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Tag: "soccer"

World Cup Quarter Finals

[ 12 ] July 1, 2010 |

I was going to write something about this, but . . . no.  I’ve grown addicted to my monthly “paycheque”.

The quarter final brackets for the World Cup are . . . unbalanced.  Look for yourself:

Friday, 2 July
Netherlands v Brazil 15:00 BST, 10:00 EDT, 07:00 PDT
Uruguay v Ghana 19:30 BST, 14:30 EDT, 11:30 PDT

Saturday, 3 July
Argentina v Germany 15:00 BST, 10:00 EDT, 07:00 PDT
Paraguay v Spain 19:30 BST, 14:30 EDT, 11:30 PDT

I’m going to boldly predict that the final will include the team that wins the Netherlands v Brazil match and the Argentina v Germany match.  This should not be taken as a disparagement of Spain, the reigning European Champions, but they haven’t really appeared all that sharp, especially with a blatantly unfit Fernando Torres playing in every match.

As I am now happily ensconced in Oregon, catching up on research that I haven’t had the time to work on back in Plymouth (goal for the next month: three new articles sent off, and two book proposals in the can by September.  no, really!), I’ll be waking early to go visit a friend’s house to watch the Netherlands v Brazil match.  Since the USA were eliminated, I’ve transferred my allegiance to the Dutch.  Ironic, considering the only tournament held during my three years in the NL, the 2002 World Cup, didn’t feature the side at all.

This will not be one of the Holland Brazil matches of yore.  Both sides have adopted the more circumspect, cautious football that everybody save for the English have managed to master at this level (which in part may explain the relative paucity of goals at this tournament).  Both sides line up in what traditional nomenclature would refer to a 4-5-1 or a 4-3-3, but both formations are more nuanced than tradition allows: it’s really a 4-2-1-2-1.  England, of course, stay wedded to the tried and true (and outdated) 4-4-2.  It worked in 1966!!!  But then, they also stay wedded to the tried and true Single Member District / Plurality electoral system, but I digress.

Realistically, one has to like Brazil to win this match, but I am holding out hope for De Oranje, as Brazil have a few niggles and suspensions, whereas Holland manager Bert van Marwijk has an injury and suspension free 23 to choose from.

For those interested, I’ve read a few excellent books on Dutch football.  Indeed, I’ve found the quality of insightful writing on football soccer to be excellent at times, and both of these blend football with broader observations of Dutch politics and society:

Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football (at Amazon here).

as well as the brilliant Simon Kuper‘s Ajax, the Dutch, the War: Football in Europe during the Second World War.

Kuper also wrote the excellent Football Against the Enemy, which includes a chapter on the 1974 World Cup final between the Dutch and West Germany if I recall correctly, as well as coverage of the same two sides match in the finals of the 1988 European Championship.  I have several other suggestions, but, alas, my library is in England, and I’m in Oregon.

Cream Rises…

[ 0 ] July 1, 2010 |

LGM World Cup Standings following the Round of 16…

RNK ENTRY, OWNER GROUP RND16 TOTAL PCT
1 bourbon renewalh. hjklhljkh 22 24 46 99.4
2 Meinong’s JungleJ. Brown 20 24 44 98.4
3 johnbparker1 1J. Parker 19 24 43 97.7
3 wang1870 1D. Sessoms 19 24 43 97.7
3 1buddhacat 1R. Vaidya 19 24 43 97.7
3 welloiledmachineS. Rockhold 19 24 43 97.7
3 AlSuA. Berry 23 20 43 97.7
3 Great Russian DinosaursM. Jeffery 23 20 43 97.7
9 DelawhereJ Sellers 18 24 42 96.2
9 greller49 1A. Greller 22 20 42 96.2
9 bobby lenarduzzid. loveland 22 20 42 96.2
9 tnpsc 1v. las vegas 22 20 42 96.2
9 brokenax16 1D. Collins 22 20 42 96.2
14 Automatic BallpointG. Jenkins 21 20 41 94.2
14 Smarter Than YuoS. Fleury 21 20 41 94.2
14 With the Russians TooD. Merrill 21 20 41 94.2
14 PALGOLAKp mac 21 20 41 94.2

I’m currently tied for 82nd…

Culture War!

