Are England Actually Under-Achievers?
June 29, 2010
A good question! Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski suggest not. Their argument, summarised by Tim Harford, runs more or less like this: - England do about as well as you’d expect, given their size, economic power, proximity to football’s “core” in Western Europe, and footballing history. That is, you’d expect them to usually make the last 16, sometimes make the last 8, occasionally make the last 4 and make the final very rarely. And they do. - Managers don’t make much difference to a team’s expected performance.
With South Africans' dreams of soccer glory dashed by the elimination of their Bafana Bafana from the tournament today, fans may now be hoping that at least the World Cup will deliver on the economic boost its organizers have repeatedly promised them. They are likely to be disappointed again. "We want, on behalf of our continent, to stage an event that will send ripples of confidence from the Cape to Cairo—an event that will create social and economic opportunities throughout Africa," former South African President Thabo Mbeki said in the run up to the tournament.
Freedom From Quant
June 14, 2010
There's a new master narrative for the history of sports. And it goes like this: We have only just begun to emerge from the superstitious dark ages, where coaches clung to folk wisdom, into the enlightened world of data. The Copernicus and Galileo of sports’ scientific revolution are the statistician Bill James and the Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane.
Live From Rustenburg: Savoring English Decline
June 13, 2010
RUSTENBURG, South Africa -- “Well done,” the middle-aged England fan said to me outside Royal Bafokeng Stadium last night after his country’s 1-1 draw against the United States. The civility was less rare than you might imagine. Sure, there was the drunken Brit in the eternal shuttle-bus queue in the red-clay parking lot shouting -- and if you read my first post, you know it brought a smile to my face -- “You’re shit and you know you are!” at a harmless group of flag-clad Americans.