The Statistics Always Lie – A Look At The Socceroos WC2018 Chances

I stumbled upon a link on the ABC News website titled “The stats don’t lie: Australia’s gargantuan World Cup task” which took me to James Maasdorp’s article titled “Comparing the Socceroos to the giants of world football through goals, appearances and social media”.

Unfortunately, for James, he seems to have forgotten that “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”  There are a heap of statistical misrepresentations (I’m reluctant to call James a liar) in the analysis presented, and I hope to address just some here.

Now let me first state that while I do not necessarily disagree with James’ point that the Socceroos have a tough road ahead in Russia; I merely have an issue with his poor use of statistics to try to support it.

First, his use of Number of Players in the ‘Big 5’ Leagues.  This ignores the quality of players going around in the other leagues; one could argue that the top players in other leagues such as Belgium, Netherlands, Turkey, Brazil or Mexico, are as good as or better than the average in Spain, England, Italy, France & Germany.  Also, while, yes the number of players in the ‘Big 5’ is an indicator of the depth of talent the selectors had to choose from, in the end, each team at the World Cup only gets to select 23.  Similar issue with presenting the Appearances stat.

Next, the use of Goals Scored and Combined Goals & Assists in these ‘Big 5’ leagues is a fundamentally flawed measure because it doesn’t allow for the number of players from the countries in those leagues.  Obviously, a country with way more players in the ‘Big 5’ will score & assist in way more goals.  If you allow for the number of players, i.e. Number of Goals & Assists per Player, Australia ranks 8th which is pretty good compared to our Group C opponents Denmark, France and Peru ranked 11th, 22nd and 24th respectively.  (FYI – Egypt is ranked #1).

Now, just for shits-and-giggles, let’s look at the Appearances per Player… Australia is ranked #1 on this measure.  Peru is 5th, Denmark 6th and France 19th.  What does this tell us? It could be argued that it shows the quality of the players in the ‘Big 5’ from the country, i.e. that they’re actually playing in the leagues more regularly, and this also allows for quality defenders and goalkeepers who would be under-represented in the Goals and Assists figures.

I could slice and dice these stats a few other ways, but in the end, all I would prove is what I’ve shown above, i.e. STATISTICS LIE.

Stock Image c/o https://www.pexels.com/photo/grass-sport-game-match-47730/

On the other stats James presents… FIFA18 rating, Social Media Following (SMF), and Transfer Market Valuation (TMV).  The SMF figure is completely irrelevant… yes, there may be a correlation between the quality of the player and his following, but correlation is not causation… otherwise, Kim Kardashian would be playing at the World Cup (but then again, USA didn’t qualify).  FIFA18 ratings and TMV are historic measures of the individual, Russia 2018 is a one-time event, now, and football is about the team.  If past World Cups have shown us anything is that great player and teams often fail when the world is watching, minnows often topple football powerhouses.  How many people expected Cameroon to beat Argentina in the opening match of 1990, or Costa Rica to beat Scotland later that same tournament?  How many predicted Senegal to defeat France in 2002?  Or Switzerland’s victory over eventual winners, Spain in 2010? What were these players EA Sports FIFA stats?  What were the TMV of the Cameroonians, Costa Ricans, Senegalese & Swiss?

I have hope for the Socceroos.  At their best, even with their current squad (which seems to be lacking the calibre of past Socceroo World Cup teams), they can beat Peru and Denmark… and what gives me hope in their opening game against France, is Le Bleu’s ability to self-destruct… despite its strength.

All that said… I won’t be holding breathe on a Socceroos victory…. Because I’ll probably be screaming at the TV, barracking for the Green & Gold.

A-League VIII – Round 1

It’s been a long time since I publicly tipped on A-League, and am going to try my hand today at this weeks opening round of Season 8.

Despite the coaching changes since last season seeming to suggest this should be a win for the blue side of Melbourne, I’m going to tip with my heart and say the Heart will beat Victory tonight.

Wellington will spoil Del Piero’s welcome to the A-League,  but defeating Sydney.

Glory will take out their revenge on the Roar.

Central Coast will be too strong for the Wanderers.

Heskey will impress for Newcastle as they teach Adelaide a thing or two… no mercy will be shown the already depressed Reds, coming off their aggregate loss in their Asian Championship League efforts.

So… they’re my tips for this weekend.  If they’re any good, I might do this again.

Beijing 2008 – Football – Australia v Serbia

Just watched Australia’s opening football match of the 2008 Olympics against Serbia on Channel 7 and have been "inspired" enough by a few things to get me out into the bungalow on a cold, Melbourne, winter night to vent blog about it.

Firstly… Channel 7.  The nerve of them to broadcast this on a delay of TWO HOURS.  If they didn’t want to do a proper job of broadcasting the games, they shouldn’t have bid for them.  I vaguely recall being equally disgusted with their efforts four years ago with their coverage of the Athens Olympics.  A sign of the standard we’re to expect of the next two weeks?  Let’s hope not.  At least the guy commentating the game for Ch7 was okay.  Knew the game and made an effort to pronounce the names correctly (got most of them right too).  That brings me to my second point.

