The World Cup’s Underrated Stars

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Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar, Aguero, Neymar, Messi, Suarez, Ronaldo, Neymar, Neymar. It’s all we’ve heard the last few weeks. Let’s face it; we all know what these guys can do. And let’s face it; we all expect them to do it. But that’s not the real beauty of the World Cup. The beauty is that it unearths huge talent who lift us off our seats, get us talking, and eventually go on to become household names.

We’re lucky this year in the sense that there are some incredible players on show this summer – so much so the likes of Robinho, Samir Nasri, and Landon Donovan haven’t even made their squads – and with this likely to be the greatest tournament of all time, they’ll certainly want to shift that tag of being underrated.

And these could be the men to do it…

Joao Moutinho (Portugal)

Can he handle all the freedom of America?

Can he handle all the freedom of America?

It’s all about one man in the Portugal side – apparently anyway. But aside from Ballon d’Or winning Cristiano Ronaldo, the Mediterranean nation doesn’t have a bad side, and Joao Moutinho is most certainly an integral part of it.

He’s been a star player in Ligue 1 this season for Monaco, challenging for the French title, and becoming a huge threat particularly thanks to his creativity. Which will be important in getting the most out of captain Ronaldo. He’ll be right at the heart of the team, and if he can put in some big performances against Germany, Ghana, and the USA, clubs in bigger European leagues could be on red alert.

 

Mateo Kovacic (Croatia)

The 20-year old will be thrown head on into his first major tournament this summer, but with a season in Serie A that has seen him turn the heads of Manchester United, Arsenal, and Liverpool. The Inter star joins a trio of class-acts in the centre of the park, alongside Luka Modric, and Ivan Rakitic, so it’s no wonder he’s the least talked about Croatian midfielder.3rd

But one man who does believe he’ll boost the Croatian World Cup odds is teammate Nikita Jelavic saying, “He is a great, great talent and has a big chance to show the world what he can do.

“He is very creative and can be an important player for Croatia at this World Cup and beyond.”

 

Josip Drmic (Switzerland)

Despite being in a side relegated from the Bundesliga, Josip Drmic still managed to score 17 for the season, capturing the attention of Bayer Leverkusen who promptly signed him at the end of the season. And that could be good timing. Expect him to score a few this World Cup in a side who could do remarkably well.

4thA good World Cup, not only could he become a household name, but he could be already one of the buys of the summer.

 

Blaise Matuidi (France)

Like some of the greats, Blaise Matuidi quietly goes about his business on the pitch, not setting the world alight, but doing his job. He was an ever-present in the PSG team that lifted Ligue 1 this season, and set an astounding record of 484 interceptions last season.

His defensive qualities will certainly be welcomed come June 15th, yet he seems to have added something else to his game – the ability to score goals. He’s already netted in the warm ups, and scored an unbelievable scissor kick against the Dutch in March. If France go far, expect this man to be in the team of the tournament.

 

Arturo Vidal (Chile)

He’s hardly underrated – he’s recently been named the 11th best footballer in the world – but has anyone heard the name Arturo Vidal in the build up to Brazil? Probably not.6th

The midfielder has been instrumental in both the Juventus and Chilean team over the past few seasons and scored five times in 11 games during the qualifying stages of the World Cup. His tackling is right up there with the best, and he’ll hold all the strings for Chile – who go into the tournament as underdogs for the trophy – particularly in the Group Stage when they go up against Spain and the Netherlands.

 

 

TSG’s USA vs. Ghana Preview: Michael vs. Goliath

USA v. Ghana. Round III. For whom the bell tolls....

USA v. Ghana. Round III. For whom the bell tolls…. (Design by Brent Diskin)

We’ve arrived.

The World Cup.

In true theatrical fashion, the US embarks on its Brazilian journey this coming Monday in Natal against their long-time nemesis Ghana.

A four year cycle marked by coaching turnover galore, Olympic failure, the fall-rise-and-fall again of Stu Holden. The departure of The American One, Landon Donovan. A win in Azteca. A draw in Azteca. A Brian Straus sea-changing article. Snow jobs, in Colorado and by the coach. The promising, now sloven facade of Tim Chandler. The recruitment of Julian Green.

The culmination is now.

Transition.

The oft-forgotten third phase of the game.

Transition. What both teams do, how they react the moment a turnover occurs.

Transition. Where a team shows its drilling, its schooling; where individual players show their speed-of-game thought, their decision-making under fire.