[ 17 ] June 29, 2010 |

Actually, that’s not true. Indeed, I should emphasize that this is not an anti-soccer post; it is an “anti-using egregious cherry-picking to exaggerate the popularity of soccer as a spectator sport in the United States” post. Not only because the claims are empirically erroneous, but because who cares? The whole genre of writing that involves obsessing over how many people like the sports you like is just bizarre.

UPDATE: I should add that my “cherry picking” comment is not directed so much at Tim, whose claims are pretty reasonable, but more at the much stronger claims being made by the people Chait is engaging with.

LGM World Cup Challenge Update

[ 0 ] June 25, 2010 |

After group play it’s still anyone’s game, except for those who did really badly during group play:

1 Better Legs on SofasB. Mizelle 24 24 99.6
2 AlSuA. Berry 23 23 98.8
2 timeagan101 1T. Eagan 23 23 98.8
2 Great Russian DinosaursM. Jeffery 23 23 98.8
5 Eccentripity 1E. Cerevic 22 22 97.0
5 greller49 1A. Greller 22 22 97.0
5 The HypnotoadD. Raskin 22 22 97.0
5 bobby lenarduzzid. loveland 22 22 97.0
5 QAS410 1, 22 22 97.0
5 tnpsc 1v. las vegas 22 22 97.0
5 bourbon renewalh. hjklhljkh 22 22 97.0
5 brokenax16 1D. Collins 22 22 97.0
5 Europa05 1m. allen 22 22 97.0

I’m sitting at 21 points, tied for 14th, which is much, much better than I had any reason to expect. Will be cheering hard for USA in tomorrow’s W.E.B. Du Bois Memorial Bowl.

Now You Have A Reason To Whine And Cry!

[ 26 ] June 24, 2010 |

I think I feel the way about Italy being eliminated the way most people feel about France. The really weird thing is how attractive I find most of the cultural products of these countries otherwise. Lots of people hate France on principle, but for me the puzzle is how two countries this great produce football teams that are so reprehensible…

World Cup Predictions Foolishly Revisited

[ 19 ] June 24, 2010 |

Back in December, immediately after the draw for the World Cup, I had the temerity to write a long post breaking down each group, and I foolishly offered predictions as to how the sides would finish.  I’ve been meaning to write this post prior to the last round of matches from the group stage, but a series of events have intervened.

Now, half way through those matches, let’s see how I have fared.

Group A

Prediction: 1. Mexico, 2. France, 3. Uruguay, 4. South Africa

Result: 1. Uruguay, 2. Mexico, 3. South Africa, 4. France.

The difference between Mexico and South Africa was down to goal differential.  At least I was smart enough to state “And Uruguay don’t suck either”.  I don’t think I can be faulted for horribly mis-predicting France, as I don’t think anyone could have foreseen the circus that France became in this tournament.

Group B

Prediction: 1. Argentina, 2. Greece, 3. South Korea, 4. Nigeria.

Result: 1. Argentina, 2. South Korea, 3. Greece, 4. Nigeria.

Not a bad prediction, only a point separated South Korea from Greece.  Of course suggesting that Argentina take the group isn’t exactly a risky proposition.

Group C

Prediction: 1. England, 2. USA, 3. Slovenia, 4. Algeria.

Result: 1. USA, 2. England, 3. Slovenia, 4. Algeria.

As predictions go, as I was only off by the “goals scored” tie breaker, I can’t feel too bad about this one.  Furthermore,m I did say “Don’t underestimate Slovenia, any of you”.  I should have also said “don’t overestimate England”.  Furthermore, it was a lot closer on the final day than most would have predicted, and had those two 1-0 scorelines been reversed, it would be Slovenia and Algeria progressing, not the USA and England.

Group D

Ill-Advised Prediction: 1. Germany, 2. Serbia, 3. Australia, 4. Ghana.

Result: 1. Germany, 2. Ghana, 3. Australia, 4. Serbia.

Well, two out of four isn’t bad.  And I did say the following about Ghana:

And Ghana may be all about Essien in the international media, but they have a reputation of being well organized in a disorganized way. Which, as a faux statistician, I can appreciate. But more critically, they have a lot of youth, and their kids have done well in FIFA tournaments in the past decade or so. That said, I still see them finishing last in this tough group. Serbia are that good.

