Feb  7, 1994	England success (Marcelo Weinberger)
Mar  ?, 1994	World Cup Allotments (Marcelo Weinberger)
early   1994	Unattractive South Americans? (Marcelo Weinberger)
Aug  2, 1995	Futbol quality (Ariel Mazzarelli)
Nov  6, 1995	On the other hand (Ariel Mazzarelli)

From marcelo@hplms1.hpl.hp.com (Marcelo Weinberger)
Subject: Re: England success (was: Re: MARADONA *SACKED*)
Date: Mon, 7 Feb 1994 20:04:14 GMT

davev@strange.camb.logica.co.uk (Dave du Vergier) writes:
> (Marcelo Weinberger) writes:
> > Does this mean that England had some success in the pre-war era?
> > I don't want to start a flame war, but could you please spell this
> > alleged pre-war success for me?
> Of course ! In the early part of this century England regularly
> racked up huge scorelines (9-0, 12-1 and better) against other
> national sides, but there was no FIFA or UEFA in those days and hence
> no European Championships or World Cups to be won.

This is true regarding pre-war I, not pre-war II!

|> England were still ahead of other European sides in the 30's, but out
|> of arrogance and stupidity the FA declined to send an English team to
|> the first few World Cup tournaments, which they might well have won.

How do you know that "they might well have won"? They probably thought
the same just before WC'50! Anyway, the fact that they might still be
ahead of other European sides in the 30's says nothing to me. In the
20's and 30's the best soccer was not exactly played in that side of the
Atlantic ocean. BTW, Uruguayans say that "they might well have won"
WC'34 and WC'38 had they sent a team. Argentinians say that "they might
well have won" WC'50 and WC'54 had they sent a team. In both cases the
reason was not arrogance.

|> So in short yes, England had plenty of success in pre-war
|> internationals, but sadly this was exclusively in friendlies
|> and meaningless ad-hoc tournaments.
|> DdV

As you said, "meaningless tournaments". I grant you that they didn't
need to demonstrate an obvious superiority before, say, World War I. But
since then, non-participation in worlwide competitions is not an excuse.
Nothing proves that they wouldn't have lost in the twenties or thirties
the way they lost in the fifties. In fact, I would say that during the
twenties and thirties the best soccer was already played very far away
from the British Islands. Across the ocean and all the way south, then
stop at the Rio de la Plata.

From: marcelo@maui.almaden.ibm.com (Marcelo Weinberger)
Date: March 1994

Robert J. Krawiec writes:
> Of course, in Snr Adeff's opinion, South American participation in
> the World Cup should be maintained at its current level (surprised he
> didn't want it increased actually). Apparently, for no better reason
> than Snr Adeff is from that part of the world.

Want better reasons? "Reasonable" people should be able to understand
this one:

Claim: If as a result of a consistent performance criterion, based on
^^^^^  recent WC performances ('86 and '90), the South American (SA)
       representation is reduced from 4 to 3 teams, then the same
       criterion will yield a reduction of European (E) representation
       from 14 to, at most, 10 teams.

(Note: WC'86 and WC'90 are chosen since, due to the continental swap,
       any fair comparison must be based on an even number of past WC's)

Proof: First, we establish Fact (1).
^^^^^  Fact (1): In both WC's all 4 SA teams performed better than at
                 least 4 E teams. Indeed, in both WC's all SA teams
                 advanced to the second round, while 4 out of 14 E teams
                 did not.

        Since these WC's are assumed to be a good predictor of future
        performances, this is also the estimated ranking for WC'94. Now,
        by the consistency of the criterion, if a SA team is eliminated
        (i.e., should not be a WC participant), then all worse teams
        should be eliminated as well. Hence, by Fact (1), the proof is

From: marcelo@maui.almaden.ibm.com (Marcelo Weinberger)
Date: Thu, 24 Mar 1994 20:22:55 GMT

sheep@gargoyle.hacktic.nl (Frank Schaapherder) writes:
> marcelo@hplms1.hpl.hp.com (Marcelo Weinberger) writes:
> >I was only trying to contradict European posters that insist on
> >their assumption that many European teams that don't qualify are
> >better than some South American teams that do qualify.