Transition. One incorrect move in attack–a poor read, a poor run–kills what could be the most opportune chance. One missed angle in pursuit, one momentary lapse and they’re dancing, disrespectfully, at your corner flag.

reyna

 

Previous matches in this series have seen the aggressor in transition and their mercilessness rewarded.

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Ben Has Made It To Brazil! Ben Has Made It To Brazil

World Cup Bracketology and Prediction-ology!

TSG is happy to announce the official World Cup Bracket Challenge of bald eagles everywhere: The Shin Guardian’s Bald Eagles of Victory. Get stuck in.

How did USSF miss the domain grab for supereagles.us ... c;mon Fed, sleep at the wheel! Sleep at the wheel!

Any reason to use this picture is a good one.

Prizes to be announced soon. Unfortunately none of them will be as good as an eagle with Michael Bradley as its head. Literally nothing is that good. Nothing.

Something else to tickle your predictive skills abilities later today.

The Wide World of World Cup Wagers

March Madness is one of the greatest sporting spectacles this great land has to offer, and there is no finer place to take it in than Vegas. People are betting on everything. Winners, losers, halftime scores, overs and unders. It’s pretty ridiculous. I was in Vegas this year to donate my money to the casino, I mean watch basketball and bet on some games, and while I stood at the sports book wondering how I didn’t win a billion dollars from Warren Buffet (oh, Syracuse, that’s why!) and if Virginia could cover, I stumbled upon a betting sheet for the World Cup, that had precisely two options for betting.

blondeeee

The Golden Standard. Or The Platinum Blonde Standard?

The first was who would win it all, and the second was who would win each respective group. Seemed straightforward enough, but it made me think, what if I wanted to bet on the World Cup with but not on those two things? What if I could bet on more fitting things, like who would be the first US player to get a card or if Brek Shea would have the worst hair at the World Cup? Those are some things I want to bet on. It seems there should be a broader selection of things to wager my hard earned dollars on, so I thought of a few good ones, similar to prop bets. I’m sure there are other great ideas out there too.

I think the best thing to wager upon would be who has the best hairstyle, both as an individual and team, like the Olympic ski jumping where you are trying to win a medal in each. I think the gold standard here has to be Romania in 1998. Literally.

Certainly Mario Balotelli would be a favorite, as would Brek Shea, if he could have mohawked his hair right onto the roster. So many good options though, with Ronaldo, Neymar, and Reus. Will you take the fro of Fellaini or the braids of Sagna?

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Can “Fancy Stats” Predict the World Cup Group Stage?

Home team advantage?

Home team advantage?

- ALEX OLSHANSKY sets the World Cup odds stage.

Predicting the outcome of soccer matches, and World Cup matches in particular, with any confidence is an exercise for the foolhardy.  One fateful bounce, wonder strike, mistake, penalty, or offside call can change a nation’s entire trajectory.  But, what fun would this event be if we could not dissect and over-dissect all the matchups and possible outcomes?  We have rounded up some of the best regarded international soccer rating systems and played out W-L-D probabilities for every match of the group stage.  Let us meet our contenders:

Elo: Originally devised as a method to rank world chess players, it is one of the most robust international soccer rating systems.

SPI: Developed for ESPN by famed political prognosticator Nate Silver.  Get used to seeing their ratings thrown around a lot during ESPN’s World Cup coverage.

Oddsportal: An aggregator of 10+ online betting house odds.  Reflects the opinion of the betting public.

And…

One way to decide it...

One way to decide it…

 

EA Sports FIFA Video Game: Ok, so using video game player ratings is not a statistically rigorous method, but this still seems a step up from Paul the Octopus.

The Predictions

(Note: all figures represent approximate expected points)

Ranking Biases

Group A

Group A

Group B

Group B

Group C

Group C

Group D

Group D

Group E

Group E

Group F

Group F

Group G

Group G

Group H

Group H

Each one of the four rankings (EA Sports, Elo, SPI, Oddsportal) have relative biases.

In many instances, these biases follow along geographic lines (see table below).

For example, many of the online betting houses are based in Europe, so there is a noticeable bias against lesser known international sides from North/Central America and Asia.

Similarly, EA Sports player ratings are noticeably biased towards players and teams that feature in the major European leagues.  In SPI’s case there is a favorable bias to South American sides which is likely due to the heavy weight they placed on CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying matches (as far as I am aware the raw SPI ratings I used do not take into account continental bias for the event taking place in Brazil, which might be a plausible explanation).

By Region...

By Region…

John Oliver On FIFA & The World Cup

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