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Your blockquotes are more about the variation of player quality, and it makes sense that there are many more very well-trained batters now, with all the (excessive) emphasis on getting good at (one) sport there is now in the States.

I really think there's a huge difference between, for example, England and the U.S. in player quality. It wouldn't bother me if that difference were reflected in the score (and not just in the generally inferior dribbling and passing by the U.S. side). But, our goalie is good (perhaps better than good, we don't really know), and theirs made one idiotic blunder. My problem is simply with the sense that the match -- and most of the matches so far -- is just a 'throw the dice and there's the outcome' kind of deal. We didn't learn anything about which country is better at soccer. A blunder here, a great goal there, a blown call . . . and that's your World Cup again, thank you for watching.

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Mon Jun 14th, 2010 at 04:07:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I really think there's a huge difference between, for example, England and the U.S. in player quality.

I caught about 25 minutes of the first half while out shopping the other day and no, I didn't think so.

In fact... Of the US' Current squad, 8 out of 23 play for English teams, including all three goalies, and only 4 play in the US (wll the other ones playing abroad, in Europe or - two of them - in Mexico).

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 14th, 2010 at 04:15:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(Confirmed impressions of the players below at the squad profiles at http://soccernet.espn.go.com/world-cup/?cc=5901&ver=us).

England is littered with 'among the world's best'. Rooney was Premier League player of the year this year. Lampard and Gerrard are two of the best midfielders in the world. Carragher, Cole, and Terry are defenders near the world's best.

Dempsey and Donovan are having success in the Premier League. Onyewu looked good against England, but is described as a back-up at AC Milan. Howard is a fine player but not considered among the world's best.  More specifically, I just looked at the usual 'just missed it' quality of passing, dribbling, and striking by the Americans. My impression is that most of them are just not quite there on the consistent precision front.

But the fumbles and mishits will rarely be punished, and partly that's because it is just so damn hard to score a goal. So, who knows, maybe the U.S. will go far.

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Mon Jun 14th, 2010 at 04:59:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's generally one good rule to always keep in mind with sports: ESPN has no idea what it's talking about.  No matter the topic.  For the World Cup, they've brought in a bunch of pompous British pundits to "explain" the whole thing to us stupid Yanks, and so far those guys look pretty stupid.

As should be expected, because ESPN doesn't know what it's talking about.

You're basically getting the soccer-equivalent of Meet the Press conventional wisdom.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Jun 14th, 2010 at 07:58:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you don't think those evaluations are generally accurate, well . . .

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Tue Jun 15th, 2010 at 11:07:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And if you look at the official FIFA rankings, England is rated as Number 8 in the world and The US number 14, which from memory is the second or maybe third closest disparity between the top two teams in World cup groups. If you were going to bet on an opening round game  being a draw purely on the basis of rankings then the England US game would be the second most likely from the first set, If you want to take it from the full selection of first round games then it's the fourth most likely out of all 48 games

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Jun 14th, 2010 at 09:06:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh no, not the FIFA rankings!

FIFA Asia (& Australia) Zonal Ranking

  1. Australia (FIFA #20)
  2. Japan (#45)
  3. Korea Republic (#47)

http://img.fifa.com/worldfootball/nationalteams/index.html

Isn't Korea the strongest of those three teams, by a wide margin? They had one of the few convincing first round wins, 2-0 over a seemingly strong team from Greece (FIFA's world #13). And didn't Australia just lose to Germany 4-0?

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Mon Jun 14th, 2010 at 11:54:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Rankings reflect past performance, not current condition.

The Greek team looked old and weak. In fact had South Korea not missed so many chances, the result could have been 6:0. And Japan won against the higher ranked but lacklustre playing Cameroon. So it is hard to say which is better: South Korea or Japan. (But I should mention I root for South Korea -- I like their style of game, if they get better at finishing, they could become giant-killers again.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 15th, 2010 at 06:52:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Japan had one of the worst run-ups to a World Cup ever. We should judge teams by how well they play, not the FIFA world rankings.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Tue Jun 15th, 2010 at 11:05:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We should judge teams by how well they play

Such judgements are always bound to be subjective. It depends on how high you value the opponents, and how you weigh by the seriousness of the match (friendlies are often used to test new configurations and players and thus don't tell much about tournament performance), and how far back you look at it (I'm guessing you only looked at Japan's performance this year, rather than back to at least two years). FIFA rankings are based on past performance just like yours, just with an apparently different weighting.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 15th, 2010 at 04:38:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, no one except FIFA was in love with Australia, and most experts considered South Korea a strong Asian team. For example, here's a typical pre-tourney ranking of the three teams (out of the 32 in the WC), by Eurosport:

  1. Australia

  2. Japan

  3. South Korea

That's just about right.

http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/14062010/58/world-cup-2010-power-rankings-jubilant-japan.html

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Tue Jun 15th, 2010 at 06:23:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As DoDo commented, FIFA rankings are based on longer term performance, and not just year on year strength. They are not meant to be a predictor of future performance, rather a basis for deciding which nation gets to have how many places in which tournaments.