        [irrefutable proof deleted]

> I still think this can be the case. It often is the case. What also
> happens is that weaker (European) countries qualify, while stronger
> ones must stay home  [....]
> As usual, and to try to get groups of more or less the same strength,
> the countries are divided into different categories. In which
> category a country is placed, depends on results in the past for the
> tournament.  [....]
> Of course, this can also be the case for South America. But I think
> the smaller number of countries trying to qualify there will make the
> odds for it to happen smaller. Occasionally, it will happen, though
> less frequent than in Europe.

This is funny my friend. You among other posters started by making an
argument about some European teams that do not qualify being better than
South American teams that do qualify. You tried to base your claim on
actual WC results. I contradicted completely your thesis (well, an easy
task I must admit, with teams like Scotland qualifying 5 consecutive
times and failing each time to go through the first round...). So you
choose to employ arguments that, by definition, cannot be contradicted
since they are based on subjective grounds. In fact you can always prove
in this way whatever you want: take the European teams that showed a
lousy level in the WC, and then argue that in fact there were far better
teams that stayed home due to the lottery. Fortunately, you are not
silly so you realize that one can make the same argument with South
America. So at that point you offer your master piece: this is more
likely to happen in Europe because there are more countries. I asked
myself whether I should try to contradict this argument too, and I
decided that I don't want to insult the intelligent reader who can
derive many trivial contradicting proofs by himself. So African friends,
here you have it: next time your teams lose just say that with so many
countries and only three representatives, two of them just went through
due to the lottery.

Finally, my friend, I guess you will have some trouble with this: 4
European representatives didn't make it to the second round in WC'86 and
WC'90 (no South Americans, BTW). In all cases, they came from 4
different European qualification groups, which are 6 in total. If you
want to argue that there were 4 better teams that didn't qualify, they
should be in the two remaining groups. I will conclude that people in
UEFA tried hard to screw up their own teams!
Extremely amused,

From: marcelo@maui.almaden.ibm.com (Marcelo Weinberger)
Subject: Re: Unattractive South Americans? was: Re: AFRICAN TEAMS IN
Date: early 1994

Jesper Lauridsen writes:
|>   In '86, both Brazil and Argentina played some interesting football.
|> Paraguay wasn't very good, but those 4 matches I saw with them were
|> very entertaining. Too bad they didn't made it to Italy. Uruguay was
|> a disgrace, though their second match was fun to watch ...

Jesper, this is a good example of the distorsion caused by the fact that
Europeans sample the South American teams every 4 years at the World
Cup, and have no idea about them in the meantime. Of course, I agree
that Uruguay was even worse than a disgrace in '86, despite its 1-1 tie
with Germany (that could easily have been a victory), and then playing
its worst game in 100 years of soccer history (yes, the one you referred
to...). I may not have the same relatively good impression about
Paraguay as you have (after all, they lost 0-3 to England), but let's
assume I also agree for the sake of argument. Now, you infer that you
would have wanted to see Paraguay in WC'90. Assuming you don't want 5
South American teams in a WC, you have to take someone out. Not
Colombia, which precisely eliminated Paraguay in the qualifyings and
played attractive soccer. So, maybe Uruguay? Well, here comes my
argument regarding this 4-year sampling: take a look to SA teams in the
meantime. Uruguay won the Copa America in '87 (playing in Argentina and
beating the local team, the world champions with Maradona, in
semifinals), was second in Copa America '89 behind Brasil (played in
Brasil), and on the way to the final it crashed Paraguay 3-0, being
absolutely superior at that time (BTW, it also beat Argentina 2-0).

