Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Iberian Peninsula, Motherland

What do we have now? Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay? 50% of the final 8 are South American teams. Shall I say birthed from the Iberian Peninsula? I should shall not say that, but thus doest thou I did. Spain has made it through to this stage. Largely known for reshaping central and southern Americas. Outside of them we have Ghana, Germany and the other team that shall remain nameless.

Of the four South American teams Uruguay has the best chance of getting through to the final four teams in this here WC 2010. Is it possible that all four make it? Of course it is. And that would be amazing. But of the four I'm only pulling for two.

Paraguay. Little Paraguay. A nation that has lost it's borders and has had it's history virtually erased by Argentina, Bolivia and the evil empire know as Brazil. Brazil, who in a border war invaded Paraguay's archives and took everything only to seal it up in secrecy. In a sense erasing any history of it's people. Now, I'm no expert on South American history, but I do know that trying to wipe out a peoples history is probably one of the down right meanest things I've ever read.

I'm throwing out all the WC history stuff here now. That stuff tells me it should be a Brazil v. Germany or Argentina final.

Go every one else. Go, go, go!

Brazil is evil. Germany and Argentina have enough WC titles. As it stands now there is a chance that we will have a new, I say NEW, WC champion outside of them.

Later this week all but one of those former champs can be outed. Pull for the other guys!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Weekend to Remember

Getting it out of my system and summing up the weekend here it is hard to look past what might have been.

- What might have been if US Coach Bradley could prepare his team to NOT allow a goal early? This happened thrice in four games. Alexi Lalas went a little overboard in his comments today chastising the coach, but I'm agreeing with him. I'm not a soccer expert by any means, but what happened to the US this year in regards to early goals falls towards the coach. The US did an excellent job winning the group and set themselves up for a magical run against teams on their side of the bracket they could beat.

- Mexico. Mexico. Unfortunate offsides call near the start of the game that worked against them. They started strong but unraveled a little after that call. Argentina was the better side, but it snuffed out any hope of a magical game for Mexico.

- England. What might have been? Perhaps a closer game in the second half. Germany is better then the England that played through the group stage. But England seemed to wake up going two goals down. It showed me enough to tell me that England does have a good team, just really flat this year. Waking up is something they should have done after the 1-1 draw against the US. After the bad call I hoped that it wouldn't effect them coming out of the second half, but it did and Germany took full advantage. The English comments after the game proved that it changed their mentality.


"For an American soccer fan it always seems as if we're getting screwed somehow. Partly, that's fan perception. We tend to see things in the light most favorable to our teams interests. But is there some legitimacy to anti-Americanism in soccer?

I think so."

I read that earlier today. Clay Travis over at Fanhouse wrote that. Every four years it seems the same teams get screwed. It is a common (and growing) sentiment around this part of the world but has existed in the British Isles for a long time. It is frustrating, but it has been going on for as long as the WC has been played.

Anyway, as to the comment in quotes up there... There was just one comment response to it. From a Briton named Mick:

"welcome to the club USA"

Finally, about FIFA. They are and always have been, trying the impossible. That is to Unite a sport under one global federation. It is part of their mission to keep things simple. FIFA also thinks they have a strong social responsibility above and beyond soccer. Fair play is important, but their social agenda (which is admirable), trumps everything they do. Replay may be inevitable in some leagues and tournaments but it may never make it to other part of the world. The solution is not replay. Just more eyes on the action.


All that bitterness is out of my system now though. Plenty of games yet to play and plenty of magic yet left to happen.

Netherlands and Slovakia and Brazil v. Chile. No need to jump into historical stats here. Both these games have clear favorite. That said... Perhaps we'll see some magic from Chile?

Good Constitution

Indeed. A couple historic happenings this morning between England and Germany. First; Germany keeps it's unbelievable streak of making it past the round of 16 alive. Second; England's worse loss in WC history. There may have been another goal in there that England deserved, well, not may; did. It matters little now, except only I have to endure a couple more weeks of complaining on ESPN. FIFA sucks. I've known this since I was very little when an old friend told me just that some twenty years ago. ESPN needs to accept this fact and move on.

Germany has a very strong mental constitution. For the WC; England is searching and has been since probably 1990. A blowout loss like this may be just what the doctor ordered. But I am rambling on about things I know little about. Just a little frustrated.

Next up is Argentina v. Mexico. On paper it appears that Argentina should win this with little difficulty. Their average "goals for" nearly identically matches how many Mexico traditonally allows (1.74 GF against MEX 1.87 allowed). So far, in the WC that has spelled disaster for teams.

For Mexico to win it will take uncommon, superhero like defense. A win by them here would indeed be historic. Again, I will say I am pulling for them, but it hard to say it is possible. Especially since Argentina has looked strong this year.

No predictions for this game, just as I did not make any for the England / Germany game because I have a team I'm really pulling for. But, hell- how bout I just go 5-0 Mexico because it feels nice to say.

As for the final note on the disallowed goal? England got the call 44 years ago against Germany, so... whatever.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

US Bows Out


Both goals scored against the US were similar. The US was caught sleeping. Altidore was hibernating and Bradley Jr can't control the midfield. I warned them about Ghana's defense. Anyway, I'll leave the game analysis to the pros.

Good showing by the US this year.

