Tuesday, May 25, 2010

LMG Alternative World Cup Football 2010: Day 1 The first 2 matches

Round 1; The first 2 matches - Group A

Today we start with our alternative LMG Alternative World Cup Football. The first 4 matches that are scheduled are those from groups A and B from the official FIFA World Cup draw. In poule A South Africa (SAF) will play against Mexico (MEX) and Uruguay (URU) against France (FRA). In poule B we have the following matches: Argentina (ARG) versus Nigeria (NIG) and Korea (KOR) versus Greece (GRE).

Out of a total of 15 points allocated to factors (with 6 coming from football and 9 from economic and political aspects of life) only 5 are randomly selected for round 1. Via 7 in the second round we move up to 9 in the quarter finals, 12 in the semi-finals to all 15 in the final and the match for third place.

With this randomized system of adding factors when we move towards the final we ensure that our tournament will look a bit like real tournaments: surprises and sensations are easily possible in the first rounds when countries are caught up in matches in which the for their country wrong factors are stressed.

While going through the matches, we will have fun while at the same time learning more about the countries as far as soccer is concerned and also about their economy, politics etc.

Group A, game 1 : SAF - MEX 1-2
It is tradition that the hosts of the tournament play the opening match. In this case the South Africans play against Mexico. Pity for them it is football and not a rugby match. In that case it would be far easier to win the game. In football it will be a tough battle. The 5 factor points that are decisive in this match are: 1) Player Quality (2x); 2) Football History (2x) and 3) Government and Governance (1x). Our first match is therefore one in which football qualities are of central importance.

The easiest factor is Football History. South Africa wasn't really a country with big successes whereas Mexico does have quite a bit of history when it comes to Football World Cups. So that is 2-0 (double counting of factor) for Mexico. Now let's move to Player Quality. We use the officially licensed Panini Sticker Album to analyze the teams. The real lineups will only be available after June 1st. The goal keepers of South Africa and Mexico are reasonably good but nothing special by international standards. Both are still playing with local teams and not in international leagues like we often see with players from these countries. Therefore a draw there. When we look at the defenses South Africa is once again playing with quite a few local players, with the exception of Tsepo Masilela (Maccabi Haifa, Israel) and Aaron Mokoena who was is with Portsmouth (Eng). The Mexican defense is stronger with Salcido (PSV Eindhoven, Netherlands), Osorio (Stuttgart, Germany), Rafael Marquez (Barcelona) and two local players from Chivas Guadalajara, a team that shouldn't be underestimated since it is through in the final rounds of the Copa de Libertadores, the South American Champions League. Therefore advantage here for Mexico. For the midfield lineup the Mexicans can choose from a set of good experienced, somewhat older local players and two younger guys that play abroad: Guardado from Spanish Deportivo La Coruna and Giovanni Dos Santos from Galatasay, the Turkish top team. But South Africa's midfield seems stronger: Sibaya from Russian top team Rubin Kazan, Dikgacoi (Fulham, England) and Steven Pienaar (former Ajax Amsterdam player and now with Everton, England) make a more impressive lineup. Therefore, equal score in player analysis before moving to the decisive comparison of strikers. The South African team has only one clear star, namely Benni McCarthy (like Pienaar earlier active in the Netherlands but now in England, with West Ham). Bernard Parker is with Dutch champion Twente but he didn't get much air time in that winning team. The Mexican attack has - surprise, surprise - also a striker who normally plays at West Ham, Guillermo Franco. Carlos Vela is with Arsenal and with the rest of the players playing for strong local teams that are at least experienced in South America's strong Copa de Libertadores, it is at beast a draw on this factor. We opt for draw, assuming that South Africa's home advantage makes up for the disadvantage in terms of strikers. So after the second factor still 2-0 for Mexico. 
The last factor is Government and Governance. Our first non-football factor, albeit with a total weight of just 1, which means that South Africa will loose the opening match. We use the CIA Factbook   for the analysis of the government and legal structure (half the score for this factor) and the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) as indicator for the Governance quality.

