World Cup: Who to Cheer For (or who I cheer for anyway)

For me to be really interested in a football match, I have to decided who I am going to be cheering for.  It’s not enough for love of the game, you have to be emotionally involved with the outcome.  I came up with a little spreadsheet that accurately reflected how I make choices on who to cheer for.  This is a little different than my attitude in the Women’s World Cup where I cheer solely based on what is best for the US.  I ranked them based on the things I care about.

  1. If your are related to the US Women’s National Team (which is to say the USMNT) then I award you five points.  It’s nearly a trump card.
  2. If you are in the same region (CONCACAF) as the US, you get one point.
  3. If you’re on Continental Europe, you lose one point.
  4. If you speak an Iberian Language (functionally Spanish or Portuguese), you get one point.
  5. If you’re uniforms are a pretty shade of sky blue, you get one point (Uruguay and Argentina).
  6. You get a point for every player I know and like.
  7. You lose a point if you were an Axis power in World War II.
  8. Any ties are broken by Five Thirty Eight’s Soccer Power Index — I will always cheer for the underdog, all other things being equal.

So I fed all that information into a spreadsheet and very happily got a list that put the teams that I knew I liked or hated in the right place, and gave me some insight on how to apply my preferences to teams I didn’t ever think much about.  If you’d asked me before I made this whether I’d cheer for Netherlands or Japan, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you.  But now I’ve got numbers telling me what to do.  As you can see, if it wasn’t for the association with the US Women’s team, the US would only be 6th on my list, and France, Germany, and Italy, who I only cheer against, are all at the bottom.  They really should be tied, because I can’t imagine cheering for any of them.  On principle.  (Thank you England for these wholly irrational prejudices).  That said, I love to watch Germany play, they make beautiful soccer.

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For those who can’t read the chart:

  1. United States
  2. Uruguay
  3. England
  4. Spain
  5. Mexico
  6. Argentina
  7. Honduras
  8. Costa Rica
  9. Brazil
  10. Ecuador
  11. Colombia
  12. Chile
  13. Algeria
  14. Australia
  15. Iran
  16. Cameroon
  17. South Korea
  18. Nigeria
  19. Ghana
  20. Ivory Coast
  21. Portugal
  22. Netherlands
  23. Japan
  24. Croatia
  25. Greece
  26. Switzerland
  27. Russia
  28. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  29. Belgium
  30. France
  31. Italy
  32. Germany

Oh, you want to know who to cheer for in all the matches?  Many of the first matches have already passed, but I am going to put the whole list here.  Will update when we have knowledge on the next rounds.  A reminder that this isn’t meant to be a prediction of who will win, just who your heart should belong to for ~2hrs. Bold is who I cheered/will cheer for and gray is games that had passed at the time of posting this.

Brazil v Croatia
Mexico v Cameroon
Spain v Netherlands
Chile v Australia
Colombia v Greece
Ivory Coast v Japan
Uruguay v Costa Rica
England v Italy
Switzerland v Ecuador
France v Honduras
Argentina v Bosnia-Herzegovina
Germany v Portugal
Iran v Nigeria
Ghana v USA
Belgium v Algeria
Brazil v Mexico
Russia v South Korea
Australia v Netherlands
Cameroon v Croatia
Spain v Chile
Colombia v Ivory Coast
Uruguay v England
Japan v Greece
Italy v Costa Rica
Switzerland v France
Honduras v Ecuador
Argentina v Iran
Germany v Ghana
Nigeria v Bosnia-Herzegovina
South Korea v Algeria
USA v Portugal
Belgium v Russia
Australia v Spain
Netherlands v Chile
Cameroon v Brazil
Croatia v Mexico
Italy v Uruguay
Costa Rica v England
Japan v Colombia
Nigeria v Argentina
Bosnia Herzegovina v Iran
Honduras v Switzerland
Ecuador v France
USA v Germany
Portugal v Ghana
South Korea v Belgium
Algeria v Russia

Women’s World Cup: Weekend Summary: Insanity

Wow, what an insane weekend. So much overtime, so many surprises.

France defeated Australia with no surprises, except that Australia’s defense is even worse than we thought. A lot of people are saying that the Matildas have it in them to be a contender next World Cup, but they’ve got to majorly change their defense to pull that off.

In a huge shocker, heavy favorites Germany actually lost to Japan in one of the most surprising upsets in WWC history. Germany was expected to take home its third world cup in a row, especially considering the home field advantage, and instead they didn’t even make it to the semis.

Japan dominated the game, but didn’t actually score in regular time, despite their incredible possession percentage. They scored finally in the 108th minute, shocking the German crowd who couldn’t accept the way the wind was blowing. This is the first time they’ve ever defeated a European side in the World Cup, and if this didn’t make a hero out of the incredible Sawa, then nothing could. Unfortunately, because Sweden won against Australia, Germany won’t be going to the Olympics next year, which is absolutely absurd. Europe sends the two last standing teams in the WWC to the Olympics, rather than having a qualifying tournament, meaning that their best team isn’t going next year, which is legitimately a real shame, though I can’t say I feel anything but joy for Japan after this game.

