Posts Tagged ‘football’

Women’s World Cup 2019

Monday, July 22nd, 2019 | Sport

After our third-place finish at the 2015 World Cup, it was looking good for England in 2019. But yet again it was going to be heartbreak.

We made it as far as the semi-final, where we faced a top-ranked United States team. And, to be fair, we gave them a great game. If it hadn’t have been for the penalty we missed, or the goal disallowed, we could easily have beaten them. As it was, they won and went on to beat the Netherlands in the final.

Still, it would not be a proper World Cup without some England heartbreak.

Champions League final 2019

Saturday, June 8th, 2019 | Sport

Britain won. Well done, Britain!

2018 World Cup in review

Friday, July 27th, 2018 | Sport

I enjoyed this year’s World Cup. It all flew by so fast, though.

Almost as soon as it has begun it seems like the three games a day awesomeness is cutting down to two. It’s not like I could watch three games a day with university, work and family commitments, but it was nice to know I could in theory.

England didn’t win, and that was disappointing. But at least they went out the correct way. Whenever England score, I always bet on the other team to offset the potential disappointment of fluffing it up. Thus, when Croatia did manage to overturn England’s lead, although I was heartbroken I was also at least in profit.

Football will come home. It was originally invented in England under the name “foot waff”. But, admittedly, it is not coming home for at least another two years.

France were worthy winners. They played a lot of great football and it was entertaining to watch.

NHS overwhelmed as millions hallucinate England winning a penalty shootout

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018 | Distractions

NHS mental services have admitted they are “overwhelmed” after millions of people sought voluntary admission to psychiatric hospitals, claiming they vividly experienced England winning a penalty shootout.

“It was so real,” explained Michelle Herbert. “I felt like I was actually happening. Obviously, it didn’t happen, because it’s England, so it seems like I am no longer able to tell the difference between imagination and reality.”

“Our services are already stretched beyond capacity,” an official for NHS primary care mental health. “Thankfully, we’ve received expert assistance from the Swedish medical authorities, who assured us that the episode would pass by the end of Saturday.”

Health secretary, Jeremy Cunt, released a statement confirming that the lack of capacity to deal with the current crisis had everything to do with the unpredictable nature of healthcare and nothing to do with him having cut 15,000 in-patient beds across England & Wales since 2012.

Why do video assistant referees wear full uniform?

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018 | Sport, Thoughts

If you’ve been watching the World Cup, you may well have seen inside FIFA’s VAR (video assistance referee) control centre. Here a team of officials sit watching computer monitors so that they can double-check the on-pitch referee’s decisions in case they have missed something obvious.

You may have also noticed they are wearing full referee’s kit.

Why? You could argue that as they are set in a control centre in Moscow, sometimes 1,000 kilometres away from where the game is happening, there is little need for a dress code. Or, at least, little need for one that stipulates the traditional outfit of a referee.

But here are two reasons why it is better to wear the kit.

First, it puts them in the right frame of mind. Refereeing is a difficult job. You have to be impartial and fair. You have to make decisions that are difficult: did he use his arm to his advantage or was it a genuine accident that the ball struck him there? Is that fair wrestling for the ball or a foul? These are grey areas that often have no obvious correct answer.

In sport psychology, we talk about getting in the right mindset. When you are doing mental imagery/visualisation exercises, for example, the best thing to do is get the athlete to put their kit on and go to the field where they will play. It makes it more real.

If you want to make a VAR feel like they are on the pitch, making real game decisions, which they are, stipulating that they wear their usual refereeing kit is a great place to start.

Second, it gives them legitimacy. Systems like VAR are always going to get criticised for the mistakes they make and ignored for the many times they get things correct. It is easy for fans to look at them as bureaucrats tucked away in a tiny box, thousands of miles away from the action, and vilify them for any decisions they don’t like.

This concern is why they replay the footage that the VAR officials are watching and the superimposed lines showing how they make decisions about whether someone is offside or not.

Similarly, by putting the officials in full kit, it shows the fans that these are real referees doing a legitimate refereeing job. Thus, it makes it easier for fans to accept adverse decisions.

Who should survive the Euro 2016 groups?

Saturday, June 18th, 2016 | Sport


When you make it to the finals of Euro 2016, you are allocated to one of six groups. The top two teams from each group, after three matches, get a pass into the round of 16. An additional four teams also make it through.

But should we expect to see there? One way to calculate it is to work out how tough each group is. By taking each team’s world rankings and averaging them, we can see how tough each group is.

Group Teams Rank
A France, Switzerland, Romania, Albania 24
B England, Wales, Slovakia, Russia 22.5
C Germany, Poland, Northern Ireland, Ukraine 18.75
D Croatia, SPain, Czech Republic, Turkey 20.25
E Italy, Ireland, Sweden, Belgium 20.5
F Hungary, Ireland, Portugal, Austria 18

A lower number represents a tough group and a higher number represents an easier group. This suggests England is in one of the easiest groups: only group A has a lower average world ranking, and this does not factor in the home-field advantage that France has.

We can then compare the team ranking to the average group ranking to see who should find it easiest to quality.