Ian Darke and our buddy Harkes did a pretty good job. Harkes actually contributed a bit and Darke must have noticed this because he asked "Who has been writing your script?" after Harkes went rambling on about burst pipes or something to that effect. Later, right after half though, Harkes returned to form by making comments about the reason 11 colors are on the ball and asked Darke (like he had knowledge about something Darke did not) "11 colors represent the 11 languages in Africa, did you know that?" ugh. Darke responded by sarcastically stating that his comment was very nice, as if to pat him on the head. Ian must have thought Harkes was wondering off again and quickly said that even though that was interesting they had much more interesting things to say about the game going on.

Comment of the match though was Darke asking Harkes shortly before half; "How are your nerves?"

After a long pause (where, frankly, I braced myself for anything) Harkes said; "Good to go."

Today is the Day

The US has a great chance to advance past the Round of 16 this year. Had things been a little bit different they would be playing Germany today. But you know what? I like their chances if they had to do that too. I don't know why, just do.

As it is they face Ghana. A team having some trouble scoring goals, unlike the US who is doing a pretty darned good job at scoring great goals at amazing times, but not enough to them them off the average of slightly over one goal per game they have historically at WC events. So what's this game going to look like... Historically Ghana actually has a pretty stout defense, even in this WC. Goals against per game is less then one (0.86). The US (even with updated stats, including this year) is still floating dangerously close to 2 goals allowed per game (1.93). This year they have only allowed an average of one per game through 3.

I think that Ghana will play it tight, but test the US defense more then they have other teams this WC. The US needs to be careful with that. A goal may be all Ghana needs. I think the US will really be paying attention to how Ghana starts the match. If Ghana gets aggressive early with the thinking of scoring an early goal then settling back then the US needs to strike at that time.

Ghana plays a very tight game, with statistics very similar to a team like England. The US has a scary variability factor in terms of goals for and against.

Most of the things I'm reading have Ghana edging out the US. Their reasoning seems to be inline with what I have here (or, I should say; mine seems to be in line with theirs). A game can go anyway. This one?

Likely Scenarios:
- Ghana 1-0
- US 2-1 (Ghana gets caught chasing)
- Ends in PKs - Ghana Win (I say that because I can't find where the US has ever had to finish a game with PKs in the WC, not a lot of chances there)

Unlikely Scenarios:
- Ghana wins or looses by more then 2 goals
- US scores more then 3 or more goals (I don't think they will need that many)

The US has shown so much heart this year and it is easy to think that anything is possible after their last two games. I like the 2-1 win for the USA. The US catching Ghana on a counterattack.

I hope that is it.

HERE is a link to a Sports Illustrated from 1994. Check it out.

Friday, June 25, 2010

England and I

"One morning I woke up and put on my overcoat and noticed bullet holes in it." - Cynthia Baker. My grandmother.

She has never spoken much about growing up in England during WWII. Nor has she said much of anything about her time with the Royal Air Force during that time. On those late nights when I turn on the History Channel and see a documentary on WWII, I know that when I ever see ladies during that time pushing around miniature planes on a miniature map that show the location of English and German aircraft that my grandmother is in there somewhere. It's what she did. In fact, now that I think about it I can recall something else she side once many moons ago when I went over there with her; "I had communication with the pilots in the air, I would hear all their screams and last words as they were shot down, plunging to the sea."

And... That. Is a full stop.

I probably heard more, but I cannot remember. My grandfather, an American soldier, some 13 years her senior, was stationed in her home. She ended up marrying him and together had my mother who was born in Kettering, Northamptonshire, England. Shortly after the war my grandfather (whom, I never met) moved to Washington, DC. He worked as an editor with the evening post earing a living with his new wife and my mother.

How great would it be to still have an evening post in DC. I can imagine Smitty and McCracken relaxing after work reading the evening post with a pipe in one hand and a cold beer in another.


England plays Germany this Sunday. Players and fans are very far removed from that time so long ago. Much has changed since then and too be honest; I find myself pulling for the German side most of the time these days. I don't know why. My grandmother would probably disown me if she heard that. I'm so distant from my grandmothers time, yet I realize she is living history of that event. I am but a distant Anglophile - at this point asking... this infernal thing only comes around every four years... why does it have to be Germany?

But it is.

So here I sit. Waiting for what will come on Sunday. A win or loss against Germany won't mean anything to right or wrong events over three generations ago. Today, even to English fans, is not much more then a heated rivalry. Maybe that's the way it should be. Just a match. But I have to say in some honesty. It is just a little bit more.

An unknown Englishman once said; "Football is just a game where 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes. But in the end?"

"Germany wins."

As I sit here drinking a Beck's pondering England's chances and the reality that wondering into English family history is a dangerous combo with said beverage, I can't help but thinking; Maybe England can get one this time. Not to justify some deep seated dislike towards the Mannschaft... but just to hope that England can get one win against whomever it may be and move on.

Prediction? Heh heh. Germany... on penalty kicks.

And life goes on.

No worries nana. You got them in 1966. They are all Turks and Poles now anyway:)

Let us also not forget this fact that I have verified with all my WC data collecting: In the seven World Cup Finals England have played in since 1966 they have never gone out by more than a single goal.