Of course, I agree that the WC is by far the most important measure,
but overlooking the 4 years in between may lead to that kind of
distortions. Put it the other way around, and suppose that we South
Americans looked at Europeans only in World Cups. Well, in the same
period the mighty Dutch team would be considered by us as a second or
third degree lousy European team, unable to qualify to WC'86 and that
played a quite poor soccer in WC'90 and didn't go through the second
round. And of course, this would be ridiculous.

In the South American arena, you must admit that when those
countries, including Argentina and Brasil, compete BETWEEN THEM, both in
the level of national teams and clubs, there are no big differences. As
a beautiful example we can take Argentina in WC'86, the uncontestable
world champion. Well, one year before in the qualifyings, that team was
ONLY 8 MINUTES FROM ELIMINATION! They were loosing 0-1 at home against
Peru and being eliminated (after loosing in Peru), and tied at the 82-nd
minute! Not having full teams neither is a reason: this applies, only
sometimes, to Brasil and, mostly, to Uruguay.

From: mazzare@primenet.com (Ariel Mazzarelli)
Subject: Futbol quality (was: Re: Does Europe=Western Europe?)
Date: Aug 2, 1995

marcotti@mail2.sas.upenn.edu (Gabriele  Marcotti) wrote:

>Ariel Mazzarelli wrote:
>> Of course one nice thing about such sites is that FIFA will not order teams to
>> play at high noon in order to accomodate the European TV audience.  Hmmm...
>> something awful circular about all this,  eh?

>Actually World Cups have also been held in Sweden and Switzerland. And 
>Holland/Belgium are trying to get a joint World Cup. 

Now you know very well why a world cup was held in such vanilla countries as
the Sw's.  That spat from 1939 to 1945,  no?  

Since then,  we have seen repeat hostings in Italia and now France.  My main
point on the geography thing was that it has never been seriously considered
to hold the tournament in USSR/Russia,  Chckoslovakia,  Poland,  or Hungary,
where there is a great amount of tradition in the game.  So to call it
"Europe" is a bit disingenous,  when it actually means "Western Europe" and
also,  more or less,  one of the big five that I mentioned (Deutschland,
England,  Espa~a,  France,  Italia).  It is only a war that altered the
hegemony of these countries over the world cup site,  namely the "every other
cup" tradition.

>As for the high noon game time, consider this: we (Europeans) pay for the 
>World Cup, because Europe provides the highest TV ratings and revenue 
>(check it out for yourself). 

I don't think so.  There are far less than a billion people in Western Europe.
In fact it is probably half that.  The remaining 5.5 billion live elsewhere.
Host the tournament at optimum playing conditions,  and watch world wide
ratings rise,  as the interest is very much proportional to the quality of
play.  Europesos are not everything,  you know.

>Therefore it is understandable that 
>organizers try to accomodate Europeans. Besides, South America is behind 
>Europe, so even if our matches start a ten p.m., you can still watch them 
>at four p.m. (or around that time). If your matches started at ten pm., 
>Europeans would have to stay up until four o'clock in the morning.

This is where you miss my point altogether.  I do not care about having to
alter my schedule (or,  madre de dios,  tape a game) if it means that the game
will be played under optimum conditions.  I would feel rather queasy about the
fact that the players are placed under the high noon sun with 35+ Celsius and
75%+ humidity,  so that I can get to bed by midnight.  I was in Washington
last summer and together with some friends we played under such conditions,
as a show of empathy perhaps.  That was very painful,  and I freely exercised
the static approach to the last half hour of play.  You cannot do that in the
cup,  in fact you have to push your body to the fullest if it is a decisive
game.  Now you have an Italian surname,  suppose that the final had been
played at 8 pm.  I was in LA that day,  so I can tell you that the smog would
have cleared and the temperature would have been 18 degrees,  with about 40%
humidity.  Perfect conditions.  The game would have been much better,  and who
knows,  maybe it would have not ended 0-0.  

