World Cup (2)
The World Cup is about to start its second week. All teams have played at least one match. Time to re-post some old stuff. (First installment here).
With only 28 goals in 17 matches — an average of 1.65 per match, far lower than the previous record low of 2.21 in 1990 — goals are few and far between thus far in this World Cup. Given the low scores, will bad decisions have particularly large impacts in this World Cup?
More generally, given low scores, do bad decisions affect football more than other sports?
For the same reason, football may yield results that seemingly appear contrary to the run of the play — a side playing much ‘better’ seem to lose by a single goal from the other side. Does this sort of thing appear to be more common in football than in other sports?
Tyler Cowen has a theory about football:
- the rules of the game are simple, but a lot of complex interactions result from this simple set of rules;
- it is hard to quantify what is a ‘good’ play (that is, the data cannot tell you which complex interaction is better), and a lot depends on intuition that are typically developed at an early age.
I am intellecutally attracted to empiricism — using ugly data to slay beautiful hypotheses, this is the scientific process. The beautiful game may just be the stuff of metaphysics. One can argue that with an average that is three standard deviations above the mean of all batsmen, Bradman is the greatest. One simply cannot argue for Pele or Maradona that objectively.
Cowen likes basketball because it gives solid real time data that tells one how well a team/player is playing. I don’t like basketball because the real time data is ‘too good’ — the team that dominates statistically halfway through the game wins most of the time, there is very little chance of a turnaround.
Test cricket is a sport where there are plenty of good real time data, but where both teams get a lot of chance of turning things around. It is a sport with drama a-plenty, and the drama here is obvious to anyone who knows the rules. It has all the twists and turns of a high-profile double homicide or a lawsuit over the presidency, and yet, there is method in the randomness such that one can objectively judge the performance. And, with the over break every couple of minutes, marketing opportunities are unparalleled.
The question then is not why Americans don’t like football. The puzzle is, why test cricket is not the number one sport in America?
Rolling prediction (before match 18)
Semi-final 1: Brazil vs Argentina
Semi-final 2: Germany vs Portugal