France and England played an intense game that went all the way to PKs, a rarity in WWC matches. Although Sunday’s US vs Brazil game would prove to be a much more insanely intense game, France vs England looked like it would end up the best game of the tournament. France dominated play, but England’s goalkeeper kept them in the game and England scored in the second half. England then questionably used all three of its substitutions in the last ten minutes of regular time and France scored with just two minutes left, taking the game into extra time. Neither team scored so it went to PKs, where England lost 4-3.

Hope Powell, the England coach, is rumored to be stepping down after accusing her team of cowardice. Apparently none of her team stepped forward to volunteer to take the Penalty Kicks, except the two who ended up missing them — one was exhausted, and one was playing her first WWC game — but since no one else was volunteering, they did. Probably not the most political way of dealing with the situation, but it was a hard loss.

And then there was US vs Brazil. What a game. I think I’m still recovering from the adrenaline. 2 minutes into the game, the US forced an own goal on poor Daiane, whose head must be hanging low today. The US went on to dominate the game for most of the first half and into the second. And then the referee dominated the game.

I tend not to get upset at calls, I usually get upset at the lack of instant replay, which allows bad calls by fallible eyes to go unchecked. Marta, five time player of the year aka the female Pele, was going in towards the goal and facing a completely fair challenge by Buehler, but the ref decided it was a foul — it very clearly wasn’t on replay. Buehler got a red card and sent off in the 66th minute, meaning the US went on to play a man down for the next hour, and Brazil got a Penalty Kick. For a foul that wasn’t committed, mind you.

The unbelievably awesome Hope Solo blocked the PK, but the ref decided that someone was off their line (another bad call) and gave Solo a yellow card (a truly disgustingly bad call) and forced the PK to be retaken (seriously vomit inducing). Solo did not beat Marta’s shot, and Brazil came up for a tie.

And then something amazing happened, the crowd in Germany decided they hated Marta and Brazil. I mean, really despised them because of how unfair the calls were. It is amazing at any time when a US team is liked overseas, but this was brilliant. Every time Marta touched the ball the entire crowd booed, hissed, and whistled. She was like a horrible villain on the field.

In a beautiful attack by the US on Brazil’s goal, they got called offsides when they were well onside, and immediately after offsides wasn’t called on Brazil, who made a goal. Thanks to horrible calls, Brazil had a second goal, and the US was down by one.

And then Brazil got nasty, they started taking time when they didn’t need it. A player who wasn’t hurt crumpled to the ground when no one was around her in the most spectacularly cynical move I’ve seen to run out the clock, a move that makes Italy and France look like they hardly take dives at all. She stayed down for three or four minutes and got stretchered off the field. The moment play resumed, she jumped off the stretcher and joined the game. The ref only gave her a yellow card, but I would have sent that horrible woman off with a red and a severe talking to.

The German crowd started chanting USA! USA!

They added on 3 minutes of injury time to the game, taking them over the 120 minute mark and, in a truly unbelievable moment, Rapinoe sent a massive pass forward and Wambach headed it in with less than a minute of play left. It was incredible.

So it went into PKs on the anniversary of the 1999 final in Pasadena, where the US won in PKs and everyone was confident that the US was going to pull off the miracle comeback. And they did, thanks to perfect shots from all of the US and a brilliant save by Hope Solo, who is awesome, against poor poor Daiane who made the mistake of looking at the goalie. You never look at the goalie during PKs.

It was the most epic footy I’ve ever seen.

Women’s World Cup 2011: Updated Predictions

OK, so wow, France is doing much better than expected, and my US team is looking like their number 1 rank is deserved.  I am relieved and will go forth being overly optimistic for them because I love them so much.

So, my predictions for the rest of the group games.

Group A

France and Germany are tied on points, but France has a much better goal differential, meaning that all they have to do is tie Germany to move forward as the winners.  Germany is the favorite, but France has looked much better on the field — something I definitely did not predict.  I’d like France to win and that, more than anything, is leading me to say that France will win the group, and Germany will be second.

Group B

Japan is definitely going forward, so the competition is between Mexico and England.  England is well ahead in goal differential, so they can lose to Japan and still move forward, which is exactly what I think is going to happen.  Japan first, England second.

Group C

This is as fun as Group A, because the US and Sweden are literally fighting for the number one slot.  Like France, all the US has to do is tie to win the group.  I think they’re going to outright beat Sweden, or at least that is my hope.  US number 1, Sweden number 2.

