Ask Norman: Red cards, rankings and most misses
Norman Hubbard is Soccernet's resident anorak. If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and he'll try to answer as many as possible.
Which country has the lowest ranking of any to qualify for a World Cup? Is it North Korea for South Africa 2010, they are ranked at 102? asked Wan Hirman aka Xeqtr from Malaysia It is North Korea, whose ranking has gone down to 106 since Wan sent in the question. Indeed the next lowest ranked team in this year's tournament is South Africa in 90th. However, FIFA only introduced their rankings in 1992, meaning that it is hard to compare the North Koreans and the South Africans with some of the outsiders from previous World Cups. But, from the 1994 World Cup, no side has arrived as much of an underdog (according to the rankings, anyway) as North Korea.
How is it determined how many Champions League spots are available to a certain league? For example, the top leagues in England, Spain, and Italy are all given three automatic qualifying spots for the top three teams, and an additional Champions League play-off spot to the fourth place team. Is this determined by how well these leagues do in the Champions League, or some other factor? asked Mark Morsfield from Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
It comes down to the UEFA coefficient system, which basically assesses the performance of teams from each country in European competition over the previous five seasons. Based on the number of wins and the progress of the teams, a score is produced for each season and then they are added up. It may be no surprise, therefore, that in 2007-08, England, with 17.875 from a year when Manchester United won the Champions League, Chelsea were runners-up and Liverpool a third semi-finalist, had the highest score.
Indeed, England, with 15.00, also had the highest ranking last season; although Barcelona won the Champions League, the Premier League provided three semi-finalists. It is worth noting that the UEFA Cup/Europa League also provides rankings points, so Scotland's highest rating (10.25) in the last five years came in 2008 when Rangers reached the UEFA Cup final. One subplot from this weekend's Champions League final is that Italy and Germany have very similar coefficients: should Inter win, Italy, currently just above Germany, will retain four places in the Champions League; if Bayern win, Germany will have four places - three automatically and one in the qualifying round - starting from the 2011-12 season.
I'd like to know which forward in the Premier League has had the most misses in front of goal this season? asked Anthony Smuts.
If you have a question for Norman, then you can email email@example.com