Impressive above and beyond the world of sport. Such a tiny little island that has gone on to do so many great things. Pride to the end over here.


I probably just jinxed them. Or double jinxed them into a blowout loss. Oh no! Matt! what have I done!


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I Will Say This

I heard that everyone should sit quietly while the adults play on Sunday morning.

England v. Germany.

Don't know about that, but I do know that it doesn't get much bigger then this.

England and FMEA

Failure Mode and Effects Analysis.

Seems to be England's way. FMEA, in manufacturing, is a tool used that looks a what could go wrong and how to prevent it. It is a close cousin to what the Japanese call "poka yoke" (mistake proofing). You ever pulled a diesel gas pump by accident and tried to fill up your tank with gas? It didn't fit because the barrel on the diesel pump was too large to fit into your tank... poka yoke. It prevents you from filling it. Open your washing machine during cycle and it turns off? poka yoke. Ideas that are a result of FMEA.

England soccer; it seems to be a result of FMEA. With the tool you dig deep into each thing that could cause failure and affix a score to it. A fishbone is useful in determining way an input (x) may be to an output (y). In England's case it is not advancing out of the Group Stage. One X (input) is having more goals scored on you. England has ranked this highest using three things. Severity, Occurrence and Detection. On a 1 (low) to 10 (high) scale. They have determined that each gets a 10.

Severity = 10.
Because if you have more goals scored on you... you lose.

Occurrence = 10.
You don't want it to happen often.

Detection = 10.
Well, you can detect when this happens. The other team goes nuts. But you just don't know exactly when or who is going to do it.

Since you are only using 3 categories you use a multiplier instead of adding them up. It separates the scores more. In the case of this particular X it goes 10x10x10 = 1000. Highest you can get. So what should England do? Reduce each score.

Severity: Prevent goal scoring with strong leadership in the back.

Occurrence: Use players in the back that don't make mistakes. Consistency reduces the occurrence of goals against.

Detection: Determine when and how a goal may be scored by the opposition. In the group stage this is an art form. By reducing occurrence you greatly increase the ability to detect what the other team will try to do.

Nice work on the FMEA in the Group Stage this WC England. Veeeerrrry exciting. How about working on all aspects of DMAIC and win this damned thing.

United States of America Soccer

It's a win!!!!!!

And Landon Donovan has made this one something to remember.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

South Africa OUT

Pretty amazing news to me but perhaps not to folks that follow soccer more then I. It's just that no team hosting has ever missed making it out of the group stage. Amazing indeed. All African nations are struggling to make it out. Not sure what else to say about it.

On England I will let Georgina Turner (whom, I know is only keeping ME informed on play by play at SI.com) take over:

"England faces the slightly tougher task of beating Slovenia to guarantee its survival -- Slovenia will keep things tight, knowing that a draw will do, and will be reasonably confident of keeping the uninspired English at bay. But England hasn't failed to qualify for the knockout phase since 1958, and hasn't lost a third and final group game since 1950: the onus is certainly on Fabio Capello and his men to turn their form around, and fast."

England is in a very tight spot. The thing that Georgina fails to mention is that England did not qualify three times since 1958. So, in a sense, that's not making it out of the group stage.

England... has every right to feel superior. The press has every right to get on them. In their recored history the have a positive goal differential against everyone except Brazil and... and! Uruguay? That's a lot of history. Not just WC history. It is ALL history. 886 games to be exact. They have only played Uruguay 10 times though, in manufacturing you need twenty points of data. Brazil they have played enough times to say that they have their number. Even still, remarkable. Perhaps more then any other football team in the world. Especially when every other team wants to take you down. It's beyond impressive. Imagine if, say, the Redskins had a winning record against everyone in the NFL. It's something that has to sort of soak in for a while it's so remarkable.

So... England, tomorrow. A tie? plausible. Very much so, in fact. But a loss is unlikely. AAAAAHHHHHH! I just jinxed them from winning. Or was it that I jinx the tie.

Very well. Just win England.


Dives happen. FIFA knows it. They count on the one poor ref to make a critical call (with the help of side judges and their sometimes ignored flag up(!)).

I said flag up!!! Okay, forget it.

It's a lot to ask one ref covering such a large field of play to catch everything 22 players might be doing. American's popping up once every four years to care about soccer get pissed off. It's such a strange thing to see players diving to get a foul. We see it in HD, why can't the refs see it? Answer is; just one guy. It's more on FIFA to make changes. The iron grip of FIFA. Truth is for FIFA is that this stuff IS in high definition now with the capability of every angle possible and Americans are watching. Americans want puritan fair play. If something hurts... it hurts. If it doesn't, get up and get going. Yeah, there is gamesmanship in basketball (charges), some in football (everything at the line of scrimmage and off the ball), even baseball (corked bats, um... steroids). But, it is frowned upon. Americans want fair play. Replays, umpire discussions, bball refs watching a screen courtside.

Some other countries don't have this feeling. They will take advantage if it can be gotten away with. My father once told me a story of when I was a boy about an engine building technical competition in Japan. On the first day the Americans and Germans were in front. Japan... a distant last. The next few days saw the Americans and Germans doing well. All the sudden towards the end of the competition Japan took the first spot after being in last the whole week. My father asked them how that happened. Their answer? They filmed the other teams with cameras in the ceiling and studied it all week.

