Final result: World Cup contest

Our Head Contest Honcho George has this final report on the dismal outcome of our contest:

The World Cup is over.  Congratulations to the six (non-winning) entries in the Second Quadrennial WEIT World Cup Contest who picked France to win.  They were:  notsecurelyanchored (over Argentina 2-1),  Lorinnor (over Belgium 2-1) , wiltez (over Brazil 1-0), Kenneth Averill (over Germany 2-1), cris (duplicated Kenneth Averill’s entry, over Germany 2-1), and Hakan Konig (over Portugal 2-1).

A mild criticism of Lorinnor’s and wiltez’s entries and some advice for future contests of this type.  The way to approach this contest is to look at the groups, pick the first and second place finishers, fill out the knock-out bracket and then pick your finalists.  Generally, the first place finishers are the ones who progress.  This year, six of the eight winners in the round of 16 were the teams that won their groups.  The second place winners that advanced were Russia and England.  Russia promptly lost.  England was easily exploited in the midfield and would not have beaten Colombia had James Rodriguez been healthy (personal opinion which may not reflect the opinion of PCC(e) and the management and staff of WEIT).

So picking France against Belgium or Brazil in the final was not a good choice.  They would meet before the final. Note that I am not criticizing notsecurelyanchored for picking France over Argentina.  Had Argentina won its group, they could only meet France in the final.  Alas, notsecurelyanchored, like many of us, did not realize what an inept team would surround Lionel Messi.

Outstanding performers in the contest – deacjack who picked Belgium over Croatia 3-1 in the final.  This was the only entry that had Croatia advancing to the final and Belgium was one win away.  And Martin C. who picked Belgium over England 2-1.  Belgium beat England 2-0 in the third place match.

My favorite performer at the World Cup – who else – Kylian Mbappe.  If you saw him walking down the street, you would put the over/under on his age at 15.  Young children would flock to him: he does not look that much different from them.  And he gives all the money he makes playing for his country, France, to charity.  Yes, this son of a Cameroonian father and Algerian mother says France is his country. And the money he gets for playing for France goes to a charity that gives free sports instruction to hospitalized and disabled children in sports, Premiers de Cordee.

Watching the final, I was wondering what Marine Le Pen and her National Rally (formerly National Front) were thinking.  Undoubtedly horrified that all these men with dark skin—16 of the 23 either immigrants or the children of immigrants—were representing France.  Fortunately, most of France was thrilled with the concept.  As Lin-Manuel Miranda says, “Immigrants, we get the job done!”

In view of this, I am declaring a consolation prize winner: reader deacjack, simply for having put Croatia in the final (and losing), even if he got their opponents wrong. If deacjack will email me, I’ll send him/her a book with a soccer-playing cat drawn in it, one wearing the colors of the reader’s favorite team.


  1. Posted July 17, 2018 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Well done, deacjack

  2. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted July 17, 2018 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think it’s fair to say Russia ‘promptly lost’, any more than you could say Belgium got to the semis and ‘promptly lost’. Russia’s opponents, Croatia, required extra time and penalties to get past them.

    As for England vs Colombia, the Colombia team were built much more compactly and operated far more defensively than they would have had James been playing, and might have been tempted to play with a little less of the depressing cynicism they displayed on the day, and which actually helped them almost win. They outplayed England for the first half of extra time and beside that did nothing except engage in the most repugnant behaviour I’ve ever seen at a world cup. The rest of the time England were pretty comfortable and outplayed them. The addition of a single player who’s on loan at Bayern and can’t even get into their first team on a consistent basis is unlikely to have made much of a difference, and might possibly have had a negative effect. Certainly Quintero in midfield looked more of a threat than James has looked in the four years since he last performed consistently, ie. at the last world cup.

    Mbappe was wonderful, the most exciting young player at the tournament and a confirmation on the biggest stage of what everybody already knew; that he’s a world-class player who’s only going to get better. Hopefully he can avoid the kind of injury that crippled Ronaldo Nazario around the same age, and denied us the full fruits of an all-time great.

    Having said that, I still think Paul Pogba was France’s most crucial player. As a Utd supporter I can only hope that he’s not as stifled next season as he was the last because when Pogba is in full flow he’s one of the most beautiful, elegant footballers on earth.

    • George
      Posted July 17, 2018 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      Keep in mind that the opinions in that post are mine and not PCC(e)’s.

      Having said that, I will defend what I said. When I said Russia promptly lost, my point was on group winners advancing, not runners up. Or is it runner ups? Only two of the eight second place teams won their round of 16 matches. If you want to prognosticate, go with the group winner.

