Opinion

The Great Debate

from Breakingviews:

German soccer glory was predictable – with luck

By Robert Cole

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Brazil’s World Cup was first-rate entertainment thanks to its many surprising results. For its part Breakingviews, also somewhat surprisingly, predicted that Germany would win the competition as long ago as last Christmas.

Many media pundits, and some respected financial institutions such as investment bank Goldman Sachs or global accountant PricewaterhouseCoopers, also braved the World Cup prediction challenge. They deployed a dizzying variety of sporting and non-sporting criteria. The consensus was that Brazil, the host nation, would triumph.

Breakingviews kept its focus on the numbers, shunning direct reference to the teams’ sporting prowess. We looked for simple demographic and financial factors that, in logic, would produce a winner. So we rated the World Cup teams according to population, participation, fan base and squad value. Why? We assumed that good soccer teams would come from populous countries with a large base of players. And that it would help if the game had produced big stars basking in the adulation of fans. A market-derived view of player quality also seemed sensible.

The model got results right in 27 of the first 48 group-stage matches. It went wrong, embarrassingly, in promoting the chances of Italy, England, and Japan. But it correctly forecast 14 of the 16 second phase games, including the outright winner.

from Breakingviews:

Brazil’s companies need soccer team’s global clout

By Dominic Elliott

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Brazil’s corporate squad pales beside its soccer stars. The country’s national football side has unquestioned world-class quality in almost every position on the pitch. Yet if there were a World Cup for businesses, Brazil would struggle to get past the group stage.

“A Seleção”, as Brazil’s soccer team is known, has won the sport’s biggest prize a record five times. Its skill on the ball is described by the exhortation “joga bonito” - “play beautifully”. Brazil has some corporate champions that are both skilled and strong. But it’s doubtful the world’s seventh-largest economy could field a world-beating team of corporate stars.

from Breakingviews:

Investors cheer for Brazil World Cup rout

By Rob Cox

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

At the opening of the Confederations Cup in Brasilia a year ago, President Dilma Rousseff was booed by thousands of soccer fans for all of Brazil to see. It’s easy to understand then why she isn’t planning to speak at Thursday’s opening ceremony of the World Cup. An embarrassing turn as host of Earth’s biggest sporting event - or crushing repeat of the 1950 Maracanaço - may be the greatest obstacle to her clinching a second term.

With each dip in Rousseff’s poll numbers, the Bovespa Index kicks up a notch. Investors are hoping her experimental economic policies will come to an end at the ballot this fall.

NFL: Last sports bastion of white, male conservatives

New York Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes kicks the opening kick-off to start the first regular season game in the Giants new stadium against the Carolina Panthers in their NFL football game in East RutherfordBy almost any measure — TV ratings, the value of franchises, overall revenue, polls — the National Football League is by far both the most popular and successful professional sports league in America. A veritable juggernaut. Nothing seems to damage that popularity — not widely reported homophobia or the growing awareness of the dangers of head injuries or the accusations leveled in a lawsuit filed last week by 500 former players that they were pumped up with painkillers and sent back onto the field after being injured.

Why does the NFL have such a tenacious hold on the national consciousness — particularly that of white males, the primary fans of professional sports? It might be that the NFL, in both its high points and its low ones, encapsulates the prevailing white male conservative ethos of modern America better than any other league. The triumph of the NFL is a tribute to the triumph of American conservatism.

The Baltimore Ravens Chris Carr (25) fumbles the opening kickoff as he is hit by the New England Patriots Matt Slater (bottom) in the first quarter of their NFL football game in FoxboroughThe popularity of a sport is, to a large extent, a function of how well it expresses the zeitgeist — at least the male zeitgeist. For more than a century, baseball was America’s national pastime. It was pastoral — born in the 19th century, played on expansive greenswards, with  a leisurely pace and a deliberate strategy. All of which was a large part of its appeal in a rapidly modernizing society that surrendered those rural values grudgingly.

from The Great Debate UK:

Luck is the residue of design—even in football

SOCCER-WORLD/

- Isaac Getz is a professor at ESCP Europe Business School and co-author of Freedom, Inc. (Crown Business, 2009). The opinions expressed are his own. -

This Sunday will decide the World Cup champion. Yet, most nations will ask themselves again what’s needed to build a world-class national team?

The majority will go for the easy answers: great players, great coach. England had both. Some nations, though, might search for more complex answers—as Germany did.

from The Great Debate UK:

What’s a goal (or five) worth?

simon_chadwick-Professor Simon Chadwick, Director, Centre for the International Business of Sport, Coventry, UK. The opinions expressed are his own. -

There is a famous song, composed in the run-up to UEFA Euro 96, in which the Lightening Seeds, Frank Skinner and David Baddiel refer to England’s 30 years of hurt (the period at the time since England won its one and only World Cup).

England recently took a step closer towards addressing their continued failure to win world football’s biggest prize, by beating Croatia 5-1 to qualify for next year’s FIFA World Cup in South Africa. In so doing, the team also overcame its two years of hurt, following a failure to qualify for Euro 2008 at the hands of their Croatian rivals.

  •