If one chooses to ignore the final two sentences, I come out looking pretty good.

Group E

Prediction: 1. Holland, 2. Denmark

Situation: 1. Netherlands 6, 2. Japan 3, 3. Denmark 3, 4. Cameroon 0.

Fina matches: tonight, 19:30 BST.

The Dutch should win the group — they play Cameroon tonight, and all they need is a draw to win the group.  Even if the Oranje were to lose, their goal differential advantage (+3 over Japan, +4 over Denmark) should be enough to protect them.  The big match is Denmark v Japan.  They’re only separated by goal differential, and that’s one goal; however, that logically means Denmark have to win in order to progress.

Group F

Prediction: 1. Italy, 2. Paraguay, 3. Slovakia, 4. New Zealand.

Situation: 1. Paraguay 4, 2. Italy 2, 3. New Zealand 2, 4. Slovakia 1.

Final matches: today, 15:00 BST.

Any of the four can still progress, and any of the four can still go out.  If Paraguay draw New Zealand, they’re through.  Nothing separates Italy and New Zealand at the moment, they’ve both drawn two, scored two goals, and conceded two goals.  This will be a fascinating one, much like Group C yesterday afternoon.

Group G

Prediction: 1. Brazil, 2. Cote D’Ivoire, 3. Portugal, 4. North Korea.

Situation: 1. Brazil 6, 2. Portugal 4, 3. Cote D’Ivoire 1, 4. North Korea, 0.

Final matches: Friday, 15:00 BST.

Brazil are through, but have not secured the top seed.  However, if Brazil and Portugal merely draw, Brazil are through as top, Portugal are through in second.  The Ivory Coast will beat our reclusive friends from North Korea, but even if Portugal were to lose, the commanding goal differential advantage currently enjoyed by Portugal (+7) over the Ivory Coast (-2) dooms the Ivory Coast to third with near certainty.  Unless Brazil win by a couple, and the Ivory Coast put seven or eight in against North Korea.  An unlikely proposition.

Group H

Prediction: 1. Spain, 2. Chile, 3. Switzerland, 4. Honduras.

Situation: 1. Chile 6, 2. Spain 3, 3. Switzerland 3 , 4. Honduras 0.

Final matches: Friday, 19:30 BST.

The Switzerland victory over Spain threw a spanner into the works of this group.  Chile are through, but (UPDATE: as per the first comment below, there is a scenario, not improbable, where Chile don’t get through) face Spain in their final match.  All that separates Spain from Switzerland is a single goal on goal differential.  Again, this will provide for an engaging set of matches.

All said, I haven’t done terribly bad.  I horribly overrated both France and Serbia, and have slightly overrated Italy and England.  I predicted England 2-1 over USA, which was ever so slightly off, and predicted USA 2-1 over Algeria.  I knew we would beat Algeria, if I began to seriously doubt that around the 80th minute of yesterday’s match.

At least I seem to have nailed the North Korea position.

I fly to the USA on the 28th, which means I’ll miss a couple of the first knockout matches, but I’ll be able to watch USA v Ghana from home on Saturday (with my daughter no less).  If the USA make it past Ghana, and I think we will, I’ll be able to watch a USMNT quarter final match in the USA, which will be a pleasant change.  The next match would be against the winner of Uruguay and South Korea . . . and an English friend of mine here sent me an email this morning predicting that the USA make the semi finals.  He thinks we’ll get past both Ghana and Uruguay.

Me, I’m happy getting out of the group.  Not getting out of the group would have been a major disappointment.  Finishing top means we avoid Germany (for the time being), which does help our cause for progression.

Landon Donovan: A Musical Tribute

[ 7 ] June 23, 2010 |

Soccer!

Who Knew that Portugal Felt So Strongly About the Cheonan?

