World Cup Day 14, Day 15, Day 16

This is what my system of just trusting FIFA rankings predicts. What I want to happen is for Uruguay to win… Landon Donovan needs to be treated like a national hero, but it probably won’t happen. He’s had most world cup appearances and goals of any male US player.

US v Ghana — how heartbreaking.  Looking at these numbers it looks like Germany has the hardest road ahead of it, a lot of closely matched games.

Current predictions

From FIFA

Day 16 odds

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 9, Day 10, Day 11

So, the most important things we’ve learned in the last three days are.

1. Portugal kicked North Korea’s ass hardcore, and probably could’ve gotten more goals if it’d been more on target.

2. Spain seems to have regained its footing, its next game against Chile is important, but if they continue to play solidly they may still be in this

3. Brazil is definitely in, Portugal is probably in — their game is going to be fun to watch

4. Italy is not quite as embarrassing as France, but close

5. Netherlands is definitely in, Cameroon is definitely out

So, the last round of games is upon us.  They’re going to be two at a time, so a two hour stretch of time is going to determine who moves on of the four of each group.  North Korea and Cameroon are the only teams that are for sure out, and Argentina, Brazil and Netherlands are the only ones definitely in, so it’s 27 teams fighting for 13 spots.

Nate Silver gives odds!

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 5, Day 6

New Zealand v Slovakia

An amazing last minute (literally) goal from New Zealand gave them their first point in the World Cup and earned them a draw with Slovakia, who’d been up since just after the half.

Ivory Coast v Portugal

For a scoreless match, this one was sort of interesting, though I would have liked to see more and better play from Drogba and Ronaldo, two of the most famous and talented football stars.  Drogba is recovering from a broken arm and Ronaldo’s kind of an obnoxious prima donna, so maybe that explains it?

Brazil v North Korea

What should have been an incredibly easy win for Brazil was actually a bit tougher than anyone really expected.  North Korea got an extremely late goal to bring them up to one behind and were making a valiant attempt at a second goal.  I was impressed with the North Koreans and happy for them to have scored, still Brazil dominated the match.

Honduras v Chile

Well the news is bad for Spain, because Chile easily won this match versus Honduras.

Spain v Switzerland

Alright, I am pissed.  Dammit Spain, this is supposed to be your year and once again you choke like the chokers you are.  Here I am putting my neck out for you, saying that you deserve it for being great all these years and always fumbling at the world cup, and what do you do?  You lose to Switzerland despite the fact that you had possession of the ball for 75% of the game.  Seriously?  Do you not understand what you’re supposed to do with the ball? // End Rant

S. Africa v Uruguay

Have I mentioned how sexy the Uruguayans are, because my god I am in love with Diego Forlan and I don’t care who knows it.

Look at the sexy, I google image search so you don’t have to:

Oh, they won. You should care because Forlan scored two goals and the more they win the more I get to look at him.

THE CURRENT STANDINGS

Group A
1. Uruguay (4)
2. Mexico (1)
3. France (1)
4. S. Africa (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)

Group E

1. Netherlands (3)
2. Japan (3)
3. Cameroon (0)
4. Denmark (0)

Group F

1. Italy (1)
1. Paraguay (1)
1. New Zealand (1)
1. Slovakia (1)

Group G

1. Brazil (3)
2. Ivory Coast (1)
2. Portugal (1)
4. N. Korea (0)

Group H
1. Chile (3)
1. Switzerland (3)
3. Honduras (0)
3. Spain (0)

World Cup: Day 4; Writing D4aD

Netherlands v Denmark

Netherlands won as expected with the added bonus of a freak Denmark own goal.

Japan v Cameroon

Japan with an upset over Cameroon.

Italy v Paraguay

Italy was supposed to trounce Paraguay, and instead they ended up trailing for most of the game, and just pulling out a tie in the second half. Italy is not playing nearly as well as they did last cup, where they were the winners, but they have a reputation for eking by for the win anyway.

Finally put something on paper for the second act of D4aD. Hopefully the lack of a blank page staring at me will let me move with some speed through the rest of it.

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: 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.