Futbol – Thank You


Poor Brazil. They are widely thought to have been the goats of the World Cup though they finished fourth and staged what appeared to be a superb event. The 7-1 blowout Germany inflicted on them followed by a solid beating in the consolation with Holland left the hosts in fourth – just one below their previous #3 world ranking. Brazil actually did pretty much as expected.

Though the fans were crushed (and often ashamed), was Brazil the biggest underperformer?

How about the teams that did not make the tournament at all despite world rankings suggesting they should have? Ukraine #16 (otherwise occupied), and Denmark #23 lead that list but who knew because there they weren’t.

Some highly ranked teams failed to make it out of group play and into the knockout rounds even though world rankings suggested they should have. Spain #1, Portugal #4, Italy #9, and England #10 were notable underachievers.

Among the teams that exited their groups, Greece #12, USA #13, and Chile #14 did about as expected by losing in the first knockout round.

What about the overachievers? Did any outperform Germany, which entered with a #2 ranking and, of course, won? Though disappointed in the final, Argentina, ranked #5 also outperformed by finishing second, but Holland, ranked #15 did even better by finishing third.

Better still? Good cases can be made for Costa Rica #28 getting to the quarter-finals, and Nigeria # 44 losing in the round of 16.

Who remembers Cameroon #56, Korea #57, or Australia #62, each of which substantially exceeded expectations by getting to Brazil at all?

For amateur athletes, at least, there is an element of doing better or worse then your capabilities suggest.

Well played to the outperformers, and — to those teams that are disappointed or should be — what will you learn from it?

And thank you Brazil, thank you TV networks and – I can barely cough out the words – thank you FIFA for a terrific month of  Futbol.


  • Dan Laukitis

    I’m not informed enough about this sport to know how stable world rankings are and how well they predict outcomes. Pro tennis comes to mind as among the more reliable in terms of predicting outcomes. Pro golf certainly isn’t (except perhaps in Tiger’s best years, when he won virtually half the events he entered – a feat we will never see again). Baseball? F1? NCAA football? Anyway, I like how you brought the issue back home to us amateurs who often/usually enter a competition with some preconceptions about how we “should” do. For better or worse that almost always refers to the final result, not how well we are expected to play. I do like thinking about players and teams being ranked – or at least thought of – in terms of how well they are expected to play. Holland? expected to play well, win or lose. Germany? Same. I would like to have a reputation as “expected to play to my potential, against any opponent, under any circumstances, winning or losing…” A work in progress!