(Belated) World Cup Contest

This was supposed to go up earlier, but it turns out that thinking you selected “Scheduled” in the MT back end is not, in fact, enough to schedule the post to appear. So this is showing up after games have already begun, but nothing of consequence has happened yet, so it’s no biggie.

Anyway, the soccer World Cup has begun, making this one of the rare summers with sporting events worth watching on television. And time for the quadrennial spectacle of Americans pretending to know/care about soccer.

So, anyway, there’s a big tournament going on, and it seems only fair to offer space to discuss it. And, just to add a little competitive element to it, we’ll run a quick contest:

The entire FIFA World Cup tournament will involve 111 64 games. How many of these games will end in ties?

Because this is posting late, we already know that the answer is greater than or equal to one. There are still an awful lot of games to be played, though, so we can still run with this.

For the purposes of this contest, elimination games decided by penalty-kick shootouts count as tie games. Enter by posting your guess in the comments of this post, along with a guess as to the total number of goals scored in the tournament, for tie-breaking purposes. Entries will be accepted until 11:59 pm Eastern time Sunday. The person whose guess is closest to the actual number without going over will receive a signed copy of How to Teach Physics to Your Dog. One entry per person, and you must provide a valid email address with your comment that will be used to contact you in the event that you win.

Feel free to use this as an open thread to talk about the opening games, which team ought to win, the physics of a great corner kick, or any other topic that appeals to you.

35 thoughts on “(Belated) World Cup Contest

  1. Hmmm. Hmmmmmmmmmm. Hmmmmmmm—-

    Enough of that.

    If I were less busy, I would actually go look at the entire first round schedule, try to work out the subsequent schedule, and run a probability analysis taking into account the relative strengths of the teams and whatnot. Since I am busy — and since tonight, when I won’t be so busy, I’ll be lazy instead — we’ll go with the very-mildly-educated guess.

    42 games will end in ties according to your definition.

    There will be a total of 284 goals.

  2. I’m going with 36 tied games. 197 goals.

    I found all the talk about the new ball interesting. Some players are saying it doesn’t fly ‘true’. I’m guessing that what they really mean is ‘it doesn’t fly the same way the old balls used to’. The more even surface of the ball may be limiting the amount of curve that the ball takes in flight. Supposedly Loughborough University has tested the new ball. I may have to pick up one to try it out for myself.

    mrwatts@optonline.net

  3. Also worth pointing out that the 16 knockout-stage games will play 30min of extra time before going to penalties. By the rules, those would count as wins. But then again, those just go to penalties anyway more often than not.

    Based on the 64 games, I’ll pick 38 draws and 130 goals. Already one in the can today, and France-Uruguay is there at the half. First games are notorious for that, though.

  4. D’oh! I was double-counting the group stage games. Yes, 64 is the right number.

    A win in extra time counts as a win.It’s only games that end in a draw or go to PK’s that count as ties for the purposes of this contest.

  5. 31 ties, 327 goals total.

    To answer riemann and cisko, the World Cup is not a simple single elimination tournament. Teams are divided into groups of 4 where each team plays the other 3. The top 2 teams from each group then advance to the single elimination part of the tournament.

  6. @clark, but none of has ever said that the world cup is a single elimination tournament, have we? we just said there were going to be 64 games, not 111. In fact if the world cup was in that format – as you assumed that we assumed – there would be 32 games (including the 3rd place game), not 64.

  7. Is this an important indicator of anything interesting? A 3-3 draw is usually a more exciting game than a 3-0 win, after all. Why fetishize tied games?

  8. Um, there won’t be any ties. If the score remain the same, it’s a draw. Ties are for cricket (where they are rather rare).

    And time for the quadrennial spectacle of Americans pretending to know/care about soccer.

    Indeed.

  9. Is this an important indicator of anything interesting? A 3-3 draw is usually a more exciting game than a 3-0 win, after all. Why fetishize tied games?

    Because it amuses me, and is a way to have a quantitative contest while gently tweaking insecure soccer fans. Everybody wins! Or, at least, ends up with the same number of points.

  10. 12 ties, 154 goals.

    This estimate is the mean of the corresponding statistics from the 2002 and 2006 world cups. I don’t think the playing styles of the dominant teams have changed much since 2002, but I do think the correlation with statistics of earlier world cups would be fairly low. I would have put more weight on the 2006 results, but I think the fluctuations are high enough that this would be pointless.

    The other entries indicate that a lot of people either haven’t looked at the statistics, or were working on the basis of 111 games. I suggest that people who entered before Chad made the correction should be allowed to enter again.

  11. Anybody whose early entry was based on 111 games is welcome to re-enter with a number for 64 games.

    Of course, we’ve now had two games, both ties, and a total of two goals. A simple linear extrapolation thus predicts 64 goals and 64 ties, so some of those early guesses don’t look too bad…

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