Friday, June 25, 2010

First Round Surprises

So, in my pre-world cup predictions post, I got tied down to some pics:

Ok... I said I wasn't going to speculate further, but based on some prodding I'm going to publish my full pool picks here.

I made my picks based on bracketology. Basically I looked at the individual matchups in each bracket, and the apparent probability of each teams victory or defeat in each matchup.

Where my personal knowledge of the teams in question was insufficient to give me a good idea for a single matchup, I used the bookies odds on that particular matchup (if they had what I would consider reliable odds for it... which means round of 32, and round of 16 at best), the bookies overall cup odds, and FIFA rankings on the teams, as weighting factors.

If you only look at the long odds for overall, you're going to miss a lot of important factors; and the round of 32 doesn't involve so many comparators that it is all that hard to call, given that IN GENERAL, the groups have a pretty clear strongest and second strongest competitor.

To me that looks like:
  • Group A: France and Mexico (outside Uruguay)
  • Group B: Argentina and Greece (outside Korea)
  • Group C: England and US
  • Group D: Germany and Australia (I just think they're better than Serbia, though the bookies don't)
  • Group E: Netherlands and Cameroon (outside Denmark)
  • Group F: Italy and Paraguay
  • Group G: Brazil and Portugal
  • Group H: Spain and Chile
Of course, there's always the "any given Sunday" factor you can't account for... and I'm going against the bookies in Picking Mexico over Uruguay, and Australia over Serbia. I also think Denmark has a shot against Cameroon.

My picks bracket out to a round of 16 looking like this:
  • France - Greece (France)
  • England - Australia (England)
  • Netherlands - Paraguay (Netherlands)
  • Brazil - Chile (Brazil)
  • Argentina - Mexico (Argentina)
  • Germany - US (Germany, but I think the US has a better shot than the bookies do)
  • Italy - Cameroon (Italy)
  • Spain - Portugal (Spain)
You'll note, unsurprisingly, none of the picks I thought might be iffy in the first round make it out of these brackets. Nor would the teams I would pick as alternates to the iffy teams. These brackets are just too strong for an iffy team to advance.


and overall, I'm doing OK, but man there have been some surprising turns here and there.

For one thing, we tied England. I really expected to get beat there. Not only that, but we had the same WDL record as England (1-2-0) so it went to the first tie breaker, and we scored more goals, so we won the group.

First time we've done that since 1930.

That also means we face Ghana, instead of Germany (the latter of which teams I was right about).

I'm not going to call Ghana an easy game, because it isn't by any stretch; but it should be an easier game than England is going to have with Germany.

So, I got the order wrong on 1-2, but I got the teams right for group C.

I'm really happy with our chances of advancing to the quarterfinals... and frankly iffy on Englands right now. Germany is a tough match.

Also, I'm really disappointed with Australia... What the hell happened out there? They just collapsed on the pitch against Germany. The other matches were OK, they tied records with Ghana at 1-1-1; but that went to tiebreaker, and because of how badly Germany beat Oz (4 nil), Ghana came out second in the group.

Oh and they WERE better than Serbia... So I'm half right on group D.

Speaking of collapsing on the field (no this isn't a cheap Italy joke... Oh wait, that just was, wasn't it?) France.

They literally went on strike. Seriously. One player was thrown off the pitch. Two more walked off in protest. The rest of them refused to practice for their next match... and then a couple more actually refused to play in their final match.

I mean, you could come up with a more crushingly ironic statement about the condition of French society today... but you'd have to be Sartres to do it.

Though I guess good for me, because I picked Mexico, and then Uruguay as my alternate to France for Group A.

Group B also had a big surprise for me. I had picked (correctly) the winner to be Argentina, but I figured Greece would pull second with Korea as the outside shot. As it happened, Korea played rather better than anyone thought possible, and beat Greece convincingly 2-nil... though the were thrashed (as expected) by Argentina, and only tied Nigeria... it was enough; and they advance to the round of 16 for only the second time.

