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Saturday, March 04, 2006

There's No Such Thing As Form

I've been meaning to blog about this for ages (well, a week or so), but according to Daniel Finkelstein, statistician and all round bright guy, there is no such thing as form. Yup, you read that right. In football, at least, form is a myth. It doesn't exist. It's a red herring. It doesn't have any basis in fact.

Read the article ( in fact read all of Mr Finkelstein's 'Fink Tank' articles written for The Times Newspaper) and I think you'll be a believer too. His team ran some serious statistical analysis that compared the results of one game to it's successors and it's predecessors and concluded this :
"Not a single team won a significantly greater proportion of games after wins than after non-wins. There is no hot-hand effect at all. Winning one or more games does not change your chance of winning the next one."

I've long been of the opinion that may of the stats given out by football commentators and soccer pundits are a nonsense. For example, you'll often here things like 'Doncaster Rovers haven't beaten Arsenal since 1923' when, in fact, they haven't played since 1923 and even then Donny Rovers were a non-league side.

However, Mr Finkelstein is a mathematician by trade and, you know what, I think I agree with him. Only problem is: now how am I going to decide who to bet on in the 2006 World Cup in Germany ?

posted by mark_s at 1:07 AM 0 comments

A Shameless Advertising Plug for This Blog

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Right, that's it for blatant money grabbing for one week. Back to the football. Promise.

posted by mark_s at 12:33 AM 0 comments

It's All Fine...Apart from the Stuff That's Broken

Despite Franz Beckenbauer's protestations in New York last month that "The World Cup can start tomorrow. We're ready..." , it does appear that not all is well with the preparations of this year's Finals.

Reports and rumours have been circulating for a while of problems in bringing some of the stadiums up to scratch and today it is clear that Frankfurt's World Cup stadium is, um, falling apart already. Two parts of a support column have cracked and the roof leaks. Apart from that, it is fine, though. And anyway, the contractors are promising to get it fixed, just as soon as they figure out how.

Ah, vorsprung durch technik, indeed.

posted by mark_s at 12:11 AM 0 comments

Thursday, March 02, 2006

World Cup Friendlies Round Up

OK, here's a round up of yesterday's soccer friendlies. And, I would just like to point out that my tip suggesting that Croatia would beat Argentina came good. I'm not going to gloat because I'm far too humble to do such a thing, but hooray for me. Good ol' me. I'm wonderful..etc...etc...

England: 2 Uruguay: 1
Croatia: 3 Argentina: 2
Republic of Ireland: 3 Sweden: 0
USA: 1 Poland: 0

Russia: 0 Brazil: 1
France: 1 Slovakia: 2
Denmark: 2 Israel: 0
Spain: 3 Ivory Coast: 2

Italy: 4 Germany: 1
Holland: 1 Ecuador: 0
Scotland: 1 Switzerland: 3

The results of the bigger countries weren't really that impressive and France's result against Slovakia surely shows that they are a waning footballing power. Italy looked impressive though and the odds on them to win this year's World Cup Finals will surely shorten, um, shortly.

posted by mark_s at 8:11 PM 0 comments

Presume I've Titled This Post With Some Cliches About 'Irish Eyes' or 'Stan The Man'

Roll out the cliches...'Irish Eyes are Smiling' and all that patronising rubbish. Don't forget to throw in a few faintly condescending remarks about new Republic of Ireland manager, Steve 'Stan' Staunton and you pretty much have the match reports for the Ireland v Sweden game.

Let's lay all that to one side. The Republic (who won 3-0 against a pretty much full strength Sweden) deserved the victory. Staunton set his stall out with an extremely attacking formation featuring 3 strikers and Damien Duff getting forward at every opportunity. And they scared hell out of the Swedes.

I watched a half hour of this match before the beginning of the England game and I knew that Sweden were in for a hammering even then. It was good to see a manager (new or not) trying to win and win in style. But, frankly, if that's all that Sweden have got to offer, England should roll over them at the World Cup itself.

However, let's not forget that the Republic have at least three players that would - if they were English- be definites for the England squad (Given, Robbie Keane and Damien Duff) and they do have some other solid players, especially in defence.

It just goes to show that a good team performance will win a team game. Are you listening, England ?

posted by mark_s at 7:17 PM 0 comments

Wake Me When It's Over

OK, I did watch all of the England v Uruguay match yesterday (which England won 2-1 thanks to goals from Joe Cole and Peter Crouch) but I have successfully managed to avoid seeing or reading any 'expert pundits' opinions on the game. I'm not exactly afraid that such peoples' vast knowledge of football will influence my own humble opinions, but I think it's better if I didn't annoy myself by reading such stuff until I finish this post.

My opinion: England were dull, uninspired, didn't even look like a team, let alone one that could win the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany. Gerrard and Beckham were content to ping long balls 30 or 40 yards in the hope that Darren Bent could run onto them and score. He couldn't.

The bigger name players in the England set up were playing route one football while Joe Cole (who was brilliant) and Michael Carrick (also very good) were trying to build an attack by, gasp, playing the ball to feet. Several times the quick one-touch passing of Cole and Carrick made their more famous colleagues look jaded and out of form and all in all it was a pretty poor performance.

It did improve when King, Jenas and Crouch came on as that meant there were a few more players who wanted to play the ball along the ground and who were alert and interested enough to play football of a high level. Otherwise, it was awful.

2006 World Cup ? Wake me when it's over.

posted by mark_s at 6:48 PM 0 comments

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Ooh - Aren't They Pretty

A bunch of teams released new away kits yesterday, including England whose new away kit looks just like their 1966 World Cup team shirt - which I guess is the point.

The one I liked best is the Trinidad and Tobago shirt, which was very stylish. I'd wear that if I wasn't for the fact that I'm white, have never been to Trinidad (or Tobago, for that matter) and would struggle to point it out on a map. Oh hang on...that applies to half the players in the T & T squad.

You can buy the new England away kits here, so get clicking.

posted by mark_s at 10:35 AM 1 comments

Maradona Is Psychic

Maradona, in a scary display of psychic ability and showing prescience that almost rivals the legendary Nostradamus, is predicting that Brazil will win the 2006 World Cup ! Wow. Brazil to win the World Cup. How does he do it ?

Here's what he said : "Brazil are the favourites to win in Germany, because they have one of the best national teams in the world."

Genius. Brazil are the favourites because they are the best team. Thanks for that, Senor Maradona. I'm already looking forward to the Maradona Psychic Network, so uncanny are his skills.

The point I'm making, I guess, is that Maradona or anyone else predicting that Brazil might win the World Cup is hardly newsworthy. So why is it reported
here and here and here and... here and here and here and...well you get the idea.

posted by mark_s at 10:02 AM 0 comments