Wednesday, June 16, 2010

That's Why They Play The Games, Part II

This is what a potential giant killer looks like

This Friday the US Men's National Team resumes its quest to qualify for the knockout round in the 2010 World Cup. Winning this match would not only instantly erase the memory of the winless campaign in 2006, but it would also allow the US to control its own destiny within the group. A draw is not a disaster, but also not preferable. A loss, and Bob Bradley's boys are in deep trouble.

This is also a very different match psychologically than the England match. The US is the clear favorite going into this match. They cannot be happy with coming away with a draw - the pressure is on for a win. And the weight of an awful 2006 campaign all comes down to this one match. What a difference six days make - the high of the draw against England must be forgotten and winning this match must be all that matters. How will this impact the play of the US team, which is not accustomed to be under such pressure?

So how would Soccernomics evaluate this match?

  • Slovenia: 2,059,470
  • United States: 309,488,00
GDP per capita
  • Slovenia: $24,417
  • United States: $46,381
International experience
  • Slovenia: 73 matches
  • United States: 403 matches
All of this adds up to a 2.0 goal differential in favor of the United States. In this case, I would argue that the Soccernomics model is way over-predicting the likely outcome. Slovenia is a scrappy team always happy to play the upset role in a tournament. Nothing would make them happier than to take down the US, breaking up the US/England duo that nearly every commentator has seen coming out of Group C since the tournament seeding was announced. If the US doesn't play smart soccer, better defense than the first fifteen minutes of the England match, and make great attacks they may find themselves effectively eliminated from the tournament by the end of the day if they lose and England defeats Algeria.

My personal prediction, as a hopeful fan of the sport in America, is that the US team wins the match 2-1 and begins to convince the world and our nation they are for real. Either way, it should be a great match.

On the other hand, you could be like my tweep Boco_T, blindly follow the Soccernomics prediction, and end up getting the score dead on while most took the other team big.


  1. Let the best team win ... hopefully Slovenia ;)

  2. As you correctly predicted Soccernomics model over-predicted the result, but in my opinion those three elements of the model explained the performance in 2nd half.

    Without much experience in big matches Slovenian team lacks killer instinct (for scoring the third and effectively won the game) and a "positive" arrogance (comminting small fouls, kicking the ball away, simulating injuries ...).

    Slovenian teams (in football, basketball, handball, ...) occasionally have the same problem - it seems that they are afraid to win. But the confidence will grow, I'm sure. The country is only 19 years old.