World Cup Draft

The World Cup starts today and maybe you're not a die-hard fan or any fan, but the world only does this every four years, and if you can get into the Olympics, you can get into this.  After all, unlike Gymnastics, Ice-skating, boxing and speed-walking, the World Cup isn't fixed!

What I recommend is what my father and my brother Achmed and I did - hold a draft.  There are 32 teams in the World Cup. We threw out America (since both Achmed and my dad are suspiciously patriotic) and the host country South Africa (it just seems unseemly to root against them), and picked the other 30 teams in a Snake-Draft. (More on that in a minute.)

The goal is - to have a country to root for, and perhaps more importantly - root against, in every match.

For example, on June 13 Serbia plays Ghana. Be honest - not a whole heckuva lot of your life has been spent mulling over which country you care more about.  But if you had one of the countries in your picks and your friend or wife or son or brother or whatever had the other - suddenly it's Trash-Talk City.

See?  Your blood is pumping already, isn't it?

The way the World Cup works is a two-stage tournament.  In the first part, the 32 teams are split up into 8 Groups.  (Go to this Wikipedia Article, and scroll down about 1/3 of the way to see Groups A-F.)  Each team plays the other three teams in their group.  After that, the two teams with the most points advance.  This does not mean goals scored (unless there are ties and...just ignore that.) You get 3 points for a win and 1 point for a tie. So, if America, for example, were to win one, lose one and tie one, they would get 4 points.  That might very well get them into the next stage.

After the first stage of Round-Robin play, 16 teams are left. These 16 teams are "seeded" into a single-elimination style-bracket resembling one quarter of the NCAA bracket you fill out every March.  The teams then play a conventional "win and advance" tournament until there is a winner.

(Soccer confusion comes with the territory.)

With me so far?  Well, don't worry if you are not.  For purposes of your Draft TODAY, I recommend just dividing up the teams - and then rooting for the teams you have. You can do this for money, but mostly it's to have a further rooting interest. After all, you're blood got boiling for Serbia vs. Ghana after I spent 10 minutes with Microsoft Paint, am I right?  What would happen if you actually picked these teams?

(If you want to, once the second-stage tournament field is set, you can repick in a more conventional-style, attempting to get all the correct winners, etc.)

So, you're going to pick your teams with your friends at work.  But you don't know who is good!


My dad, brother and I certainly didn't know.  we used this October 2009 ranking that shows how good each of the 32 teams are.  Have the rankings changed since then?  Were they all that precise to begin with? Do the rankings reflect the odds of doing well in the tournament?


Are you sensing a theme here?  The goal is to choose up teams, not win the lottery.  Remember that first link up above?  Right where I told you to scroll there is a list of the 32 teams by geographical region, and also separates the best 7 teams (and the host) out.  Once you get past those 7 it's probably a crap-shoot.  We mainly picked countries we liked.

[CORRECTION: Hyperion mainly picked countries he liked and avoided countries he has feuds with. This led to both his father and his brother have substantially better picks than he, but also means they are apostates and possible degenerates.]

Okay, so my dad, brother and I had a snake-draft. No, this doesn't mean I squeezed anyone with my python-like arms to let me have Chile (although that might not be a bad idea). I means that we reversed our Draft order every other round.

So, my brother picked first, then my father, than me.  Therefore it looked like this:


We went 1-2-3-3-2-1 and then again. This meant that my brother and I, when we picked, picked twice. This upset my dad, who kept wanting to pick twice too!  What I kept explaining is that we had to wait 4 picks once we had our 2, whereas he picked every2. (He did not seem impressed.)

With two, three, five or six people you just throw out America and South Africa (if you want to) and divide up the rest. With four people you can leave America and South Africa in, or also throw out France and North Korea, since they are evil. Your choice.

Here are the World Rankings as of a month ago:

1 Brazil
2 Spain
3 Portugal
4 Netherlands
5 Italy
6 Germany
7 Argentina
8 England
9 France

If you look at that link I showed you, you see that they are a little different (mostly Portugal moving up, but I wouldn't trust that - word on the street is that they bought off the Ranking people).

Everyone agrees that Spain and Brazil (in some order) are the two best teams.  And for what it's worth, everyone agrees the two best players are Lionel Messi (from Argentina), and Wayne Rooney from England.