Negatively, that the San Jose Sharks don't automatically get a place next year because they finally did this year.  But it's a big deal if the German Bundesliga gets 2 or 3 sure places in the Champions League or not.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - AnaÔs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue Jun 15th, 2010 at 06:31:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You remind me that FIFA ranking reflects club football performance, too.

I add to yours, and you tell me if the analogy is bad, but perhaps it is somewhat helpful to compare to league tables and playoffs in US sports. It may be that one team leads the league table, but gets tired towards the end of the season, and is butchered in the playoffs. The league table is just life FIFA rankings, and playoffs like a World Cup, only it takes one year rather than four. (The analogy is of course not perfect; World Cup participation is not dependent on FIFA ranking.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 15th, 2010 at 06:56:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
International football has a four-year cycle. Hence any proper ranking should reflect scores in at least four years, even if team performance changes more rapidly.

Now let's see it in terms of seriousness. The only recent tournaments to gauge Australia's (and South Korea's) tournament capabilities were the 2006 World Cup, the 2007 Asian Cup, and the 2009 Confederations Cup. In the first, the Aussies got into the round of 16, South Korea failed in the group stage. In the second, which should count less than a WC, it was South Korea that got one round further. As neither won it, of course neither participated in the Confed Cup. Next in seriousness are qualification matches. Both Australia and South Korea won their qualification group, but Australia did so with 20 points, South Korea only 16.

Based on this simple analysis, even if South Korea seems the stronger team at the moment, it should clearly be ranked lower.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 15th, 2010 at 06:48:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We will see, that first result might be down to luck, or their opponents performing spectacularly badly

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Jun 15th, 2010 at 07:13:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A great deal is down to luck and one or two bad referee calls, especially with about 1.7 goals on average per match. But placing South Korea so low also just indicates FIFA is doing a bad job at ranking national teams.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Tue Jun 15th, 2010 at 11:04:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, on one hand, the difference between "World's best" and "good international" is not that big.

On the other hand, football is a team sport. It's not the individual quality of the players that's deciding, but how well those qualities can be exploited in combination. A coherent team of even second-league players can beat a badly organised or individualist bunch of top-rate players. And the US team seemed rather well organised, even in the face of English attacks cutting right through defense lines. Meanwhile, England was good only in the midfield, while the defense line without the injured Ferdinand did some silly things. And then there is the goalkeeper problem.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 15th, 2010 at 06:23:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"A coherent team of even second-league players can beat a badly organised or individualist bunch of top-rate players."

Hence the managerial career of Brian Clough.

A corollary of this is that the England team will underperform compared to the paper strength of their players for as long as the club game takes precedence over the national side. Even a team-building genius like Clough couldn't have done much with the sort of contact time the England coaching setup get with their players.

Regards
Luke

-- #include witty_sig.h

by silburnl on Tue Jun 15th, 2010 at 08:47:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree the U.S. did a good job as a team, and that as individuals most of them except four or five are second-rate. Remember this thread was initially a response to a comment saying the quality of the individuals on the U.S. team were not very much below the level of the English players.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Tue Jun 15th, 2010 at 11:11:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do think the quality of the players on the U.S. team were not very much below the level of the English players. What I mean is that individual player quality can be much lower if there is good team cohesion. Consider Poland 1982, Denmark 1992 (won the European Cup), South Korea 2002. There are several more examples in club football.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jun 15th, 2010 at 05:12:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I know what you mean, Ireland is often one of those teams with great cohesion. But it wasn't as if the U.S. players played an unusually large number of friendlies or practiced an extraordinary amount of time.

I think many of these Americans are great athletes who just lack consistency and precision as football players. You have a decent chance when just one great speedy run, a good cross and one good finish can win a game. I'd rather an upset be a bit more difficult.

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Tue Jun 15th, 2010 at 06:30:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know why anyone would argue for more predictability in sport, surely the fact that you don't know what is going to happen is half the point, If you know what the result is very likely to be before you go, what is the point as a spectator?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jun 16th, 2010 at 05:45:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Back to the 1954 World Cup, check some match scores. Those matches were very unequal matchups.

We didn't learn anything about which country is better at soccer.

I say those chance goals were not so chance. For example, Green's blunder might have been exceptional, but England's goalkeeper problem is well-known and goes back decades.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 15th, 2010 at 06:12:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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