      I was happy when Russia lost. I did not think they were a very good team. The Russia-Spain match was horrible. Russia played negative football. They knew they had less talent and were happy to let the game go to PKs. Unfortunately, they won the game of chance against Spain. Fortunately, they lost it against Croatia.

      I was not impressed at all by England. They were the beneficiary of good fortune. They had two bad teams in their group and lost to the good one. I think Colombia wins if James plays. Sweden was not very strong. And England were completely exposed by both Belgium and Croatia.

      I did not say Mbappe was the best performer – just he was my favorite. I agree with what you said about Pogba. But he does not have the cute boyish looks and charm of Mbappe, And what should warm the cockles of the hearts of English football fans, there are more like him coming for France. From fivethirtyeight –

      I understand that England has done well at the U-17 and U-20 levels. That may be a reason for optimism for English fans. This World Cup – not so much.

      And now on to an important World Cup – Rugby in Japan 2019. Go Ireland!

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted July 17, 2018 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        Look, you’re Irish, you clearly can’t be trusted to maintain impartiality. Your feverish hatred of the England team means you couldn’t recognise the subtle brilliance of our national team or the beauty of Raheem Sterling’s ingenious ‘anti-play’ tactic of gifting the opponent the ball at crucial, seemingly game-changing moments. For this I can only pity you, as a man with sight pities the blind.

        I don’t actually think England’s performance was anything to be proud of given the combination of population, enthusiasm for the game and money that the country has. I have a horrible suspicion that this one semi appearance will be used to paper over the very evident cracks in the English game for another thirty sodding years. I’ve had arguments with other England supporters about what this tournament means. I’m at the ‘this shouldn’t be good enough’ end of the spectrum, others are at the ‘stop being so miserable and enjoy it’ end.

        The U21, U19, U17 results are encouraging but without the kind of systematic overhaul of the game that the Germans pushed through in the early noughties I don’t see how it’ll be anything beyond a momentary purple patch. I’m not a natural optimist you might be able to tell.

        I agree about the Russia Spain game – it was one of the most mind-numbing games I’ve ever seen at a WC, and the Russians were awful in that match, but so were the Spaniards. They were playing cargo-cult tiki-taka and refused to deviate from it for a second. A shame considering they contributed to the best game of the tournament, that wonderful ninety minutes against Portugal. It was a pretty good world cup all told though. France were pretty dismal in most of their games but fair play to them for their defense, which was infuriatingly good.

        My favourite performance of the whole thing was Japan against Belgium. They were absolutely wonderful and played the most attractive football of anyone, at least for forty minutes or so.

        Good luck in the rugby! I don’t watch the sport so I can afford to be generous. 🙂

        • George
          Posted July 17, 2018 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

          While I do have a saintly Irish mother, my father was Polish. He was in the Polish forces in the west during WWII. And he named my brother and me after the last two kings of England. Do you know how embarrassing that was when I visited my family in Ireland. So maybe I do have some anger issues in that area.

          A comparison to hockey. In North America, that means the ice variety. The most admired development system in the world is Sweden’s. Finland a close second. USA Hockey is trying to emulate Sweden and is making progress despite parental opposition. Here is an ESPN article on this from 2013:

          The country that would really like to emulate Sweden is Canada. But there is so much in the way of entrenched interests that it is hard to change things. I imagine there is a similar situation in English football. Who really has the goal of producing a great National Team. Certainly not the EPL. The success of England in international play has no impact on their bottom line. If anything, more success for England might even detract from the EPL as a home to the best players from all over the world.

          • Saul Sorrell-Till
            Posted July 18, 2018 at 6:17 am | Permalink

            There was no real incentive for the Bundesliga chiefs to get involved in an overhaul of the German academy system in the early noughties, but they ended up doing so, simply because the ‘political’ pressure, the uproar at the awfulness of the German performance at Euro 2000, was so huge that they had no choice. It’s not in the hands of the EPL to either help or hinder such an effort to overhaul English football – either it’ll come or it won’t.

          • Posted July 20, 2018 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

            How did they know whom you were named after? Isn’t your name common in Ireland?

      • Posted July 18, 2018 at 5:14 am | Permalink

        Only two of the eight second place teams won their round of 16 matches.

        Since the winners are, at least theoretically, the best team in the group, that would seem to be good – if obvious – advice. If they had decided the round of 16 by coin toss, the odds of having two or fewer second place teams in the quarter finals would have been about 14%.

        They had two bad teams in their group and lost to the good one

        Everybody had two bad teams in the group. England lost to the good team in a match that gave an easier ride to the semi finals for the losers. Both England and Belgium played second string sides so you can’t really draw any conclusion about England’s ability from that match.