But nooooooooooooooooooooo!

We have to watch that pathetic display so that 500 million butts across
Western Europe can sit comfortably and not worry about the time at which the
game is played.  

So it is all a matter of priorities.  I want a world cup that maximizes its
worth from a strictly futbol perspective.  I want to see the best players at
their best and the bureaucrats out of the way.

If that means that I'll need to program a vcr,  or drink four cappuccinos at
work,  so be it.  It is the world cup.  You want the best,  nothing less is
satisfactory.  They only take place once every four years,  and you will watch
it all because it is the world cup,  so you want it to be the best.  Right
now,  what do you remember about the world cup:  whether you had sleeping
problems or not after a month of full time futbol,  or whether Baggio scores
that gol if he is not dead on his feet?  E chiaro.  

So what is the importance of quality in futbol...  The issue of having a
frequent Mundialito has been brought up.  A little tournament among all the
former champions.  Invite two others to make it eight (Netherlands and the
African champion?).  Two groups of four,  round robin,  top two qualify to the
semis.  Imagine a tournament:

Group A:  Argentina,  England,  Italia,  Netherlands
Group B:  African champ,  Brasil,  Deutschland,  Uruguay

The issue of where to host this tournament is simple:  each team gets to host
it.  Uruguay had one,  so now one of the other eight would be next,  etc.  

This would be a nice tournament.  The world cup should be even better than it.
So we must not have games like Mexico-Bulgaria or Norway-Ireland or about
forty others.  In fact it is worthwhile to point out the games that would live
up to the level of the Mundialito,  in no particular order:

Netherlands-Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia-Belgium
Sweden-Saudi Arabia
Deutschland-South Korea
Espa~a-South Korea

Although I feel I have been generous,  this is only a third of all the games
that were played.  It is also only three more than the total number of games
in the Mundialito,  although it has three times as many teams.  There is a
long way to go yet.

From: mazzare@primenet.com (Ariel Mazzarelli)
Subject: On the other hand (was Re: EUROPEAN SOCCER - SUPERIOR!?)
Date: Nov 6, 1995

Arthur Mandel  wrote:
>Luiz Monteiro Franca Neto  wrote:
>>But, if you want an amazing tiny country outplaying others, go look at 
>>Argentina, twice WC champion with only 30 million inhabitants!!!!!!

>     I trust that most RSS readers are knowledgeable enough 8^) that 
>this hardly needs to be said , but "if you want an amazing tiny country
>outplaying others", you really have to admire the paisito nestled
>in between Argentina and Brasil. Three million inhabitants, twice
>WC champions, 14 times Copa America champions (tying Argentina for
>the lead), and with two of the best club teams in South America for
>most of this century.

The point that both of you overlook is that it is not the total size of the
population that matters. It is the total size of the knowledgeable futbol
population that matters. This group consists of great players, intelligent
coaches, and the occasional media analyst to explain the game to the masses.

I am afraid that when you count up these specialized populations in Argentina
and Uruguay, you get a much larger number than when you count up all of
Europe. On a per capita basis, the boys (less so for the girls) in Argentina
and Uruguay are routinely taught a dozen gambetas by the time that their third
walking anniversary comes about. The fight is fierce as early as the first
grade, age six, for the various positions on the field. The number 10 is
particularly tricky, and either goes to a very talented individual or to a
popular player. The goalkeeper is routinely abused, yet it is understood that
sometimes he cannot be expected to stop a shot.

Compare that with Europe. About the only places where there would even be a
chance for the above scenarios would be Italia. In Germany their approach is
entirely different, and it works for them, but nonetheless they have been
fortunate, twice winning world cups against teams that were better, and the
other time they got a suspicious gift from the referee. We need not discuss
the English. Netherlands is nice, and in fact it may be closest, except that
they run too much and do not think enough when they play; these are not minor