My father never said whether he penalized them, but it wasn't about that. It was more about the Japan's feelings towards fairness. The didn't feel it was unfair to film then copy and do better. The feeling was "Why not?, the point is to win".

Italy has names for the way the play the game with all the flopping around. It has served them well, I suppose. Teams like Brazil and Portugal also seem to do it. It's not seen as cheating. It's gamesmanship.

To me. It's awful and embarrassing. While I do not see other countries changing the way they play - even if it looks ridiculous in HD or played a million times on youtube. It is the way it is until FIFA changes how many refs they have on the field.

I'm not an advocate for instant replay. I despise it in any sport. But I am an advocate for soccer to put refs on the goal lines and allow discussions between the officiating group.

That said, they would have to be able to communicate well. And that would require a common language to be spoken between officials. Anyway, it is a tall task for the FIFA organization, which has a tall task anyway of bringing together the entire world to play a tournament. So, I'll cut them some slack for that fact.

Anywho, I do think diving will slow down as time progresses on. Constant replays in glorious HD will clear some of that up. I can only imagine how bad it was 30-40 years ago for a puritan team to play a Brazil squad. Is this why Brazil has won so many?
The more important question that could become in the next WC.

What happens when you take away that Italian dive against New Zealand?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ian Darke and Efan Ekoku

My favorite commentators thus far. Ian Darke and Ally McCoist also did a great job this morning handling the Italy v. New Zealand game. Ian Darke's builds are fantastic (maybe a little sensationalist) which most likely comes from his background in calling boxing matches. Always a good call whether it is he and McCoist or Ekoku.

On the other hand Adrian Healey and John Harkes this morning were painful to listen to. Harkes is actually getting to the point where I actually may be worried about his future in regards to working in broadcasting (combined with other recent stories about himself and Eric Wynalda). Healey did make a mistake today confusing Slovakia with Slovenia, but that is minor compared to finishing a wondering stream of consciousness (my man Harkes was fully participating) all the way through a Paraguay goal.

Along with Lalas and Wynalda - Harkes is a player that was larger then life when I was younger. But as I watch more and more of this WC I am realizing that one of the reasons the game can't get off the ground in the US isn't so much soccer itself. It has to do with it's homegrown voices. No info on players, or other leagues, no unscripted insight, flat play calling (or none at all for large swaths of time), and constantly bringing up one touchstone - like the disallowed US goal. As soon as Healey mentioned that this morning Harkes burst in like a mad man, taking over the commentating for a good 2 minutes. It sounded more like a whine. And on top of that annoying whine he has seemed to have developed a strange faux English accent. He's from Jersey.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Altitude and the 2010 World Cup

Written (and continuing to be) by Ross Tucker, PhD over at The Science of Sport. It's an excellent look at altitude and its effects on athletes (and the ball). He mentions FIFA asking everyone not to talk about it. Interesting, but not the most interesting thing in his article. Check it out.

Keeper Cowering

I hope this goal is remembered as one that helps shape the future character of US soccer.

Vikings will be Celebrating Tonight!

What a great game between Denmark and Cameroon and wonderful commentating from the crew. Ian Darke, my favorite so far.

Cameroon is the first team in the tournament to be sent home.

New Australia Fan

I am. The game against Ghana has been the best match I've seen so far. Maybe not technically, but just exciting. Australia and Ghana were all heart in this game.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Figuring Group C

Right now:

Pts : Team : Goals Scored
4 : Slovenia : 2
2 : US : 3
2 : England : 1
1 : Algeria : 0

June 23rd is the next go round for this group. All teams still have a chance, which is cool. Algeria's chances are slimmer then the others. They have to beat the US and have England tie or loose. I guess, in looking at this, that's the way it pretty much is for all of the teams, except for Slovenia. A tie or win will get them thru.

Very confusing. Well, not really. Looking at it the way I had it planned out... England must win in a shut out and Algeria has to win big against the US. Plausible. But I don't want that. The US showed so much heart coming back... twice. Once after the vortex that was the England v US game (see; England playing flat) and twice... digging deep in the second half against Slovenia.

I disliked the effort by the US in the first half. I'm not sure they expect shots from outside the box? or fast runs? I know the England game took a lot out, but effort needs to be there. I'm already mad enough at England.

Anywho. Just win England and America. No qualifying statements for you two.

Yet another note on England. They are getting hammered in the UK press. That is to say, the UK press means something. Let's ask the Yankees about pressure. Zing! They need to step up, but I realize the grueling league season must wear on them, as it does Germany and Spain. It may be a different game if this tournament were to be played later in the summer (or winter). Hell, just a few more weeks off for these guys would go a long way.

The best moment in Ravshan Irmatov's Life

England looked very uninspired today. I've seen a bunch of Premiership games, they are fast. Up and down. It looked like 11 guys loafing around. England was on cruise control most of the game and Algeria even looked good till they sort of ran out of gas.

On a side note, Donovan's goal today right at the head of the keeper was the best goal of the WC so far.