Mexico is a relatively corrupt country with a score of 3.3 on a scale of 1-10 (10 highest) on the TI CPI. This gives them rank 89 in the world. South Africa is doing better with a score of 4.7 and rank 55. Both not sufficient for a good governance ranking, but we have defined the subvariable CPI in such a way that a difference of more than 1 point translates into a victory. 
When looking at the government structure, Mexico is independent since 1812 and a federal republic led since 2006 by president Calderon who won the elections by a narrow margin. He will be head of state and leader of the government, i.e. a double role of president and prime minister for a period of six years. New elections will take place in 2012. The Mexican legal system has incorporated elements of the American system and it accepts - under constraints - the authority of the International Court of Justice. The attorney general can be nominated by the president but he needs confirmation by the Senate. The same holds for members of the Supreme Court. The Mexican democracy is one characterized with a lot of parties all fighting for a majority.
The South African republic is much younger (1964) with Apartheid being ended only in the beginning of the 1990s when majority rule was finally accepted. Just like Mexico South Africa is a republic. One of the reasons why it is probably less corrupt is that it is only subdivided in 9 territories whereas in Mexico there are 31 regions. The more regions the more decentralized a system and the larger the opportunities for local corruption at the mid- and lower levels within the government hierarchy. And that the system is not working well locally is also clear from the fact that cities like Ciudad Juarez are among the most criminal in the world with drug gangs more or less ruling the town instead of Calderon's government. 
South Africa has a legal system based on Roman-Catholic law and elements of English Common Law. Unlike Mexico it did not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. President Jacob Zuma is in charge since 2009 after he won elections by a landslide. The ANC still has a strong grip over the country. All in all we give the 1 point for Governance/Government to South Africa.

 Mexico won against South Africa 2 to 1 in our Alternative Soccer World Cup

End result therefore a 2-1 victory for Mexico. 

Group A, game 2: URU - FRA 1-3
 For the match Uruguay against France we drew the following factors in a random selection: 1) Geography/Natural Resources; 2) Economics; 3) Finance; 4) World Politics and 5) Government and Governance. One factor (Government and Government) is the same as in the previous match in this group between SAF and MEX. The other four are all non-football. This is interesting, and probably not to the disadvantage of Uruguay. Will we witness a surprise result here?

In terms of Geography/Natural Resources it is an unequal battle. Uruguay is about the size of the State of Washington, i.e. much smaller than France. There is arable and fertile land, but there is also quite a bit of pollution from the meat packing industry and inadequate waste disposal. Easy win for France therefore 0-1. Larger, world leader in wines, and a global giant in energy with Total being a dominant firm at the world level. When we look at Economics, five sub-factors will be analyzed namely a) GDP; b) GDP per capita; c) Economic Growth %; d) Public Debt % and e) Relative Current Account Deficit / Surplus.

With a GDP of USD 31.9 billion - which translates to a GDP per capita of USD 12,700 - and a GDP growth rate of 1.7 percent (2009) after growth rates of 7.5 percent or more in the previous 2 years, Uruguay is a typical upcoming frontier economy. Public Debt is at 58.7 percent and that could have been worse. Compare for instance Greece. The current account balance over 2009 is minus USD 76 million, i.e. almost a balanced import-export situation. Last year it was still a USD 7.1 billion surplus.
Now France: its GDP is of course far bigger with a total value of USD 2.7 trillion and a GDP per capita of USD 32,800. But in terms of growth rates URU is doing better. In France we expect a negative growth of -2.2 percent due to the crisis after poor growth rates in the 2 previous years (albeit still positive). Public Debt is up to 79.7 percent of GDP, which again is less good than Uruguay. Therefore draw before the last factor, import-export will decide: France has a shortage of USD 43.7 billion and an even bigger shortage last year. In other words: URU wins the economic battle! Surprising! 1-1 therefore now.

The Finance analysis consists of 3 sub-factors. The first one, size of the stock market is an easy win for France which is one of the top-10 stock markets in the world. The second sub-factor is the stock market performance over the last 10 years. France scored a poor 0.19 percent annualized stock return over the last 10 years. But Uruguay is not in the MSCI Frontier or Emerging Indices, so that we give France the benefit of the doubt and therefore the win on this factor. Therefore 2-1 for France now.

World Politics is a simply variable. France is definitely an influential nation globally, something that Uruguay can definitely not say. I.e. 3-1 for France. When we look at Government and Governance Uruguay and France are both doing reasonaly when it comes to governance. France is number 23 on the Transparency list with a score of 6.9 and Uruguay is number 25 with a score of 6.7. The democracies in both countries function reasonably well too. Therefore a draw on this factor. 

France: too big and fast for Uruguay
Was the 3-1 victory the start of a successful Tour de France?

End result: France 3 Uruguay 1

In our next contribution we will analyze two matches from Group B. It can be a surprise of course but the two first results in our alternative world cup seem to be normal by football standards as well. That is a nice promising start when we are going to create a data set that we want to compare with the 'real thing' next month!

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