Group D

I simply cannot see Brazil not creaming Equatorial Guinea, which may be very fun to watch, so the competition is now  for second place between Australia and Norway.  Norway has not been impressive, but Australia’s defense has been lax.  Australia just has to tie Norway to move on, and I think they’ve got that in them.  I’m saying Brazil 1, Australia 2.

So if the games followed this prediction, we’d end up with the following matches.

Match 25
France vs England

I’m tempted to say France, as surprised as I am by that.  This seems like a very close match to me.

Match 26
Japan vs Germany

Should be a great game as well, but I think Japan is going to be tough to beat.

Match 27
US vs Australia

This should be an easy win for the US.

Match 28
Brazil vs Sweden

This should be an easy win for Brazil.

SemiFinal A/B
France vs Japan

I think this is Japan’s.

SemiFinal C/D
US vs Brazil

Man, this is tough.  I don’t know.  They are my two favorite teams.  I think Brazil is weak in their defense and the US could exploit it, but sometimes it seems like the US barely even shows up.  I’m going to say the US, but I would be thrilled to see either one of these teams in the final.

3rd Place
France vs Brazil

Brazil.

Final
US vs Japan

US

World Cup Day 12, Day 13

Halfway through the knockout we’ve got the following:

Group A
1A: Uruguay!!
2A: Mexico!
Out: S. Africa, France!!

Group B
1B: Argentina
2B: S. Korea
Out: Nigeria, Greece

Group C
1C: USA!!
2C: England
Out: Algeria, Slovenia

Group D
1D: Germany
2D: Ghana
Out: Serbia, Australia

So, the first half of the games in the Quarterfinals are (with FIFA rank)

Uruguay (16) v S. Korea (47)
USA (14) v Ghana (32)
Germany (6) v England (8)
Argentina (7) v Mexico (17)

The only game where I don’t have an easy favorite is Argentina v Mexico.

World Cup Day 7, Day 8

So, I’m beginning to think that unless you’re from Central or South America, you’re just here to disappoint me.  And I’m not sure that that’s even right because I wasn’t impressed with Brazil.  Even the Germans, who looked unstoppable after their total destruction of Australia, have lost to a minor team.  I guess that’s the great thing about World Cup, it’s unpredictable.  I dunno if you remember who my favorites originally were, but they are now officially 1) Uruguay 2) Argentina and 3) Mexico.  Favorites, of course, not being who I think will win, but who I want to win.

Argentina v South Korea

Argentina, 4-1, is looking pretty good offensively, especially with the first hat trick of the Cup going to Gonzalo Higuaín, but they let in a goal with a pretty intense lapse of defensive attention.  Still, they’re looking good and might go all the way.

Greece v Nigeria

Greece wins!  For the first time!  Nothing like a good comeback story, especially when there’s a very obvious villain in the form of a Nigerian player, Kaita, who got kicked off the field for a blatant red card offense.  It’s what red cards are there for.

France v Mexico

I admit that I actually freaked out with happiness when Mexico scored it’s first goal against France.  The second was just icing on the cake, because it’s almost impossible for France to advance.  This is two part, because I like Mexico and I know some people really enthusiastically cheering for Mexico, and also I hate the French team.

Germany v Serbia

WTF Germany?  How do you lose to Serbia?  This is one of two games this day that were dominated by over-refereeing.  I mean, the sheer number of cards thrown out was absurd, especially considering how mild some of the fouls were.

USA v Slovenia

Oh, let’s talk some referee bullshit.  The US was robbed, absolutely robbed, of a third goal.  They should have been moving forward with a win rather than a draw.  Still, the US will move forward if they win their next game, which slightly makes up for it.  But the lame-ass ref also gave a yellow card for an intentional handball that wasn’t.  Very irritating.  I read that the ref is probably going to be not allowed to ref any more World Cup games.

England v Algeria

Scoreless matches aren’t always boring, but this one sure as hell was.  England and I aren’t speaking for the moment, I’m too disappointed in them.  I don’t even want to talk about it, have some statistic porn, courtesy Nate Silver and Wikipedia.

Day 8 Odds

Group A: How to Advance

Group B: How to Advance

Group C: How to Advance

World Cup: Day 2, Day 3

Halfway through the first round of group matches.

Argentina v Nigeria

Argentina, especially Lionel Messi, was incredibly agile and fast with the ball, but they were denied again and again by the fast and talented Nigerian goalie, Vincent Enyeama.  Any goalie less talented and Messi would have had at least one goal and possibly three.  Argentina wasn’t fully confident, they’ve got some defensive weaknesses, but they’re the most impressive team I’ve seen so far.

S. Korea v Greece

Well, who the hell expected that out of S. Korea, a contender out of nowhere and good for them.  Greece has been a little weak lately, but did not expect that.