Stop your loafing.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


The ever competitive team. Mexico beats France and looks to advance in their group.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

France v Mexico... Critical

Critical indeed. I'm pulling for all teams in this hemisphere. But how does Mexico stack up against France within the bubble of the World Cup? Not as good. Goals for are close with France having the advantage: 1.86 to 1.63. Close. But France has the goals against advantage and in this years WC that seems to be the difference maker. Mexico tends to allow too many. I'll add on top of that, this: Mexico let one get by against what is turning out to be a weak team in South Africa. But you have to give them a pass there... South Africa is hosting. France showed nothing against Uruguay (who looks good). Should be a great game.

One thing Mexico has is "the passion". I hope they pull this one off. But I think it will ultimately be France that wins this match outright.

Now wait a minute... What does English soccer fans have to do with any of this? heh heh. Found a pic!

Host Nation Trouble

My predicted Group A:

France: Winner
South Africa: Runner Up

South Africa's chances took a huge hit today by loosing to Uruguay 3-0. Uruguay is now out in front of the Group with 4 pts and +3 in the goal category. Mexico has a huge chance now to beat France and take control of the Group with Uruguay. Make no mistake. A very big game tomorrow between the two. A win by either would all but eliminate South Africa.

Why is that a big deal? Well... A host nation has never (I repeat, NEVER) been left behind in the Group Stage. A 0-0 draw tomorrow between Mexico and France is the best our hosts can hope for.

On top of the host nation making it out of the GS 100% of the time, it has actually won the thing 1/3 of the time.

Year:Host Nation:Finish
1962:Chile:Third place
1974:West Germany:Champions
1982:Spain:Round 2
1990:Italy:Third place
1994:United States:Round 2
2002:Korea Republic:Fourth place
2002:Japan:Round 2
2006:Germany:Third place
2010:South Africa:????

Even the unprecedented co-hosting of the WC resulted in both teams making it out of the GS. While South Africa's chance to make it still exists, they are now slim. They need that scoreless tie tomorrow and a huge win against France on June 22nd with a mess of goals.

Go Uruguay!!!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

3 Coins in a Fountain.

My third year anniversary of writing here happened on June 10th. I set out on this journey with the intention of one day publishing this to book form (printed ink). When I started out there was about one place that had a service for blogs to be printed. Now there are several, but the best is still Blurb.

I got the idea from a simple picture book my great aunt Mona Omie did in 1931 for a brief time when she was in school to be a nurse. A simple thing she did for a brief time, but means so much to me now.


That link is for if the internets still exist in the year 2110.

It's always in the back of my mind to have this stuff printed so that one day, a hundred years from now, a Johnson from some relation or another could pull up as an insight to me or the time or a better understanding of themselves.

Happy Anniversary Helltown. Nice work. Your mission; a release valve to hardworking day doing whatever, wherever - is holding strong.

Three coins in a fountain
Each one seeking happiness...

Fired Up, but Focused

The WC is cruising along and I'm missing it (pesky work thing!). But we (me) here at Helltown just needs the numbers, baby. At least I keep telling myself that.

North Korea v. Brazil.

On the surface? A crazy result. But dig below that first level and you'll see it is not. You could say; "Brazil has won 64 games in the WC and North Korea just 1". You could say; "Brazil - 201 goals scored... N. Korea - 5". But wait! It's what happens on the field when you are there is what matters! N. Korea averages 1.25 goals in those few games... Brazil 2.18. Brazil allows .91 goals a game... N. Korea: 2.25. Final score was Brazil 2 / N. Korea 1. History was in control here.

Hindsight is 20/20 though. It's easy for me to state that after the fact. I've already missed the Algeria v Slovenia result (which will haunt me).

Cote d'lvoire v Portugal was a semi surprising result, but again their combined goals for was even (1.7 goals per for both), but that doesn't cancel out. The Ivory Coast allows a couple goals per game verse Portugal's stingy 1.11. The Ivory Coast defense did something unexpected and special. That said, goal scoring is a little down this year for what ever reason. At least early on.

So what about tomorrow? Shall I step out onto a limb and predict because I'm acting like a know it all? Wait... what's that I hear???

Honduraaaaaasssssss!!!! v Chile.

What's the line. First up. Low scoring. Chile averages 1.24 goals a game verses .67 for Honduraaaassss! Same story on goals against. Chile allows 1.6 (about the WC median) v. 1.0 for Honduraaaaasssss! So... bottom line. Both struggle with scoring a bit and Honduraaaaassss! can't make up enough in offense. If it isn't a nil nil tie it will be 1-0 one way or another. The chances of one team scoring two are slim, however, I will qualify with the relative inexperience of Honduraaaaasssss!

What I am saying is that it is highly unlikely that Honduras will score more then one goal. If they do? I'll declare a national Honduras day here in Columbus.

Okay. Honduras has never won a WC game, but they are due... I know it. I just do. My heart tells me so.

Would I like either Honduras or Chile playing a European team in their first game? Yes. I'm pulling for both of them as I am Uruguay and Paraguay. Little Paraguay. I'm pulling for them all.

Oopsy daisy

Dear People out there in the world,

Please know the difference between North and South Korea.



Sigh. Communism / Republic. That "war" thing a ways back. Hey, they both start with K.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Photos to Prove It

Germany dominated in their opening group game and it was a joy to hear Martin and Ally call the game.