Speaking of which, if you are in America and simply MUST root for the U.S. - they play England on Saturday at 1:30 Eastern.  It will be the most watched soccer game in American history.  Will America win?  Not likely.  The Americans have gotten much better, but have some injuries.  England is a better team, and more importantly, it is SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT to them.  I heard an English commentator say -without any irony - that England would have rather lost the Falkland War than lose to the U.S. on Saturday.  If America loses, no one will care here for more than an hour.

(SOMEBODY needs another Revolutionary Ass-whoopin'!)

Why is that?  My theory is the Sunshine State Sports theorem.  Fans of teams in Sunshine States (California, Florida, maybe a few others) like their teams, but don't get nearly as obsessed as people from say, Chicago, Boston, New York, the state of Pennsylvania, etc.  The reason is that there is so much more to go do outside, and the sun is always shining!

You think I'm kidding, but I'm not.  Imagine you live in L.A. Your team just lost in the World Series. That sucks. But it's 75 degrees out, and you can go hiking or rafting or to the beach or DisneyLand or just go sit in the park.  If you're in Boston in late October - good luck to you.

You see what I mean?  I'm not saying the U.S. is a better country than Serbia, but there is so much more to do. We have tons and tons of sports. And movies. And TV. And outdoor activities. And indoor activities. and restaurants. And whatever.  There is simply too much vying for our attention for most people in America to get that caught up in a sport or team.

It doesn't mean Americans don't like their sports, but it will never matter nearly as much as the World Cup does to some of these countries, where it can literally be Life or Death.

Okay, back to my Draft.  I thought maybe you'd like the see the teams we picked, as an inspiration for you, and also to help you see what I was talking about before.  Here are the 30 picks we made (again, leaving out the U.S. and South Africa):

1. Spain (Achmed)
2. Brazil (Dad)
3. Netherlands (Hyperion)
4. Argentina (H)
5. Germany (D)
6. England (A)
7. Portugal (A)
8. Italy (D)
9. Chile (H)
10 Greece (H)
11. France (D)
12. Mexico (A)
13. Honduras (A)
14. Paraguay (D)
15. Ivory Coast (H)
16. Australia (H)
17. Cameroon (D)
18. Uruguay (A)
19. Serbia (A)
20. Switzerland (D)
21. Algeria (H)
22. New Zealand (H)
23. Denmark (D)
24. Nigeria (A)
25. Slovenia (A)
26. Slovakia (D)
27. South Korea (H)
28. Japan (H)
29. Ghana (D)
30. North Korea (A)

Broken down by person, these are our picks:

ACHMED (Team Edward and no, I do not feel bad outing Achmed as a TWILIGHT fan and horrible Edward supporter over the much awesomer Jacob) 
North Korea

Achmed ended up with 2 of the top 3 countries in the world.  Not sure how that happened.  Plus, he nabbed Slovenia, which I was going to take because I have friends there.  Sigh.  I suck. At least he got stuck with North Korea.

DAD (Team Papa Bear)

I think Brazil or Germany have made it to the Semi-finals every single World Cup, so my father is sitting pretty.  I notice his team is Euro-heavy, although to be fair, he was mostly going on those 2009 world rankings, and with my screwy picks dad was left a lot of power. I believe Brazil, Italy and France won the last 5 World Cups, and Germany was in 3 of the Finals, so dad is looking the best. (Maybe all that stuff about "what's a snake draft" was a set-up.)

HYPERION (Team Super-Hero Underoos!)
Ivory Coast
New Zealand
South Korea

Clearly I have other agendas at play.  For example, I've been listening to Ana Tijoux's "1977) non-stop for three days, and she's a Chilean rapper, so of course I took Chile 3 picks too soon.  I took Greece to cheer them up after their bad spring (as if me taking them will calm all storm seas), and I took New Zealand because I like Hobbits.

Feel free to email/call/smoke-signal me your mockery when/if my countries do poorly.  Or, let me know, and I'll divide up the teams with you as well  After all, we're all just looking for reasons to hate each other.  That's what the World Cup is all about - bringing people together.

June 11. 2010

Personally, I'd play for her. I like the way she's holding...uh, her own...)

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