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Archive for the 'World Cup' Category

World Cup 2010 Checkdowns: Nike Commercial Curse?

Posted by Neil Paine on June 22, 2010

Like most people who reviewed Nike's 2010 World Cup "Write the Future" campaign, I really adore the full-length version of the TV spot:

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, it's a fun, thrilling piece of visual and conceptual art. There's just one problem, though, according to Asher Klein at the NYT's Goal Blog:

3 Comments | Posted in Checkdowns, Voodoo and witchcraft, World Cup

World Cup 2010: Offensive Team versus Defensive Team showdowns

Posted by Jason Lisk on June 21, 2010

The United States will be playing Algeria on Wednesday in a must win situation to advance in the World Cup. Both of these teams have, of course, played the same two opponents in the group phase, but have vastly different goal records. The United States has been leaky defensively, particularly early in games, conceding three goals, while it has shown the ability to attack. Algeria, on the other hand, has played well defensively, only giving up a late goal against Slovenia while frustrating England, but showed very little offensively and has yet to score a goal. I was interested in finding some comparable matchups to see what happens when two apparently similar opponents meet in the final group match, but one has been offensive and the other defensive.

Here's what I did to find comparable matchups. I looked at every group game from 1986 to 2006 where the teams meeting in the final game of the group:

1) were within +/-2 of each other in overall goal differential;
2) both had a goal differential between -3 and +3 through the first two games;
3) one team had scored more goals and given up more goals than the other; and
4) the amount either scored or given up was greater than 1 goal in at least one of the two categories.

For example, if two teams had respective goal differentials of 2-2 and 1-1, they would not meet the fourth criteria, while 3-2 (or 2-3) versus 1-1 would. This generated a list of fifteen matchups over this period that fit all the criteria and provide a pretty good list of comparable matchups. Here they are:

2006 south korea 3 2 4 switzerland 2 0 4 0 2
2006 australia 3 3 3 croatia 0 1 1 2 2
2002 portugal 6 3 3 south korea 3 1 4 0 1
2002 denmark 3 2 4 france 0 1 1 2 0
2002 sweden 3 2 4 argentina 1 1 3 1 1
2002 belgium 3 3 2 russia 2 1 3 3 2
2002 paraguay 3 5 1 slovenia 1 4 0 3 1
1998 nigeria 4 2 6 paraguay 0 0 2 1 3
1998 england 3 2 3 colombia 1 1 3 2 0
1998 spain 2 3 1 bulgaria 0 1 1 6 1
1994 saudi arabia 3 3 3 belgium 2 0 6 1 0
1994 spain 3 3 2 bolivia 0 1 1 3 1
1994 romania 4 5 3 united states 3 2 4 1 0
1990 sweden 2 4 0 costa rica 1 1 3 1 2
1986 belgium 3 3 4 paraguay 2 1 3 2 2

The positive news for the USA is that the "offensive" teams won 8, lost 4, and drew 3 in the final matchup of group play against the "defensive" teams, with a collective goal differential in that third matchup of 28 goals for, 18 goals against. Further, of the four losses, one was by Nigeria in 1998 to Paraguay, and Nigeria had already clinched first in the group before that match and rested starters, so it is arguably not a good comparison because the offensive team had nothing to play for. The four defensive teams on this list that, like Algeria, came in with one point as a result of 0 goals for and 1 goal against went a combined 0-3-1 in the third game.

4 Comments | Posted in World Cup

World Cup 2010: Home Region Advantage

Posted by Jason Lisk on June 8, 2010

Since we don't have a futbol-reference blog, and with the World Cup starting in two days, I thought I would throw in some World Cup thoughts. I have done a fair amount of research on home field advantage in the NFL, particularly as it relates to climate and road team familiarity. I was interested in the data for the World Cup, particularly since this year will be played in Africa for the first time. As the World Cup is played only every four years, and only 32 countries even play in the Finals (only 16 as recently as 1978), there is not a whole lot of data out there. Still, the data that does exist suggests that countries playing in their home region enjoy a significant boost in the tournament.

Here is a summary of the performance of European countries versus non-European countries in all World Cups played since World War II, sorted by year, with the host country and continent listed. (Note: for knockout rounds, wins in extra time are counted as wins, while matches that went to a penalty kick shootout are counted as ties)

Year Host Continent W D L Win Pct
2006 Germany Europe 22 7 5 0.750
2002 Japan/S.Korea Asia 18 10 16 0.523
1998 France Europe 20 13 6 0.679
1994 United States N.America 15 6 9 0.600
1990 Italy Europe 15 7 6 0.661
1986 Mexico N.America 9 9 10 0.482
1982 Spain Europe 14 6 4 0.708
1978 Argentina S.America 6 5 8 0.447
1974 W.Germany Europe 13 6 1 0.800
1970 Mexico N.America 7 5 7 0.500
1966 England Europe 9 3 5 0.618
1962 Chile S.America 6 3 9 0.417
1958 Sweden Europe 5 3 7 0.433
1954 Switzerland Europe 7 1 3 0.682
1950 Brazil S.America 6 3 5 0.536

European teams have won 68.1% (with draws counting as half wins) of their matches in World Cups played in Europe, but only 50.9% of matches in World Cups played on other continents. A World Cup was last played in the Southern Hemisphere in 1978, and European teams have a losing record in World Cups in South America (46.1%). In contrast, South American teams have won only 51.7% of their games played in Europe, compared to 66.3% in the three South American World Cups and 64.2% in other World Cups, primarily also played in the Western Hemisphere.

Of course, this World Cup is not played in either Europe or one of the traditional sites in North and South America. Eight years ago, when the tournament was played for the first time in Asia, we saw plenty of upsets. The tournament in South Africa raises more questions than there are answers when it comes to assessing who has the venue advantage, such as:

Will South American teams have any advantage because of the tournament being played in the Southern hemisphere, or will this be negated by time zone adjustments?

Will the European teams have less of a disadvantage than other non-European World Cups because of time zone similarities with South Africa, even though the seasons are opposite?

How much advantage will the five other African countries have, since none of them is contiguous to South Africa? Algeria is in the northern hemisphere and the other four are in the West Central Region, with the closest, Cameroon, still over 2,000 miles away from South Africa.

I don't know the answers to those questions, but generally, uncertainty favors the underdog and makes things a little more wild, so the one thing I am predicting is that you should go ahead and expect the unexpected this June.

15 Comments | Posted in World Cup