Friday, July 30, 2010

The Capello Index: What's Not To Like?

It may be fun to make fun of the Capello Index, but the hilarity the index produces for some is beside the point, if you ask me. Sure, it's easy to make fun of it -  it's funny because of people's reactions to it (players upset, Capello chagrined, the FA with egg on its face, etc.), but not the actual index itself.

In fact, instead of making fun of it, it may be worth considering whether the index is good at what it is supposed to do. Since I'm ambivalent about most things in life, put me down on the side of those who think the index is much better than most people (who haven't actually looked at it because they're too busy making fun of it) think. Ok, I know that may not be saying much, but hear me out. The index is meant to be (and I quote):

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

FIFA and Democracy

Read the FIFA Statutes lately? No need, really, but since they’re kind of like the constitution that governs global football, they are worth peeking at if you have a free moment (though I grant you that they are mostly interesting to nerds like me).

Friday, July 16, 2010

New Zealand: The New Scotland?

One of my favorite fun facts of the 2010 World Cup, courtesy of Simon:

New Zealand was the only team that went undefeated in this year's tournament. And it was only the second team in history going undefeated without winning the tournament. Previously, this feat was accomplished once by Scotland in 1974.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

2010 World Cup Success By Continent: No Clear Winner

So which soccer continent won the World Cup? In earlier posts (here and here), I took a look at the geographic origins of countries playing in the World Cup, and different regions’ (or continents’) success in the tournament (measured by making it deep into the tournament). As the numbers described there show, the expansion of the tournament to 32 teams and the globalization of the tournament pool have come mostly at the expense of European countries. Yet, European teams have consistently maintained a high level of success, regardless of tournament format.
This suggests a couple of things: first, the smaller proportion of European teams in an enlarged tournament coupled with very little change with respect to which countries actually make it past the Round of 16 tells us that the weaker European teams of yesteryear (I won’t name names) have been replaced with similarly weak teams from other regions of the world (mostly Asia/Oceania and Africa). Second, it tells us that any one year’s pronouncements (usually during the tournament, when things are in flux) of a decline in one region’s soccer success or the ascendancy of another probably do not hold up once the finals numbers are in.
So let’s take a look at how the different continents did this year in terms of wins per match ratios and points won per match and compare these to the other World Cups played in the 32-team tournament era. Take a look.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Does (Soccer) Crime Pay? The 2010 World Cup

The verdict is unanimous: Spain against the Netherlands wasn't pretty. After Sunday’s World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands, in which the Dutch committed 28 fouls and were handed 7 yellow cards and one red (compared to Spain’s 18 fouls and 5 yellow cards), Johan Cruyff, along with Rinus Michels one of the great minds behind Total Football, referred to the Dutch performance as “anti football” and accused his countrymen of choosing an “ugly path.” But is ugly play effective?

SoccerQuantified's Soccer By The Numbers Blog

Welcome to the Soccer By The Numbers blog. You can find it here:

SoccerByTheNumbers or here SoccerByTheNumbers 

Monday, July 12, 2010

World Cup 2010 Postmortem: A Red Cards Update

Here’s a quick update on the earlier post about red cards at the World Cup in historical perspective. Turns out that the 2010 World Cup saw the end of the long run historical increase in red cards (have the FIFA refs secretly been reading this blog?). While red card bookings seemed up again halfway through the tournament, the final tally of reds was 17, with 9 straight reds and 8 second yellows. This matches the 2002 tournament.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Back To The Future: A (Not Entirely Serious) Comparison of 2010 World Cup Predictions

In earlier posts, I have schizophrenically made predictions about teams’ likely success in different stages of the tournament while warning that the odds of being wrong are considerable. So I thought it was time to see who has been predicting the World Cup well, and who has some homework to do for next time.

Ajax v. Barca: The Youth Academy Final of the 2010 World Cup

Here’s a PS to my earlier post about youth academies, in response to a couple of emails I received from my friends S and T (you know who you are). In the post, I wondered out loud whether it makes sense to scout 6 year olds, both in terms of developing superior soccer talent and as a matter of moral principle. A related question is whether the same individual talents we see in teams’ lineups would have achieved soccer stardom absent a youth academy to steer their development.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

World Cup 2010: The Triumph of the Dutch Soccer Apprenticeship System?

A few weeks ago, the New York Times Sunday magazine published a fascinating article titled “How a Soccer Star Is Made”. It is must reading for anyone curious about how a country the size of the New York metropolitan area (the Netherlands) can produce lots of soccer talent, or anyone who thinks their child may go on to become a professional soccer player.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Last Minute Pre-Semifinals Numbers Fix

Just in case you're looking for some numbers on your favorite teams before today's and tomorrow's semifinals, check outthis very cool gadget from

You'll be able to do some data visualizations on your own for things like goals to shots ratios, passing and shooting accuracy, etc. based on data collected up to the quarterfinals from Opta and the nifty Guardian newspaper's datablog. Have fun counting!

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Decline of European Soccer That Wasn't: A World Cup 2010 Pre-Semifinal Update

In an earlier pre-quarterfinal post, I had noted that the pool of countries playing in the World Cup has become more truly representative of global soccer, in large part because of the expansion of the tournament from 16 to 24 and then 32 teams. As intended by FIFA’s planners, more, and more different kinds of countries are making it to the World Cup.
But getting there and getting anywhere near the FIFA World Cup trophy are two different things. When you look at who actually makes it to the second round and then on to the quarterfinals, there hasn’t been all that much change in who actually has a chance to win the tournament.

Friday, July 2, 2010

2010: The Decline of European Soccer?

You’d think that the prospect of only the third all-Latin American final in World Cup history after 1930 and 1950, and runs deep into the tournament by Paraguay and Uruguay are indicators of Latin America’s rise as a global soccer power and Europe’s inevitable decline. Well, think again, or at least consider these facts.