Soccer World Cup 2010: Can the US team execute its strategy?

All friendlies are now done and fans have to wait until tomorrow before the first opening matches start.    A couple of days ago, I introduced a “mood analytic” to help figure out the mood that my top 10 teams should be in, based on their performance during the friendly games. 

Here is how they stack up:

  1. USA’s Mood is Very High (see analytics here)
  2. Spain’s Mood is High (see analytics here)
  3. Netherland’s Mood is High (see analytics here)
  4. Germany’s Mood is High (see analytics here)
  5. England’s Mood is High (see analytics here)
  6. Portugal’s Mood is Medium (see analytics here)
  7. Argentina’s Mood is Low (see analytics here)
  8. Brazil’s Mood is Low (see analytics here)
  9. Italy’s Mood is Low (see analytics here)
  10. France’s Mood is Very Low (see analytics here)

I used  two simple metrics to assess the mood of my top 10 teams:

  • Performance for each tune-up game (win = 1, tie = 0, loss = -1): the higher the number is, the better the team should feel.  Trend is important here: you want a team that has an upward trend.  For instance, The US lost their first game, won their second and third game – that’s a good trend.  France won their first game, tied their second one and lost their last one – not as good.
  • The rank differential between the team assessed and their opponent: the lower the difference, the more difficult the game.  For instance,  Brazil (#1 in FIFA rank) won its preparation game against Tanzania.  Tanzania’s FIFA rank is #108.  Brazil rank differential on this game is 107 (108-1).  Last week, England (#8 in FIFA rank) won its preparation game against Mexico.  Mexico FIFA rank is #17.  England rank differential on this game is 9 (17-8).  If we stick to FIFA’s ranks as assessment of team’s levels, Brazil had an easier game than England: they both won, but against two very different teams rank-wise.

Overall average rank differential (average rank difference between the team measured and its opponents) influenced my assessment too.  Take Brazil, who won all games but whose average differential is 108.  Its performance can’t be compared to that of Netherlands (won all games and has the fourth lowest differential at 31) or England (won all games and has the lowest of all-wins differential at 23).  See the table for all teams here.

I think that they might be great surprises namely:

  • Netherlands – they are fast, have challenged themselves well in the friendlies and have won by an average of 3 goals per game (highest performance for winning teams with low differentials).
  • USA –  The England game is the obvious first test but the data shows that the players have performed well against challenging teams.  From what I’ve seen, their fitness seems superior to most but they have to be careful not just to rely on fitness.  From a strategic planning standpoint, see more on USA’s Project 2010 vision and their intention to be a strong contender this year.  Let’s see if they can execute their strategy.
  • France and Italy – The last cup’s finalists have had disappointing performance in their friendlies.  Notice’s France’s declining performance, even as their opponent ranks declined throughout the friendlies.  Italy’s loss to Mexico was a surprise particularly given the fact that England and the Netherlands won against Mexico in their friendlies….
  • England – according to UBS Statistical Model has a 4% chance of winning the game…I think that might be a little exaggerated. 

There has been, by the way, a large amount of predictions based on macro-economic factors, from PWC’s recent study to Sorbonne’s Professor Wladimir Andreff whose model gives Germany a 96% chance of making it to the semi-finals.  For my part, I predict Argentina to be the winner – see my full bracket here. (as well as a corrected version from one of my friends, Tony Peterson @sonotony here).

May the best team win! ….and don’t forget to watch the opening concert today – you can see it on ESPN3 here!




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