Germany seems to do very well in opening games but to jump all over the Socceroos was a bit unusual. The Germans average over 2 goals a game but the Australians only give up a point and a half, slightly better then all WC participants. Opener only... yes. But the question is this... is Germany this good or is Australia that bad?

Will Vuvuzela Make it out of the Group Stage?

I thought the issues were resolved but the Vuvuzela has just made news again with the World Cup Organizing Chief stating on the topic of should the Vuvuzela be banned:

"If there are grounds to do so, yes.

"We have heard from the broadcasters and other individuals and it is something we are evaluating on an ongoing basis."

He continued: "We have tried to get some order with it. We have asked for no vuvuzelas during national anthems or anyone is making an announcement. I know it is a difficult question but we are trying to manage it as best we can.

"This matter has been raised on many occasions and my personal view is that I would prefer singing. It has always been a great generator of a wonderful atmosphere in the stadiums and we will try to encourage them to sing because that is the strength.

"In the days of the struggle, we were singing - we did not blow anything, we were marching and singing.

"All through our history it is our ability to sing which really inspires and draws the emotions.

"It is a huge debate and it will continue, but we did say that if one lands on the pitch in anger then we will not think twice and take action."

I respect that he is trying to put the feelings of the fans over his own even while he does not prefer them. I also like that they have asked them not to be blown during the national anthems. I disliked the first couple games yesterday where those things were drowning out the anthems. I have gotten use to the ever present racket at this point.

Mr. Jordaan's comments are interesting because I thought the topic was decided. The reason I am bringing it up here a 2nd time is due to the fact that it has created a unique TV viewing experience and is something that will probably be remembered from this years WC. A a so called future "touch stone topic" that will be brought up again and again in years to come by our friends at ESPN. So look for each time the 2010 WC is mentioned... the Vuvuzela will be as well. ESPN just can't help themselves.

Touch Stone Topic Example: "Tim Howard is one of the best keepers in the World, just so happens he plays for the United States." - Alexi Lalas. Over and Over.

Example 2: Lalas dismissing every team in America's group. How about we prove that we can beat a nation of 2 million before stating that.

Stay strong Alexi. Stay Strong.

Slovenia: History Made!

19 nations of the 74 (total teams ever qualifying) have never won a single game in the WC (a quarter of all teams). There have been 12 teams (out of 74) in World Cup history to have never won or even tied a game. That's 17% of all nations that have ever made it to the WC. Make no mistake. This is a huge win for Slovenia, a nation of little more then 2 million (formally part of Yugoslavia till 1991).

The other teams in that 17% (no wins or ties) playing this year happen to be Greece and New Zealand.

So, THE game for the US turns out to be against Slovenia not Algeria as I expected in my previous post.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Groups A and B (and C)

Game one in the Group Stage is complete for A and B. ESPN and ABC were throwing around a lot of stats today about Game one winners advancing past the GS about 86% of the time and losers only 8% of the time. It can be frustrating when this happens. No time frame was mentioned or number of games studied nor was anything said about teams that draw in the first game. Bottom line; throw that stuff out.

Out of the two groups and the games this weekend I think I was surprised the most with the Mexico South Africa draw. With the difficulty of the group the numbers say that South Africa should have won that game. I wasn't able to see the game but from what I've read it seems that SA should have gotten 3 pts out of it. I am very surprised with the result, especially when you consider the host nation always makes it out of the group. That said, the goalless draw between France and Uruguay helped save SA chances. Had 3 pts been awarded SA would have a mountain to climb.

Argentina played extremely well today in Group B and proved themselves to be in a completely different league then Nigeria, South Korea and Greece. In fact. I don't know what league Greece is playing in. The very much lived up to their 0-0-3 WC record. They also kept the zero WC goals streak going. The only thing they did do was keep Korea from scoring 3 goals against them (their average margin of loss). I have picked Nigeria to advance with Argentina. I wasn't able to see enough from Nigeria to tell how well they will play against Korea, but that will be the critical game for both of them.

Now... the US. I'm exhausted after the game. It was one of the most exciting events I've ever seen on TV. From the England side it was not surprising the game ended in a 1-1 draw. What was surprising is that the US kept England out of the net. I felt like England played deep in the US side in the second half and clearly showed they had more talent. But the US did what it had to do. Helped out by a mistake in goal.

I guess what I'm saying is that the England draw was not a shocker, but the US to draw against England is a pretty big deal.

I'm very much looking forward to the Algeria v. Slovenia game tomorrow. Algeria should get out of there with 3 pts. Putting them in charge of the group and making that game against the US THE game of the tournament.

So on to the important things... how was Claddagh today? Great, rabidly pro American and each English fan that entered was promptly boooed and got a fierce USA chant. We witnessed more then one couple boooed out of the pub. I watched most of the Argentina v Nigeria game there then came back to watch England play well but tie --- yet again.

There has not been any statistical anomalies in the first five games. The US only allowing one goal is the only thing remotely out of the norm, but not anomalous.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Oh, It's ON

"You may be confusing the world of football with the IMF or the World Bank, the U.S., like Germany or China, has as much power as San Marino, Vanuatu or Belize."

