Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘world cup

Some thoughts around Germany’s World-Cup Fiasco

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  1. Germany just blew the group-phase (again)—and I am happy. The Germans deserved to go under for their distasteful abuse of the tournament for political grandstanding.

    Firstly, politics and sports should be kept apart.

    Secondly, the type of political message that was propagated by the Germans pretends to be one of love and tolerance, while truly being one of hate and intolerance. For instance, the “onelove” bracelets, around which much controversy has focused, pretend to say (some variation of) “we must all be tolerant and love our fellow humans—even if they are X”, but the true message, for all purposes, is “the world is filled with evil people that we have a duty to hate because they do not feel the same way as we do”.

    This is the worse, as the image painted is largely a misleading one. It might or might not hold for Qatar,* but the simple fact is that the same message is used even in countries in which it does not hold, and is paralleled by a variety of similarly misleading messages, e.g. the bending of knees against alleged “systemic racism”, where a straw-man is built and then attacked with a message pretending to be of love and tolerance, while truly, again, being of hate and intolerance. Notably, even those who are of a different opinion tend to be much more moderate than claimed, e.g. in that someone disapproves of “gay marriage” (nothing more; nothing less) and is accused of actually “hating gays” or “wanting to oppress gays”. Indeed, we usually have situations where a clear majority shares the approximate same opinions, and the main division goes between those who are vocal and aggressive about those opinions and those who are not. Of course, in these situations, not being vocal and aggressive can turn into a sin of its own…

    *And even if it does, should e.g. LGBT-etc.-etc. be a priority in light of all the other problems around Qatar? Hardly.

  2. How far the mighty have fallen:

    2014 saw the German team become champions, reaching the highest ELO number in history,* and destroying the Brazilian team in the semi-finals—Germany was back at the top, where it “belonged”,** and I had a first World-Cup victory,*** even be it by migration.

    *At the time. The ELO rating is continually updated in various ways, including that past numbers are revised. (Moreover, ELO numbers from different eras are not necessarily comparable.)

    **When I went through the height of my sports interest, Germany was a virtually consistent top contender, including a 1990 World-Cup victory. Germany and soccer went hand in hand.

    ***My native Sweden came reasonably close in 1994, taking third and only losing narrowly against eventual winner Brazil, which left me simultaneously happy and hungry for a “more” that took those twenty years to manifest.

    2018 saw a German fiasco, but partially to Swedish benefit, with Sweden reaching a decent quarter-final, while Germany, as defending champions, was last in the joint group. (Cf. at least [1] and [2].)

    2022? Germany just saw another fiasco through failing to reach the knock-out phase. For a while, it even looked like a new last place in the group, which was averted only by a strong finish in the last game. (Sweden appears to have missed even the qualification.)

  3. Germany’s group saw some odd results, notably that Spain beat Costa Rica 7–0, while Japan lost to Costa Rica 1–0, and Japan beat Spain 2–1. (Japan vs. Costa Rica forms an interesting parallel to Sweden vs. Germany last time around—the group winner lost against the last placer in the group.)

Written by michaeleriksson

December 1, 2022 at 10:37 pm

German World-Cup debacle / Follow-up: Poor decision making

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As I wrote recently concerning the World-Cup game between Sweden and Germany:

As can be seen, the correct decision/the ideal outcome of the game cannot be determined without information that is not knowable at this time. In effect, this game is “unrootable” for me, and the interesting events will largely take place in the respective last of the three games each team plays.

(What is the most likely scenario? Well, on paper Germany is a clear favorite against Sweden, and will likely end up second in the group, behind Mexico, while Sweden and South-Korea are eliminated. How it plays out in real life is yet to be seen.)

By now I am left almost shocked: Germany very, very barely defeated the Swedes, on overtime—but…

…Sweden won the group and Germany ended up last(!), something almost inconceivable before the tournament.*

*Germany is not only the defending champion, but also came of a long line of good results (until the last few preparation games, where things started to fall apart).

That Sweden, in today’s third round, could beat Mexico was not entirely unexpected, after the two teams having similar showings against Germany* and South-Korea; however, the 3–0 was highly surprising. Germany, in turn, should have beaten South-Korea, and that would have made the dream scenario of both “my” teams advancing come true—a scenario that seemed quite unlikely after the initial German failure against Mexico. Unfortunately, Germany continued a trend of not actually scoring, even being the superior team in terms of play; the result at 90 minutes was 0–0; and during the desperate** German attacks during stoppage time, South-Korea scored twice…

*While Mexico won, it was mostly a matter of luck; while Sweden lost, it was on a last minute action during stoppage time.

**Even a one goal victory, given the Sweden–Mexico result, would have been enough for advancement; any non-victory implied non-advancement.

This leaves us with an absurd situation, with Germany trailing even South-Korea and having the likely worst result in its World-Cup history—despite beating the eventual group winner and despite being the better team in all three of its matches.