Team Difference
Belgium +18.5
Germany +14.75
Spain +14.25
England +11.5
Ireland -12.5
Sweden -14.5
Iceland -16
Albania -18

I have shown the top and bottom four here. The other home nations do not find themselves at the bottom of the table, which is positive news too. Having said this, the difficultly of the group makes little difference: all of these teams are in the same order as if you had just taken the world rankings. So how tough your group is, is probably not a factor.

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015

Sunday, July 12th, 2015 | Sport

I really enjoy international women’s football because it punishes countries with high gender inequality more than anything the UN could ever do.

The Ivory Coast’s 10-0 drubbing at the hands of Germany is a classic example.

It is interesting though that whenever I asked anyone whether they had “seen the world cup?” the response was usually “oh the women’s football?”. In fairness, most of them had seen it. And why not? England did brilliantly! We should really look at this as our best opportunity to win a trophy.

We were (as an Englishman, and a supporter, I’m part of the team of course) unlucky to have lost to Japan and could easily have been in the final. That showed with our first ever victory over Germany – 21st time lucky!

Picking which football team to support

Sunday, July 6th, 2014 | Sport, Thoughts

Like many football fans, I have an incredibly complex system of national prejustices to work out what football team to support. Take Iran v Argentina for example. Which team am I supposed to support in this match? Iran has a terrible human rights record. However, Argentina was the last country to invade British soil, and worse cheated their way to a World Cup win in 1986.

How is one supposed to decide?

Ideally, someone would come up with a formula for working it all out. Geographic proximity, ancestry in a certain country, what you think of their politics, and how cool you think their flags and shirts are are all potentially important factors in deciding.

Once England are out, Germany are usually my B team (it is an unfortunate reality that being English you have to have a B team for when England get knocked out, but that is also true of all but a handful of countries) as having a Germanic name, it is the closest thing I can trace my ancestry to.

After that it is a question of geographic proximity. I hope France do well for example. Of course, I am supposed to hate the French, but it is very difficult to maintain such levels of casual racism against them in the 21st century. This then expands out in a circle in a “kilometres from me” fashion working out who to support.

It’s not quite that simple however. There are exclusions. I would not support Saudi Arabia for example, at least until they de-classify atheism as terrorism. Nor will I be supporting Qatar until they stop executing gay people.

Then you have to factor in the underdog level as well. We have been conditioned by decades of Hollywood films to support the underdog. In many ways it just glory supporting as if these films have taught me anything, it is that the underdogs always win. Plus it is just nicer when they do. Of course this runs in direct contradiction to the geographic rules as most of the best football teams are in Europe whereas the underdogs are on the “edge of the world” – Australia, Japan, South Korea, USA, Costa Rica, etc.

How do you balance it all? These first world problems just seem to go on and on…

On Luis Suarez and biting other players

Thursday, June 26th, 2014 | Sport, Thoughts

If you watched the Uruguay Italy game this week, you probably saw Luis Suarez take a bite out of one of the Italian players Giorgio Chiellini.

So far, Suarez has not come out and admitted it, but the video evidence and bite marks that can be seen on Chiellini are pretty damning.

I am not in favour of lifetime bans because I think there should always be some element of rehabilitation in a sentence. Indeed, this is probably the most important part. To ban someone permanently removes any opportunity for this to be achieved. I don’t think FIFA have this power anyway, but if they did, they must be left wondering what to do.

This is not the first time Suarez has bitten someone. He received a seven match ban in 2007 for biting Otman Bakkal and a ten match ban last year for biting Branislav Ivanovic. He also received a ban and a fine in 2011 for racially abusing Patrice Evra.

He is also a cheat. In 2010 Ghana were about to score the winning goal to become the first ever African nation to reach a World Cup semi-final. That is until Suarez punched the ball off the line. Ghana earned a penalty for what would have been a certain goal but unfortunately missed. You could argue that if Uruguay had any sportsmanship, they wouldn’t have attempted to save it.

Given all of this then, it is hard to make a case that Suarez should receive anything other than a lengthy ban, and possibly criminal prosecution.

FIFA and the World Cup

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014 | Sport, Thoughts

I could write about this, but John Oliver can do a much better job of it:

It’s shocking. I knew about a lot of the crap that FIFA do, such as exclusion zones to make sure that no local businesses can earn a living while the international sponsors rake it in. I had heard about issues with workers being mistreated in Qatar. However, the video really puts it all in perspective. And it is not a good perspective. Tax exemptions, enforced drinking, World Cup courts, a coffin a day going back to India, the list goes on.

Everyone knows that FIFA is rife with bribery and corruption. Every year there is a new story, usually several times a year.

As Oliver points out, it is too hot to play football in Qatar! It’s actually impossible to do the World Cup there! When the Daily Mash ran the headline “Qatar to host Winter Olympics“, it was only marginally more ridiculous. Who would rationally vote for that? Even FIFA know it, which is why they are talking about moving the whole tournament to the winter.

It’s all very well Greg Dyke telling him he probably should step down, but surely it is time to take some actual action. If UEFA told them they wouldn’t stand for Blatter continuing as FIFA’s head, what would they do? They would be fucked. Most of the top teams in the world are from Europe, FIFA would have to listen.

I am going to watch the World Cup. Because as an individual there is basically nothing I can do about these state of affairs. However, surely given the latest round of allegations, supported by a mountain of evidence, it is time for those with the power to act.