Turning football hysteria into teaching resources

Alright, alright, alright… You got me, I’m a football (soccer) nut! However, in my defense, surely it’s both good practice and motivating for a teacher to take advantage of anything that’s trending, popular or in-fashion, right?

Well, a large number of English are going absolutely potty right now. Check out this BBC report and this:


But, both as an England fan and teacher, I’m going to take no shame in capitalising on the current World Cup hysteria to give some more ideas for teaching resources (well, at least until Saturday when England crash out, right?) 😉

Has there been any correlation between global development statistics and the results in the tournament so far? (Update to the World Cup spreadsheet)

In my previous blog post, written as the World Cup got started, I posted up an Excel spreadsheet that I created for Geography teachers to take advantage of the football hub-bub that usually overtakes classrooms this time every four years.

I have added a new tab to the spreadsheet, finding which development statistics that I used from the UNDP HDR most match the actual results of the World Cup tournament so far.

You can download the updated spreadsheet here and have a play for yourself (also, see the previous blog post for more detail about how the main function of the spreadsheet works).

First, the group stages. Which of the selected development statistics did I use most closely matched up with how the teams ranked by the end of the group stage? Out of the eight groups, only one, Group B, ended up matching the ranking of the current ‘gold standard’ of development statistics, the Human Development Index. Spain topped the group only just on goals scored ahead of Portugal. But both teams qualified from their group rather comfortably over Iran and Morocco. Here, not only did the HDI rank match the final group places, but the relative values were pretty representative too. However, with the exception of Group G (England’s group), it was a challenge to final any development statistic that gave you the same result as the actual football results did. This, in my opinion is quite telling.

Only Group B and to an extent, Group G, could you match development rank with the actual football results. Other groups needed at least a little tweak (in italics). Group H was the group where development statistics did not have even a vague relationship to how that group ended up, with highly developed Japan topping the group, but Colombia and Senegal finishing ahead of Poland.

The graphic above can lead the way to some interesting classroom discussions either for a form time or perhaps a starter activity. Some ideas:

  • Why does the level of development (HDI rank) appear to have little bearing on the outcome of the groups?
  • Which development statistics used in the graphic are likely to have a greater (or lesser) bearing, if any, on the performance of a country in sport?
  • What factors other than development might influence the performance and results of sporting fixtures?
  • How might the fact that most international players play their club football in advanced countries (ACs)/higher income countries (HICs) influence the outcome?
  • Which statistics used are a more or less reliable as a measure of development?

When ranking the teams by HDI, however, you do see that the more developed a country is, they are more likely to make it out of their groups. The five lowest HDI ranked teams, all from Africa, didn’t make it out of their groups.


Then onto the Round of 16, the first of the knockout stages. Was there more or less of a link with a country’s level of development and success? While in a straight knock-out it was easier to find at least one development statistic which favoured the actual victor. However, only two of the results matched HDI rank, France overcoming Argentina and, yes, England beating Colombia.

While it was easy to find a winning statistic for countries closely ranked in HDI, it took a bit more of an effort to find one for countries with a bigger gulf in development. Replacing goals with development, Belgium had a great comeback against Japan by having more working adults compared to dependents, Russia stunned star-studded Spain with impressive unemployment statistics, Croatia just edged out Denmark in a measles vaccination shoot-out and Sweden were the happy victors of Switzerland on the narrowest of margins by only one less infant death per 1000 births.

So, the big question… Do the development statistics provide a good omen for England in their upcoming quarter-final against Sweden? They seem pretty evenly matched with Sweden ranked 14th and England (UK statistics) 16th in HDI. Well, I have some bad news I’m afraid! For the selected statistics on the spreadsheet, Sweden are better off in 18, while the UK are only better off in 6. That equates to a 3-1 win for Sweden. Development statistics from the spreadsheet roughly equate to the following results for the other matches:

Uruguay 1-3 France
Brazil 1-2 Belgium
Russia 1-2 Croatia

Although those results look rather realistic, the good news for England fans is that development, on the whole, doesn’t have a huge influence over the result of a football match! So for now, keep chanting ‘Football’s Coming Home!

#MyGeographyTeacherWould …

This one is not really a teachable resource because of football, but rather thanks to the quirks of social media. Gareth Southgate, England’s manager, has always had a reputation of somewhat of a ‘Mr Nice Guy’, but his attitude, composure and class during the tournment, especially in the aftermath of the penalty shoot-out against Colombia has spawned a fabulous hashtag on Twitter, bringing out creativity and humour from social media users.

#GarethSouthgateWould – England’s manager takes social media by storm


Here are a few of my favourites, with my ‘Geography teacher’ hat on!

Of course, you could get your students to have a go at a geography related #GarethSouthgateWould tweet. If they are willing, they could even tweet it out on Twitter.

But the point really is that Twitter hashtags can make for a fantastic snappy starter, plenary or homework. Students can consolidate their learning by summarising a lesson in 280 characters, or define a keyword.

The bizarre but important, measurable knock-on effects of football

Major sporting events such as the football World Cup can provide an excellent base for an enquiry. Take this article from the BBC, for example, regarding the potential economic impacts on the UK if England do happen to reach the World Cup Final.


Discussions can centre around the statistics given in the article and tasks could be set. For example, students could create a diagram to visualise the links between football and the economy.

Other useful links for discussion:

And something more specific to the England v Sweden match, a short read regarding the weather conditions and water supply in the town where the game will be played:

The longer England stay in this tournament, the harder it will be to avoid that off-topic chatter about the football (or about how annoying it is) in the classroom. So, I suppose it’s with twisted hope that these teaching ideas will serve you well!

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