- Michel Platini, FIFA Executive

Now, liking soccer in the US is a complex thing. Here in Ohio is it still sort of counter-culture. You may catch some of the cool kids talking about it over in the corner, or Dad who just started coaching youth soccer get interested. Other parts of the country get more into it. I know Northern Virginia is in. There always seems to be a player or two from the area on the national team. This year is Clarence E. Goodson IV (good VA name there). There are a few others from the surrounding area as well (Maryland). Anyway. I understand Mr. Michel Platini's comment above, it is very idealistic and the World Cup has proven that money is not the determining voice behind where the games are played... but man, watch out saying stuff like that.

Turns out Americans are making this year's WC happen. Snapping up more tickets then any other nation. As a side note... The only WC ever to sell out every game during the WC was when it was held in America. And as another side note, Mr. Platini, was it not FIFA that asked for volunteers to host this years WC if South Africa could not? and whoooom shall I say stepped up to volunteer? The US. Say what you will about the US. We know how to host a large event (I'm looking at you Canada, with a stink eye).

Man, I'm worked up now on the eve of the show. Nationality is skewing my remedial statistical math of who will win now. And just to tweak it a little more I was on a call with our Netherlands leadership team over there today at work... I brought up the WC (much to the blank faces of my co-workers) with them. I like those folks out there but they were so dismissive of any comment us Americans said about the topic. Rightly so, when looking at the numbers and history. But the blood is a boiling.

Arrrggghhh! Why does the US have to play England in the opener. I feel like I'm routing against myself in this game. Count to 3, count to 3.


The other group I haven't mentioned. Netherlands Group E:

9: Netherlands
9: Denmark
20: Cameroon
22: Japan

The top two here have a clear advantage. In none of my six KPIs do they fall past 2nd place. Denmark seems to play fast scoring 1.85 goals a game. Good for 4th best in WC history (13 games played). They allow 1.38, which is better then the average and .12 better then the mean. Goals against is a definite KPI. The best teams are at that top of that list. England, Italy, Brazil... In that order.

You know who is number 4?


My team.

Now if they could just get that offense going. No team in the bottom 50 percentile of goals against has ever won the WC. So, just looking at that, Denmark is in the running to have a good WC. The Netherlands has got a better history of preventing goals (1.06), which really plays to their advantage. But they tie more often. Not enough goal scoring. That said. Get NL out of the GS and I think they will make some noise.

Part of me hopes they play the US. Looking at the brackets... hmmm, it may have to be in the final. Bring it.

Tomorrow is the big day. Mexico (of whom, I'm pulling for) is opening up with South Africa. I'm hoping this sets the tone for the WC. A win by Mexico will send my data reeling. In a good way. Another game that will be making a lot of noise with only me will be the Greece v. South Korea game. Greece has a chance to win it's first ever WC match.. History is being made here. I can't wait.

Group B:

6: Argentina
12: Nigeria
18: Korea Republic
24: Greece

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

World Cup Past

Saved newspaper clippings from the last World Cup. Yeah, I saved them. Just as Unbelieveable by EMF from Schubert Dip album is saved on my computer. One quick note, Brian McBride was a Columbus Crew player back in 2006. Their training facility is right near where I work in nowhere Obetz, Ohio. He would show up at a dive bar called Lovell's where all us burnt out MFG central Ohio roughians would go for a drink after work. Great dude. Tanqueray!
Next up to get done is the complete list of Group winners based on the principles of Six Sigma and the Kaizen Way. Maybe even the Ishikawa diagram or Six Pack dump to show normal processes. Green Belt certification! Tools to a more productive peoples! and Continuous Improvement! Tanqueray!

Group D:
6: Germany
14: Serbia
16: Ghana
24: Austrailia

Based on my six Key Performance Indicators. Ghana has a chance to advance but the mountain seems to high (statistically speaking). Their defense will do them in against the top two in the group, but will hold Australia head to head. Australia got a bad draw this year.

Monday, June 7, 2010

England Warm up

Please forgive the music. Or, maybe not. It is possibly fitting for this warm up. I choose this one over the nice, pretty and clean FA HD version because, well it is a warm up and because it shows how fired up Rooney is. Around 1:30 into the video. Perfectly timed with RULE BRITANNIA! That's what I'm looking for. Heh Heh.

---------->Video Pulled<----------------------------

(uh, note by the writer here... the video was taken down. Enjoy the link to the fancy pants FA video.)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My Favored Team & The Group of Death

Honduras and their Group H.

H is for Honduras.

The Group:
- Spain
- Honduras
- Chile
- Switzerland

The secret way I went about looking at Group winners and runners up was to pick out efficiencies because of the variance in the number of World Cup appearances from team to team. So here is what I went with:

Wins per WC
Win+Tie per WC
Pts p/Game (3 for win, 1 for tie)
Goals p/Game
Goals Against p/Game
Margin of Victory

I ranked each team in the group 1-4 in each area then tallied up the totals. Lowest score a team could get is 6 (best in each category). Worst score possible is 24 (ranked fourth in each of the six categories). The two teams with the lowest score out of my six efficiency ratings moves past the Group stage to the Round of 16.

Group H to me is the so called Group of Death. Not because all the teams are from traditional powers, but because the balance between Honduras, Chile, and Switzerland. Here is how my efficiencies (reminder: each of my six cat ranked 1 to 4 then aggregate) came out for Group H:

7: Spain
17: Honduras
18: Chile
18: Switzerland

The standard deviation there is 5.35, lower then any other grouping. Meaning; in the world of "what you do when you get to the WC"... the most competitive.