        I think Colombia wins if James plays.

        Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. I think Columbia lose heavily if the referee sees the head butt and are a man down. Neither of these happened and you can only beat the team that turns up on the pith.

        Sweden was not very strong

        Strong enough to win the group containing the defending champions. Strong enough to win their round of 16 match. England beat the Sweden team comfortably.

        England were completely exposed by both Belgium and Croatia.

        The third fourth place playoff is an irrelevance. Nobody cares who comes third in the World Cup. Yes, England were eventually exposed by Croatia but England dominated most of the first half of that match and should have been more than 1-0 up at half time.

        England have weaknesses in midfield and in the opposition box but, given the inexperience of the team, expectations prior to the tournament and especially the performance in 2014, the performance was pretty impressive. It could be a lot worse, we could be German.

        Rugby in Japan 2019. Go Ireland!

        I’d say good luck, but England are going to win.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted July 18, 2018 at 6:08 am | Permalink

          I think you’re broadly right about England. I’m torn between defending the team’s performance against slightly unfair characterisations on the one hand, and nevertheless concluding that it’s not really good enough to get to a semi final once every thirty years on the other. My fear is that this is exactly the kind of thing that will justify another three decades of inertia from the FA re. changing the structure of the English game at a fundamental level. Another pitiful performance at a tournament might have broken the camel’s back and forced the FA to do something like what the Germans did in the early noughties when they completely overhauled their academies and grass-roots institutions.

          • Posted July 18, 2018 at 6:20 am | Permalink

            it’s not really good enough to get to a semi final once every thirty years

            Given the popularity of the sport in England and the size of the population, the national team does underperform. However, it’s unfair to heap the blame on this particular England team for the failures of their antecedents.

            My fear is that this is exactly the kind of thing that will justify another three decades of inertia from the FA

            I don’t think there has been three decades of inertia. England are currently World Cup holders at both under 17 and under 20 level. Something must be going right.

            like what the Germans did in the early noughties when they completely overhauled their academies and grass-roots institutions.

            Are they going to do it again now?

  3. Posted July 17, 2018 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    As an Englishman, I was disappointed when England lost to Croatia in the semi-finals, but I drew France in the office sweepstake and I’m £40 richer as a result. That’s $50 for those of you watching in Fahrenheit.

  4. Blue
    Posted July 17, 2018 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Aaaaw … … in re deacjack for a consolation !
    That is lovely, Dr Coyne.


    • Posted July 17, 2018 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      Agree. I was pleased to see that there indeed was a winner, albeit consolation.

  5. Eduardo
    Posted July 17, 2018 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Trump has tweeted and said over and over that immigration is very bad for the culture of European countries: “a shame”, “very bad for Europe”, “changed the fabric of Europe […] and I don’t mean that in a positive way”, “very, very sad. I think you are losing your culture”, “it’s changing the culture. It’s a very negative thing for Europe.”
    Sunday he tweeted: “Congratulations to France, who played extraordinary soccer, on winning the 2018 World Cup”. Somebody should tell the ignorant clown that 19 of the 23 players in the roster are either immigrants or sons of immigrants. And that nearly all come from “shithole” African countries. And many are Muslim. (By the way, the “white guy” and star on the team, Grizmann, is also the son of immigrants, a Portuguese mother and a German father.)
    So which is it Trump: Is it very bad, and negative the way they changed the culture, or did they change it extraordinarily for the better?

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted July 17, 2018 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      They didn’t actually play extraordinary soccer either but since anything in his Twitter feed that isn’t about Obama, fake news or how great he is was almost certainly written by someone else I’ll let him off.

      It was lovely seeing a million French people out celebrating the most diverse WC-winning team…since the last French team to win it in 98 🙂

      • Eduardo
        Posted July 17, 2018 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

        Agreed, they did not play extraordinary soccer either. They might have not made it to the final if Cavani hadn’t been hurt and had played for Uruguay in the quarterfinal. (Ok, I’m Uruguayan and had to say that.)

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted July 18, 2018 at 5:59 am | Permalink

          Cavani! I have a slight man-crush on him. Wonderful player.

    • Posted July 20, 2018 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

      I think, however, that a good team is a poor compensation for the lost security and freedom of speech, which is what is meant by the euphemism “change of culture”.

  6. Lorinnor
    Posted July 18, 2018 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Need to defend my pick of Belgium for the final, I guess. I did not expect them to fully try to beat England for first place, as much of the talk even early on was that second place might actually be the easier path and England never were good at efficiency.

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