[ 7 ] June 21, 2010 |

Wow. And of course Ivory Coast now has strong incentive to try to beat the DPRK just as badly. While I suspect that concerns about the DPRK team suffering retribution upon its return are a touch overblown, I do sincerely hope that all of the players will be alright…

Morbidly Comic Soccer Nationalism at Fever Pitch

[ 8 ] June 12, 2010 |

This video was shot by an LGM field correspondent at the US-Czech Republic warm-up match in Hartford on the 25th. Unfortunately these members of the American Outlaws were too drunk to muster a sentence when the Daily Show’s John Oliver showed up to interview them, so the scene that followed did not make it into Oliver’s premiere World Cup coverage. (According to our source, another problem was that the crowd around Oliver’s film crew could not keep from laughing no matter how sternly Oliver instructed them ‘whatever you do don’t laugh or we can’t use the clip.’) Because rabid, violent, sports nationalism is just so insufferably funny.

Ilya Somin at Volokh Conspiracy has a few more points on the relationship between soccer and nationalism, and he mentions Simon Kuper’s book Soccer Against the Enemy: How the World’s Most Popular Sports Starts and Fuels Revolutions and Keeps Dictators in Power. However, in a humorous twist, Somin sounds surprisingly nationalistic himself in describing the jingoism associated with soccer as a foreign or international phenomena, vis a vis the more civilized American pro-sports scene.

UPDATE: As I posted this, my eight-year-old stated ponderously while watching the Argentina-Nigeria FIFA game: “You know, soccer is good for world peace. Instead of wars, just put the country’s teams against each other.” Hmm…

LGM World Cup Reminder

[ 5 ] June 10, 2010 |

The World Cup kicks off with Mexico-South Africa tomorrow morning, giving you precious few hours to register and/or update your LGM World Cup Challenge entry.

League Name: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon

World Cup Challenge

[ 6 ] June 2, 2010 |

I have created an LGM World Cup Challenge group at ESPN:

Group Name: Lawyers, Guns and Money

Password: zevon

Deadline is June 11.

Speaking of pointless competition, here are the current LGM Baseball Challenge Standings:

RNK ENTRY, OWNER 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 SEGMENT TOTAL PCT
1 Feces Flingers, B. Drunk 366 99 0 0 0 0 0 2801 2801 98.4
2 free leonard, M. Ricci 357 98 0 0 0 0 0 2787 2787 98.2
3 kolmogorov-smirnov, W. Krummenacher 203 95 0 0 0 0 0 2738 2738 97.1
4 C. Quentin’s Unicorn, A. Katz 301 127 0 0 0 0 0 2722 2722 96.7
5 HeadlessThompson Gunner, S. Hickey 302 90 0 0 0 0 0 2711 2711 96.4
6 Dwarf Mammoths, T. Mohr 233 127 0 0 0 0 0 2700 2700 96.1
7 Ambulance Chasers, J. Shurberg 326 67 0 0 0 0 0 2672 2672 95.3
8 Bangers and M*A*S*H, N. Beaudrot 337 91 0 0 0 0 0 2644 2644 94.3
9 Signal/Noise, B. Petti 252 92 0 0 0 0 0 2619 2619 93.3
10 Better Arms on Chairs, B. Mizelle 337 124 0 0 0 0 0 2610 2610 93.0

NAC Breda 0 – 2 FC Twente

[ 2 ] May 2, 2010 |

FC Twente Enschede win the Dutch Eredivisie.  Why does this matter, the uninformed might ask?

1. Twente have never won the Dutch league (at least in their current form, or in “modern times”).  They nipped Ajax Amsterdam (whom one or two around LGM might have heard of) by a single point on the final table.

2. Before the University of Plymouth saw fit to pay me money to do my hobby, I worked for three years at Universiteit Twente, in Enschede.  U Twente is literally across the street (and train tracks) from what was then known as Arke Stadion, and now goes by De Grolsch Veste (Grolsch is brewed in Enschede).  When I lived in the west (first Amsterdam, then later Rotterdam), I would take the train into the Enschede Drienerlo station, which is in the shadow of the stadium.

3. OK, enough about me.  Steve McClaren is the manager.  The same McClaren who failed miserably as England manager, in the post-Sven, pre-Capello months, and became something of a national joke.  He is now something of a hero in Enschede and Twente more generally.

Words I never thought I’d hear in my life time in this precise order: “There’s Only One Steve McClaren . . . “

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