There were two groups that went 1 through 4 in each of my categories. What this means is that there should be clear cut Winner and Runner up out of the GS:

Group B:
6: Argentina
12: Nigeria
18: Korea Republic
24: Greece

Group F:
6: Italy
12: Slovakia
18: Paraguay
24: New Zealand

Looking at the United States chances in Group C using this same ranking system, Algeria has the upper hand, even without the continental endorphin boost.

Group C:
6: England
13: Algeria
17: USA
24: Slovenia

Saturday, June 5, 2010


That trumpet buzz you hear during games played south of the equator. After much protesting, the Vuvuzela has been allowed at this years WC. Hardened soccer fans claim they will not much mind the noise emitted from these awful devices. They are a custom to many annoying chants, bells, horns, rattlers things at games but to me the vuvuzela is terribly annoying above and beyond the other stuff. FIFA looked into banning them last year but the South Africans claimed that it was an important part of their fan culture and history. After all soccer games seem to be a celebration.

I sat down this morning to watch the US / Australia game this morning at my local Irish pub. Man, am I ready for the WC this year. Irish Coffee, good company, good stuff. I left the pub shortly after the first half of this friendly and turned on the game here at home. I had to turn it down because of the vuvuzela noise. A note to myself was made.

The vuvu is here to stay, I'll get over it. Hello Claddagh Irish Pub.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

World Cup: The Tie

I'm looking through the groupings and trying to determine a valuable stat to hold on to. I've mentioned a couple of times that location is key. It'll be very interesting to see if South Africa makes it out of the Group Stage (GS).

Ties, draws or whatever you want to call them, are extremely important in the GS. The teams that have won the most... tie the most (although the numbers do not coincide). Germany has the most draws with 19. But, alas my friend. We are remedial statisticians here at Helltown! I need at least 20 points of data and percentages tell the better story.

Honduras has the highest tie % but they have only played 3 WC games, man. We have to dig deeper. Of the teams that have played over 20 games; England is the King of the draw. Doing so in almost half of all their GS games. 47% to be exact. WHO, I say, WHOM doth tie the least with over 20 games? Well the United States. We are going to win that sucker or lose it, fool. I like that stat. Very American. Only 12% of the time will the US tie in the GS. Portugal is the same way. Yet even less at 9% (with 19 games played).

Of the WC winners Brazil does tie the least amount of times. Italy, the team that has won four, draws almost 40% of the time, one of the highest percentages. Yet, still below England. Which, If I've learnt anything here today, helps me understand why someone like Rooney becomes a godlike figure. England has been searching for a striker to score two goals in a critical game for a hundred years.

So, what am I getting at with all this tie nonsense? Well, I thought it would mean something, but it doesn't. That happens I guess.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

World Cup: USA USA USA

The United States is 6-3-16 overall in the WC. Of all the teams that have 20+ WC games entering this years tournament the US has the 2nd to worst winning %. 3rd worst out of all teams that have ever made it in over 20 games. Our national WC history is most similar to Bugaria (did not qualify this year). Their record: 3-8-15.

In looking over the teams here I see that CONCACAF teams do not fair well. Mexico has always been the powerhouse in the CONCACAF and has made it out of the Group Stage in the last four WCs, loosing in the round of 16 each time though. The only times they have made it past the R16 was the two times the WC was played on their soil. The US has put together a string of WCs as Mexico has. They finished in the Quarter Finals 8 years ago and made it to the R16 on US soil in 1994. You could deduce from this two things:

1. the CONCACAF has gotten better.
2. the US has gotten better at qualifying.

Honduras is the other team from the league this year to make it in. The last time they made it in was 1978. I'm pulling for them. I'll write more on them later.

CONCACAF is made up by 40 teams. 30 of which are small islands in the Caribbean. In all of WC history only once has a team made it past the QF. Only four times has a team made it past the R16. US and Mexico handling all that. Best result was US in 1930. 3rd place.

The US Soccer team this year is in a tough spot in regards to grouping. England, Slovenia, and finally Algeria.

Had this World cup been played anywhere else in the world I think it would have been England and the US making it out of the group. But not this year, not in South Africa. I've already talked about the most critical stat about the WC. Over 1/3 of host countries win. While Africa itself may not be considered a nation as a whole, Algeria is still on the continent and teams playing on their own continent do end up with better results.

The US will lose the game with England. Dare I say "brutalized" by them. Given the location of the games (I'd venture to say that no American player has ever stepped foot in South Africa, let alone played a game there) and the strength of England's defense, and the very pro-England crowd in attendance... well, I'm hoping for the best. This is one of those games for England where they can cut loose. They don't get many of those. Truely, I say to you... If the US were to win it would be historic.

I do think the US will win against Slovenia but the next game against Algeria will be critical and I don't think we will pull that one out. Believe it or not Algeria has a couple WCs under their belt. The have won 2 lost 3 with one draw. In those 6 games they lost by an average of .7 pts. The US looses by an average of one goal. Again, I think local will be playing a big part in this game. It will be the game of the WC for the US.

As much as I may not like it: Algeria and England will advance out of this group.