Secondly… ABC’s radio commentary was of the game was SHOCKING.  I listened to about 15 minutes of the match and one of the commentators (David Morrow I think is his name) didn’t know the game and couldn’t pronounce his mothers maiden name if it wasn’t "Smith".  He was clearly a rugby commentator as he kept referring to the goal-line as the "by-line"… and on several occasions during the time I was listening, he made negative stereotypical comments about the sport.  Made me want to write to the ABC and complain… thought I’d vent here instead.

Finally… the match itself .  What can I say about the Olyroos?  Uncoordinated, uninspired, unbelievably lucky to come away from this with a 1-1 draw.  Their play had "Graham Arnold" stamped all over it… when will the FFA realise that this guy is a dead weight around the neck of the sport for this counrty.   Get rid of him already.

FIFA Women’s World Cup – Refereeing

Just watched part of the 2nd semi-final at the Women’s World Cup between Brazil and USA, and while the standard of play was quite good, the standard of refereeing was far from acceptable.

Handball in the box not spotted, denying the US of a penalty; a clear corner not given because the US defender fell over as she kicked it; the US goalkeeper blatantly stepping outside the penalty box while kicking the ball from her hands yet no free kick paid.

Now, the men who refereed last year Men’s World Cup were refereed last year Men’s World Cup were far from great… I remind you of the farce which was the refereeing in the Australia vs. Croatia match, but the mistakes I witnessed tonight would not have been seen made by a parent refereeing an Under 8s match on a Sunday morning… and most definitely shouldn’t be made at the World Cup level.

(apologies for any errors in spelling or grammer, but this is my first “mobile” blog posting).

Les Murray’s Team of 2006

I may have tied with him on my A-League tips this year, but I submitted my tips for the last 9 rounds back in November… what’s his excuse for getting only 35? But… I have come to the conclusion that Les Murray doesn’t know a thing about the beautiful game.

Why do I say that?

It’s his international team of the year for 2006… more precisely, his inclusion of one Vince Grella in said team.

How the hell can he justify that? He can’t… I mean… he hardly even tries to either

In this I went for Vince Grella, a choice that will raise some eyebrows given that he is Australian and so am I.

Of course there were more than a few excellent performers in this role. At the World Cup Claude Makelele of France, Costinha of Portugal and Argentina’s Javier Mascherano were other outstanding examples. England’s Steven Gerrard plays this role well, too, whenever he’s used there. But I found Grella to be as good as any of them in that position.

Where’s Zidane or Kaka? Grella, wasn’t even one of the better players for Australia at the World Cup. He doesn’t come anywhere close to being the best player in that position internationally.

There are only three possible reasons for Grella’s inclusion in Les’ team of 2006.

  1. Les has lost the plot
  2. Les was taking some strong medication at the time of compiling his list
  3. Nah… can’t think of a 3rd… that’s it… only two reasons

So… based on this, I reckon SBS should retire Les before he loses what little credebility he has left in the eyes of Australia’s football viewing public and give the job of Australia’s Mr Football to someone less likely to embarrass themself with fanciful claims such as the one made by Les here.

A-League Tips – 2006 – Round 5 to 11

Well… looks like my “set and forget” strategy is really working… not regarding tipping correctly, but definitely in the “forget” stakes… six weeks without an A-League post. I’m ashamed of myself.

Anyway… looking at my tips on footytips.com.au, my tips for the past 5 weeks appear to have been (correct tips are in bold).

Rd 5 – Syd, Qld, CCM, Melb
Rd 6 – CCM, Perth, Melb, Syd
Rd 7 – Adel, Perth, Qld, Melb
Rd 8 – CCM, NZ, Melb, Qld
Rd 9 – Perth, Melb, Qld, Adel
Rd 10 – Melb, Adel, Qld, Syd

So… as you can see, I’m not doing too well. I’m sitting on 20, ranked 1,730th out of the 14,137 tippers on footytips.com.au. More importantly, I’d be equal leader with Damien Lovelock if I was a panelist on SBS… but alas, they’re yet to ask me to join them. Also, you might have noticed I didn’t tip a single draw between Rd 5 and 10.

Think I’ll learn… my tips for the upcoming round, which were submitted over a week ago, are going to stand, and they have no draws. The tips are:

Rd 11 – Melb, New, Qld, Adel

That’s it for now… hopefully, I’ll get around to posting my tips a little more regularly.

Australia v Paraguay – 2006

I had a dream a couple of nights ago about the Australia v Paraguay match which is set to kick-off in about an hour or so. It wasn’t so much a dream, but more of a nightmare, with the Socceroos going down 1-0 in the match. When I awoke, I could hardly contain my anger and rage at Arnold and Kosmina… these two clowns shouldn’t have been given the honour of coaching Australia, even in a caretaker role, and should have been given their marching orders after the Kuwait debacle, but if my dream turns out to be a preminision, they should have their citzenship stripped and sent off to Nauru.