Saturday, June 10, 2006

world cup at two days

First five matches of the soccer World Cup and no huge surprises, but a clear sense that the increase in Latin American and Third World at the expense of European strength--a pattern observed in the last two or three such tournaments--is continuing apace. Thus England, second only to Brazil as a cup favorite, had to struggle to a 1-0 win on an own goal by Paraguay; Sweden played to a scoreless tie with tiny Trinidad and Tobago; and even Germany was challenged before putting away Costa Rica 4-2 in the opening match. By contrast Ecuador downed Poland 2-0 and both Argentina and Ivory Coast looked impressive in a match eventually won by the former, 2-1, on Saturday night. The U.S. opens Monday against the Czech Republic and then plays Italy next Saturday afternoon; I'll be rooting aggressively for both sides. (Good thing neither Israel nor India made it. )

One interesting World Cup sidelight: the official FIFA rankings have the Czechs second, after Brazil, and the U.S. tied for fifth, with the Italians down around 13th place. But the oddsmakers have the Italians at 10:1, among the five likeliest winners, while the U.S. are 100:1 and the Czechs not terribly much better. Economists would say that the latter is a better indicator, since people put their money where there mouth, I mean, since people's self-interest suggests they will rank competing choices more efficiently when actual resources are at stake. Does economic theory work at the World Cup? We'll find out next week.


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