England v USA

This is a game the USA should have lost, the way they were playing, and if not for the awful error on the part of the English goalie, Robert Green, they definitely would have.  The English played much better, the US was incredibly lucky.  They’ll need to do better.

Algeria v Slovenia

Slovenia comes out the winner, leaving them the surprising leader of Group C.  This game was very evenly matched, possession and attempts pretty evenly distributed.

Germany v Australia

I’m not sure Australia even showed up for this game.  They’re ranked 20, but they looked like they didn’t even know how the game was played.  Gratuitous fouling and total inability to fight the German’s efficient play – so destroyed was Australia that Germany is now a favorite to win the whole thing.  Germany looks good (minus the diving) but Australia, come on, that was ridiculous.  Every game today got a red card too.

Serbia v Ghana

Well performed on the part of Ghana, especially as they were not at all favored to win.

THE CURRENT STANDINGS

Group A

1. Mexico (1)
1. S. Africa (1)
3. Uruguay (1)
3. France (1)

Group B

1. S. Korea (3)
2. Argentina (3)
3. Nigeria (0)
4. Greece (0)

Group C

1. Slovenia (3)
2. England (1)
2. USA (1)
4. Algeria (0)

Group D

1. Germany (3)
2. Ghana (3)
3. Serbia (0)
4. Australia (0)


World Cup Polls!

An important part of the World Cup is picking teams you will cheer for and, even more fun, who you will cheer against.  My own prejudices are revealed in the polls below.  The system is complicated, but basically it goes as follows.

1. Spain because they’ve never won and they’re really good this year, and they’ve been really good in the past too.  Plus I’ve been to Spain, loved Barcelona, and speak Spanish.  So I’m cheering for them.

2. England is why I like soccer as much as I do, and it’d be nice to see them win again, especially as underdogs. They’ve only won once (’66) and they invented the stupid game.

3. Argentina has the best player in the world, Messi, and I like their flag/uniform colors.  Plus, I really liked the movie Evita. And it’s always nice to have a good guy on this side of the Atlantic.

4. USA.  Well, I mean, I live here so…

5. Mexico – “Mexico is the biggest loser at the tournament, having had 22 losses. They also have the worst goal differential, allowing 36 more than they have scored overall.”

So if it is Spain vs England or Argentina, I might have to simply sit that one out, can’t say I’d be sad if any of those three won it all, and they’ve got good odds.

Brazil is the special case, I really like them, they’re very talented and have a tendency to dominate the scene.  So, I want to cheer for them because they’re great, but literally everyone else in the tournament is an underdog because of them. I would be sad to not see them play incredibly well, but I’d also be sad to see them win it.

I’m cheering against the following:

1. Italy plays dirty and I don’t like that.  Sick of people pretending to fall down, and they completely earned that headbutt.  Also, they are the reigning champions.

2. Germany – I don’t necessarily hate the German team or anything, it’s just that, behind Brazil and Italy, they are the most winningest team at the World Cup.

3. France – You can’t be for England and not against France. “I’m very positive on the French, my family way back was French, so I go with it, but they are kind of, well, fucking French at times.” Eddie Izzard

4. N. Korea – This is just for the lulz


World Cup: Ashley Recommends These Games

Let us pretend I’ve spent no time on this and am merely grabbing some things out of a random hat.  The following are 6 games over the next few weeks that I think will be entertaining, in order of appearance, all times PST.

6/12 11:30 England (8) v USA (14)

England is hungry for another cup, but their line-up is a bit wobbly.  These two are probably competing for number 1 in their group, and will both make it out, but this game will show us if the US is going to actually do anything worthwhile and if England is going to make a real run to repeat ’66.

6/15 11:30 Brazil (1) v North Korea (105)

These are the two extremes; Brazil is FIFA rank number 1 and Korea DPR is number 105, the lowest in the competition by nearly 30.  Perhaps I’m a sadist, but this could be extremely fun to watch.  It probably helps that it’s really easy to hate North Korea, though there are some worries that there will be negative consequences for the players if they embarrass their dictator , so maybe it’s easy to root for the incredibly downtrodden underdogs?

6/17 11:30 France (9) v Mexico (17)

I generally think that the France, Uruguay, Mexico triad is going to be fun to watch, I think they’re very closely matched.  And I think my soft-spot goes to Mexico.

6/22 7:00 Mexico (17) v Uruguay (16)

These two are ranked 16 and 17, and it’s likely that this will be win or go home.  I suspect this will be a hard fought game.

6/22 11:30 Greece (13) v Argentina (7)

They’re closely matched in terms of talent, likely this will simply be for first, so not quite as much pressure, but I think we’ll see here if Argentina is going to be a real challenger.

6/25 7:00 Portugal (3) v Brazil (1)

Probably the most anticipated match of the knockout rounds.  Brazil, number 1, against Portugal, number 3.  Plus, they like speak the same language and stuff.