Wonder why? Well, the reason is that the ladies’ rankings are updated after each game using an algorithm that is similar to the model used in the Elo rating method. 

See the latest Euro 2016 odds, including Top Goal scorer, who will reach the semi-finals, over/under points and much more under the left-hand side menu Bet Options/Specials!

See the latest Euro 2016 odds, including Top Goal scorer, who will reach the semi-finals, over/under points and much more under the left-hand side menu Specials!



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