Who Wins in a Fight Between an Elephant and a Samurai? (Nate Silver, Day 4)
Apparently the samurai strikes first, but eventually the elephant gets mad and just tramples everything in sight, but we'll get to that. First, let's start with Los Cafeteros (The Coffee Growers).
Despite missing striker Radamel Falcao, Columbia is still a very dangerous opponent. To deal with Los Cafeteros, Greece had a very simple plan: Play tight defense, don't allow any goals, and if things wen't well, maybe they'd score one of their own and escape with three points. That was how Greece qualified, allowing 6 goals in 12 matches (from my quick scan of their qualifying results). Six minutes in, that plan was in ashes. I applaud the aggressiveness Greece showed after that, but while they did have a few good scoring opportunities, they ended up conceding two more goals and are now in a very tight spot.
At halftime Uruguay had to feel pretty good. They were up one-nil on La Sele (Why am I not surprised that a country named Rich Coast has a soccer team named "The Selected"?). Even without Luis Suarez they figured they would come through with three points. Thirteen minutes into the second half, Uruguay was in trouble and their offense was faltering. Eventually they conceded a late goal and lost their composure. Costa Rica is now in a situation where a draw against Italy puts them in solid shape heading into their game against England. Mind you, a draw is no sure thing, but at this point Costa Rica can dare to dream.
Speaking of England, their offense was surprisingly dangerous early against Italy. Unfortunately, it only was able to net one goal. Their defense wasn't nearly as impressive as their offense and they allowed Italy to convert on two of their scoring chances. After that, England wore down and weren't able to seriously threaten Italy. At this point the England-Uruguay game might as well be held in the Thunderdome. As for Italy, they now have to expect to win the group.
The late game featured Ivory Coast vs. Japan. I was listening to the game on the radio and to hear the announcers tell it, Japan's goal was so strongly against the run of play as to offend the sensibilities. They also castigated Ivory Coast's defenders for a lackadaisical effort on the play. I was able to watch the second half and it did appear Ivory Coast was the better team. I don't think Didier Drogba's entrance was particularly relevant, as he didn't touch the ball on either goal. Still, once they held the lead, Ivory Coast controlled most of the play and looked clearly deserving of the win.
So, where does all that leave our friend Nate Silver? Well, despite the stumble on England (which I think we all saw coming), it leaves him hugely up. To be precise, it leaves him with $307,530.
Onward to day 4:
Game 9: Ecuador, 16.47%: Risking $50,650 to win $129,158
Game 10: Honduras +0.5 goals (Nate wins on a tie or Honduras win), 10.89%: Risking $27,974 to win $84,770
Game 11: Bosnia-Herzegovina +0.5 goals, 13.82%: Risking $31,635 to win $81,115
I'm going to take a moment here to explain the methodology. Some people were asking why Nate was backing Costa Rica despite the fact he expected them to lose. The best analogy I can think of is someone offering you 10-1 on you rolling a seven with two normal six-sided dice. Yes, you're probably going to lose that bet, but that shouldn't stop you from risking 8.33% of your bankroll on it. Of course, no one is going to offer you that bet, and if they did, they probably have a trick up their sleeve. The important lesson here is, what matters most is expected average bankroll growth.
You'll also note that this is the first time Nate is taking a spread instead of a 3-ball line. This is because his projections not only like those sides, but the likelihood of a draw as well in each of those games. Speaking of, it has been an exciting, high scoring, and draw-free World Cup so far. We'll see what day 4 has in store.
Also In This Series:
Nate Silver Day 3
Nate Silver Day 2
Nate Silver Day 1