Did The World Cup Influence This Season?

You hear someone saying it after every major international tournament: The teams with the most players who represented their country have a disadvantage because these players are both mentally and physically tired.  Is the 2010 World Cup really the reason why usually successful teams struggle while smaller clubs fight for the CL/EL qualification?

I compared the number of points each team had last season (after 26 matches) with the current standings. Here is the difference between 09/10 and 10/11:

Team Difference
Hannover 96 24
1. FC Nürnberg 18
SC Freiburg 17
Borussia Dortmund 16
1. FC Köln 5
FSV Mainz 05 5
1899 Hoffenheim 4
Bayer Leverkusen -1
Hamburger SV -6
VfB Stuttgart -7
Eintracht Frankfurt -7
Borussia M’Gladbach -7
FC Bayern -11
VfL Wolfsburg -11
Werder Bremen -13
Schalke 04 -21

What you see here is no big surprise: Hannover, Nuremberg, Freiburg and Dortmund vastly improved while Bayern, Wolfsburg, Bremen and Schalke play a significantly worse season than the previous one.

Now I had a look at each team’s World Cup players. A ‘point’ was awarded for each player and each match (note: I ignored players who left/joined the team during the season to not make it too complicated, so for example Mark van Bommel and Ryan Babel are not a part of this). I subtracted the league average (15 points) from the results. Here is the World Cup disadvantage standing (positive number = disadvantage, negative number = advantage):

Team Disadvantage Index
FC Bayern 38
Hamburger SV 19
VfL Wolfsburg 16
Schalke 04 12
Bayer Leverkusen 1
1. FC Köln 0
VfB Stuttgart 0
Werder Bremen -1
Borussia Dortmund -6
1899 Hoffenheim -8
Eintracht Frankfurt -8
Hannover 96 -9
FSV Mainz 05 -11
Borussia M’Gladbach -11
1. FC Nürnberg -14
SC Freiburg -15

Again, no surprises. Bayern’s squad features by far the most 2010 WC players/appearances, the other massive spenders/clubs with many German internationals are next. Freiburg is the only team without any World Cup disadvantage (they ‘got rid’ of their only disadvantage, Cha Du-Ri, before the season started), Nürnberg’s only disadvantage (Bunjaku) has missed almost the entire season so far due to an injury. If the relatively high position of Cologne surprises you, that’s because their 3 players at the WC (Brecko, Novakovic, Podolski) all were an important part of their team.

Noticing a trend already? If not, having both values in one table should help:

Team Disadvantage Index Difference
FC Bayern 38 -11
Hamburger SV 19 -6
VfL Wolfsburg 16 -11
Schalke 04 12 -21
Bayer Leverkusen 1 -1
1. FC Köln 0 5
VfB Stuttgart 0 -7
Werder Bremen -1 -13
Borussia Dortmund -6 16
1899 Hoffenheim -8 4
Eintracht Frankfurt -8 -7
Hannover 96 -9 24
FSV Mainz 05 -11 5
Borussia M’Gladbach -11 -7
1. FC Nürnberg -14 18
SC Freiburg -15 17

Note that most of the worsened teams are at the top of this table while the improved clubs are at the bottom. Still not convinced? Here are line charts:

Sorted by Disadvantage Index, from largest to smallest

Sorted by Point Difference, from smallest to largest

Of course there are the usual exceptions (e.g. Bremen, Dortmund, Gladbach) but I never said that this is the only reason for different performances. Good/bad transfers, coaches, management or key injuries will always influence your season. However, this table makes it obvious that the 2010 World Cup is one reason why so many of the usually successful teams struggle. In the so evenly-matched Bundesliga, things like that can make a huge difference.

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