World Cup: Day 1

To give you an idea how accurate predictions are for the world cup, compare this post to what has happened today.

Right now, Mexico and S. Africa are technically in the lead in Group A. Both games (Mex v S.Af, Uru v Fra) ended in ties, but since both Mexico and South Africa have scored 1 goal each, they’re technically ahead of scoreless Uruguay and France. Uruguay also earned the first Red Card of the games, and managed to keep it tied with only ten men on the field.

What we’ve learned today is that S. Africa is beating expectations and making itself a contender, Mexico may continue its streak of disappointing World Cup showings, Uruguay is fantastic on defense but not so impressive on offense, and France is inconsistent. In my dream world, Uruguay and Mexico would move forward. With everything tied up, the remaining games have much greater pressure on them, but everyone is going into them without having to catch up. The game with impossible odds seems to be S. Africa v France, but if France continues to be inconsistent and S. Africa can ride this high, they may have a chance.

The other thing I learned is this: There are some super cute guys on the Uruguay team.

Captain Diego Lugano

Striker Diego Forlan

Goalkeeper Fernando Muslera

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: Fun with Excel

First, here’s the link to the spreadsheet on Google Docs should you want to play.

Basically what I did is make a spreadsheet predicting the winners based solely on their FIFA rank.  It should be immediately noted that, in the past, FIFA rank has meant nothing.  The World Cup is high stakes game playing, and injuries, travel, exhaustion, and carding are all important.  So, the FIFA rank will probably end up being nearly useless at predicting games.  But it’s there and I have access to it.

If you’re unfamiliar with the way the World Cup works, I’ll explain.  It starts out with 8 groups (A-H) of 4 teams (32 teams total, 48 group matches).  Every team in each group plays each other (6 games), and whoever has the most wins in that group moves forward as 1A, whoever has the second most wins moves forward as 2A, the other two teams go home.  There are various tie-breaking things that inevitably matter as soccer is a very low-score sport, but the important thing is that every team has 3 games to prove themselves before getting kicked out.

Once a team has gotten through the group stage, it enters the knockout round, which means every game is win or go home.

Here are the games by group:

It’s fairly self-explanatory, but if you look at the last one: it’s game 48, held on 6/25, Group H, Switzerland has a FIFA ranking of 24, Honduras 38, so Switzerland to win by a 14 rank superiority.

Another interesting way of looking at the data is to group it by how closely matched two teams will be:

So, my guess would be that anything within 6 is going to be a close game, anything within 10 could easily go to the underdog, beyond 15 would probably require extremely extenuating circumstances to turn the game, and finally that N. Korea, S. Africa and New Zealand are probably completely screwed.

So, within each group there are some games that could turn out to be vitally important for the underdog to win to move forward, and where two teams are ranked closely enough that this is possible.

Mexico and Uruguay are extremely closely matched, with France significantly (but not unreachably) higher ranked, it’s likely going to be a fight to move on as 2A.  Likely, Uruguay will be coming off an easy win, and Mexico will be coming off a hard fought loss.

Australia could beat Serbia and move forward as 2D.

The only game in this group that looks even remotely close is Slovakia v Paraguay.  And fortunately for the drama, they’ll be fighting to stay in the competition.  Of course, getting to the knockout stage is probably all they’ll manage, but there’s no small pride in that.

It’s not super close, but the Americas often don’t do as well overseas, Switzerland could be the one to go forward.

So, using this same method, the rest of the Cup looks like this:

If it fell out like this, I tell you the last 9 games would be un-bloody-believable to watch.

World Cup: Links

I’m sure you Americans (aka 90% of my readership) are like in total hate with me right now.  I’m sorry, this link is for you.

For you other crazy kids, I’ve got the super awesome calendar.  Seriously, it’s super cool, the information is so organized and sane, yet visually pleasing.

Then there’s this:

Running a little over 70 pages, it’s a remarkably in-depth summary of each country in this year’s finals, including football prowess, economic state, and political situation. Furthermore, it provides a primer on the potential hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, and, unsurprisingly but more than interesting, an examination of economic growth and decline vis-a-vis the international football teams of respective countries.

(Quote from here)

Do numbers and in-depth analysis with lots of charts turn you on drive you mad make you happy?  Then look at the dang thing, because it’s awesome.  And it has in-depth predictions of who’s going to win.

Also, this is the link to TNR covering the World Cup.

Next in my world cup coverage will probably be me explaining to you who I’m rooting for.  It’s complicated… sort of a hierarchical system rather than a “I want X to win”.  There may be maths and history lessons involved.

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.