As for Sweden, I note that it has now been part of the elimination of three supposedly strong teams: After beating out the Netherlands (2014/“reigning” World-Cup third-placer) for second place in its qualification group, multiple champion Italy was beaten in a play-off, and now reigning champion Germany is gone too. (Although, admittedly, Sweden was the only team not to beat the Germans…)

An interesting observation is that Sweden has mounted reasonably successful teams before and after the national-team career of Zlatan, but not during it. Unlike some other greats, he never really delivered in the national team, and the depth behind him appears to have been lower than before and after.

Written by michaeleriksson

June 27, 2018 at 5:39 pm

Follow-up: Poor decision making

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Sometimes it is impossible to make a good decision, even with a sound attitude and complete knowledge of the knowable facts. My current dilemma regarding the FIFA World Cup is a good example*:

*Except in as far as following sports and/or basing team favoritism on factors like nationality can be considered irrational: I could always decide to not care at all…

My native Sweden and my adopted Germany are in the same group and will presently play each other. Which team should I root for?

In the four-team group with two teams advancing, the ideal would be that both “my” teams advance. However, this is tricky: Germany unexpectedly* lost against Mexico, while Sweden expectedly won against South-Korea. Should Mexico (as expected) win against South-Korea**, the only way to get both teams in would be for Germany to win both its remaining matches (including against Sweden), Sweden to win against Mexico, and having the goal difference play out fortunately between the three 6-point teams. More likely, considering the presumed weakness of the South-Koreans, one of the teams will make it and the other fail.

*In such statements, I go by the official seeding, which had Germany 1st, Mexico 2nd, Sweden 3rd, and South-Korea 4th.

**The match was completed during my writing: Mexico did win.

In that scenario, however, which team would I rather see advancing? Sweden is a little bit closer to my heart, but Germany has a far better chance at being successful in the knock-out phase. What if Sweden were to advance, only to lose immediately in the next first knock-out round?

Also, if Sweden* is the team that advances, it would beneficial to be the group victor. For that to happen, a loss against Germany would be very problematic. On the other hand, if Sweden were to beat Germany, the dream scenario of both teams advancing is pretty much ruled out. A draw is not that good either, because it (a) means that only two points (instead of three for a victory) are awarded, (b) could lead to Sweden simultaneously missing the group victory and Germany being eliminated.

*Ditto for Germany, but their chances of a group victory are currently smaller.

Then again, should South-Korea upset Mexico, we have a completely different set of scenarios to look into.

As can be seen, the correct decision/the ideal outcome of the game cannot be determined without information that is not knowable at this time. In effect, this game is “unrootable” for me, and the interesting events will largely take place in the respective last of the three games each team plays.

(What is the most likely scenario? Well, on paper Germany is a clear favorite against Sweden, and will likely end up second in the group, behind Mexico, while Sweden and South-Korea are eliminated. How it plays out in real life is yet to be seen.)

Written by michaeleriksson

June 23, 2018 at 7:13 pm

Freakish coincident in soccer (and Sweden wins a medal)

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Soccer is normally a sport I find boring and tend not to follow. However, the ongoing U17 World Cup has caught my attention through the rarity that my native Sweden has done exceedingly well—the bronze medal here is arguably the best a Swedish team has managed since 1994. (When they won a bronze in the, obviously far more prestigious, “adult” World Cup.)

Now, this would not be of any major interest to most non-Swedes—but the almost absurd circumstances could be:

The tournament was divided into two stages: First, a group stage where twenty-four teams divided into six groups tried to qualify for the next stage. Second, a knock-out stage between the twelve teams who placed first or second in their respective groups supplemented by the four best third-placers.

Sweden did poorly in the group stage, scoring one victory, one draw, and one loss—and qualified as one of the best third-placers.

In the knock-out stage, they met Japan in the round of sixteen—a team coming of a flawless 3–0 record in the group stage. To everyone’s surprise, Sweden won 2–1.

This was followed by a quarter-final where Honduras was beaten 2–1. (While Honduras’ record was no more impressive than the Swedish, they had at least been second in their group, trailing only Brazil.)

Combined with the success of the other two teams (Mexico, Nigeria) from Sweden’s group, this led to the very weird situation that all three teams stood in the semi-final—three out of four, while the other five groups between them had one team left (Argentina, an undefeated group winner).

After a 3–0 semi-final loss against Nigeria (following a group-stage 3–3 draw), the Swedes went on to take their clearest victory of the tournament against Argentina (4–1)—ensuring that all three medals landed in the same group, eventually in the exact order of the group placings. I cannot recall seeing something like this ever happening (although it bound to have over the many championships in various sports). The most I have seen is two teams from the same group going in the medals on a few occasions. (Which in a weird coincidence was the case in 1994, where Brazil and Sweden finished first and second in the same group and went on to win Gold and Bronze respectively—Sweden’s only loss in the tournament being against Brazil. Other parallels include the easy, 4–0 instead of 4–1, Bronze-match victory, and that the respective tournament winner only ever failed to win one match—drawing against Sweden in the group stage.)

Written by michaeleriksson

November 9, 2013 at 12:39 am

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