Group E... Man.. I was really expecting it to be Cameroons year for second, or at least Denmark... I didnt see Japan going 2-0-1, or Cameroon losing 3... At least I got the group half right again, with the Netherlands pulling their expected win.

Group F, another half right. I predicted Italy and Paraguay, and got Paraguay and Slovakia. Italy... what happened... two draws and a loss... hard games, could have gone either way, but... wow. And the group was so close that if Italy had won the Slovakia game, they would have been in first against Paraguay in second as I predicted... instead, the shocker, they lose and end up last, with Slovakia taking second.

Also, to be fair to Slovakia, way to play that final game. Just damn good play, even if it was against an Italy team not up to their usual standard.

Group G and Group H play their final games today, and they are BIG games, with Brazil meeting Portugal and Chile meeting Spain; both games to decide the order of first and second, for two teams that have already  clinched advancement (even if they lose, Brazil and Chile will advance, just in second place).

Portugal and Spain though, still have hurdles to clear; with Cote D'Ivoire playing North Korea, and Switzerland Playing Honduras.

If Portugal wins or ties tomorrow, they advance, in either first or second place respectively; but if they lose, Cote D'Ivoire can tie them with a win (which is almost a certainty against the Norks, who are probably the worst team to have qualified this year); and it will go to a net points tiebreaker (which will likely favor Portugal. Given Portugals 7-0 destruction of north Korea putting them at +7, and Cote D'Ivoires 3-1 loss to Brazil putting them at -2).

UPDATE: Ivory Coast wins 3-0, Brazil and Portugal draw nil-nil. That puts Brazil as the winner and Portugal as second place in group G. This also makes Cote D'Ivoire the only team in the tournament to neither win, nor lose a single match, all three of theirs ending in draw.

Group H has a major battle for second place. If Spain wins or ties tomorrow, they will advance so long as Switzerland ties or loses to Honduras. If Switzerland wins though, they either take second in the group (if Spain loses or ties) or they go to tiebreaker with Spain.... and the Swiss look a fair bit better than Honduras right now. The tiebreaker is also iffy, with the Swiss at 1(0) and Spain at only 2(+1), so the total score is going to be important to both games.

If Spain does win, that still leaves them in a tiebreaker with Chile for first and second; but Chile is at 2(0), so any win against Chile would also automatically mean a win in the first tiebreaker.

So I'm confident that Portugal will be advancing... and mathematically, Brazil and Chile certainly will; but whether Spain ends up winning the group, or losing to Switzerland... I really can't predict it. My heart says Spain is going to pull it out, but the math favors Switzerland.  Spain vs. Chile going to be a great game no matter what.

UPDATE: Spain beats Chile 2-1, and Switzerland draws with Honduras 0-0, securing group H for Spain, with Chile in second.

So, my revised predictions for the round of 16:

  • Uruguay - South Korea  (Uruguay)
  • Argentina - Mexico (Argentina)
  • United States - Ghana (United States)
  • Germany - England (Germany)
  • Netherlands - Slovakia (Netherlands)
  • Paraguay - Japan (Paraguay)
  • Brazil - Chile (Brazil)
  • Spain - Portugal (Spain)
So, that brackets out to a quarterfinal of:
  • Uruguay - US (Uruguay)
  • Netherlands - Brazil (Brazil)
  • Argentina - Germany (Argentina)
  • Paraguay - Spain (Spain)
Amazingly, even though I only got the group rounds about half right, it didn't change my quarterfinal picks all that much... and frankly, those winner picks on the quarterfinal... I wouldn't give them much better than 50/50. We could end up with an all south America semi and final this year, or a no south America semi and final just as easily. Hell, I'm not even sure if Spain or Switzerland are going to be in the round of 16... though if it is Switzerland, then Portugal should be able to put them down.

The way things are going, and how unsure I am... not even going to try to pick a Semifinal or Final slate.

Onward to the round of 16.