Round of Sixteen

Wasn’t there some sort of sporting event going on?

So both the finalists from last time have been sent home in various combinations of sorrow and shame. As one observer noted, “The really weird thing is how attractive I find most of the cultural products of these countries otherwise. Lots of people hate France on principle, [but] the puzzle is how two countries this great produce football teams that are so reprehensible…”

Mind, now that the initial euphoria over Italy’s departure has passed, in the cold light of day we must acknowledge that Holland-Slovakia is not quite as thrilling a prospect as Holland-Italy would have been. But at the end of the day, it’s hard to be sorry.

And, hey, England-Germany.

Consider this an open thread.

South Africa 2010: Let the football craze begin!

Being too lazy and uninspired to write a decent World Cup post myself, I shall point our readers to a truly funny column by Dave Barry, in the Miami Herald, on football-related activities. One quote:

I truly believe that, even though many Americans say they hate soccer, if they gave it a fair chance — if they took the time to actually watch a World Cup match or two — they would still hate soccer. I don’t know why this is, but apparently it’s not going to change. I’ve given up arguing with guys who tell me how boring soccer is, but will happily spend four hours watching a baseball game in which 97 percent of the action consists of batters calling timeout.

Feel free to use this post as an excuse to share your own football-related witty comments, predictions, pet peeves, vuvuzela imitations, etcetera.

Europe in the World Cup Draw: Zzzzzz

All the major European sides are in groups where they are likely to advance. England has an interesting match against the US, but does anyone really think the English are going to fall to Algeria or Slovenia? The Netherlands, to Denmark or Japan? Italy, to Slovakia or New Zealand?

The closest thing to interesting is down in Group D, where Germany faces three teams that, while not as good as Germany, are all good enough to perhaps pull off an upset. But Germany is still very likely to advance.

Since “which major European side advances” is not interesting, and the obvious stuff about the draw has already been discussed a million times elsewhere (Italy lucks out! France is not punished! Portugal, too bad!) let’s briefly consider the structure of the groups. Continue reading

Europe in the 2010 World Cup

Looks a lot like Europe in the 2006 World Cup, actually.

Qualifiers this time: Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland. That’s almost the same list as last time. Oh, we won’t have Poland, or Croatia, and the Danes, Slovaks and Slovenes got in, but eight of the thirteen are the same, and the Big Five all got in as per normal. Is it cynical of me to think that switching the Slovenes and Greeks for Sweden and the Czechs won’t make much difference?

Anyway. Consider this an open thread for World Cup football. With 192 days to go, what have been the big surprises so far? (Have there been any, really?) And what are the wild hopes? Who’ve you got?

Well… blah

A championship that ends in a bland 1-0 game does tend to affirm certain prejudices about this sport. And after the wild craziness of Germany-Croatia, Germany-Turkey, or Russia-Netherlands…

Oh, well, it was a fun two weeks anyhow. Congratulations to our Spanish friends!

EURO 2008 football (not soccer!) fever

Only a couple of days before the big European sporting event of 2008 kicks off in Austria and Switzerland. Who will be crowned European football champion of 2008 in Vienna on June 26th?

For my own country The Netherlands, which finds itself in a Group of Death with France, Italy and Romania, the odds do not look very good. Solid individual players, apart from maybe the current defence line-up, but not always up to par as a team.

Current world champion Italy recently lost star defender Cannavaro because of an injury, but even so the signori di catenaccio won’t have much trouble keeping the gates tightly closed.

The French side, the current vice world champion, looks pretty solid too, with fresh new players like for instance attacker Bafetimbi Gomis. And then there is the Romanian side, a strong outsider wolf comfortably clad in underdog’s clothing. Nobody seems to expect the Romanian inquisition, but this side has nothing to lose in this group and could very well upset at least one of the higher ranked teams.

Last year a Dutch clairvoyant (or maybe somebody who just follows Dutch football very closely) already predicted the Orange Team won’t make it past the group stage. And to add insult to very probable Dutch injury the English, who failed to qualify for EURO 2008, have taken it upon themselves to have some preemptive fun at the expense of the soon to be blue orange squad.

A certain Jon Gledstone from the creative design agency 5th Of November thought up a web campaign called Just Go Dutch to urge his compatriots to support, of all possible teams, the Dutch. You can find the guy’s rather funny webpage here. The Dutch, being the good sports they are, have already thanked Gledstone for his support with an official orange T-shirt showing his name in ‘Dutch’: Van Gledstone.

Anyway, what is your favourite team to win the EURO 2008 Championship? Or, alternatively, who would you like to see defeated? After all, as those dastardly English are showing us in a reverse psychology kind of way, cheering against a team can be fun as well.

PS: A big kiss to Gledstone & Co for at least giving us Dutchies a little bit of attention before we inevitably sink into total oblivion.

*end counter jinx alert*

Of Population Pyramids and Value Chains

It is by now well known that the main hope for developed societies subject to rapid population ageing who wish to maintain their relative standard of living lies in increasing their collective productivity more rapidly than they increase their dependency ratio via-a-vis the older age groups. Now in the comments thread on the recent ‘Reform is a Dirty Word‘ post I ventured to say that I found it obvious that at some stage we would reach a point where the rate of population ageing was going to outstrip the rate of productivity increase (in which case relative income per capita would inevitaby start to fall). David, unsurprisingly, asked me why I thought this to be the case. I was not happy with the response I offered (which was essentially some ‘rigmarole’ about the biology of ageing which is coming in a separate post), and since that time I have been scratching my head trying to find a simple way to get this point across. Perhaps I now have one.

All you need to get to grips with what follows is a basic understanding of geometry and a vague interest in football.
Continue reading

France!

Not a very good game, admittedly, but we’ve made it to Berlin nonetheless.

Considering the level of play displayed by the Italians last night, it will be a daunting task. But then again, so were the two previous games against Spain and Brazil. One can dream. The tens of thousands of people parading in the streets of Paris tonight certainly do.