None, and thank Ceiling Cat for that! Believe me, I need a break. Try polishing a huge book manuscript and watching two World Cup games at the same time!
But play resumes on Friday, with two cracking matches. I will somehow need to watch both:
Make your predictions, if you wish. Mine (I don’t dare to predict scores) are Germany and Brazil. That’s not too hard, but of course the outcome of all games are unpredictable (though completely determined ages ago)
We all know by now that yesterday the U.S. lost to Belgium 1-2, but it was a splendid game, with the U.S. playing their hearts out in the overtime. I’m only glad it wasn’t settled by penalty kicks. Argentina also beat Switzerland 1-0 with a beautiful pass from Messi to di Maria. All in all, it was a great day of football. And so it will be on Friday.
Here are the highlights of both games; click on the screenshots to go to them:
Belgium/US (Dempsey almost tied it up at minute 114):
There’s no Google Doodle, of course, but I want to call your attention to an essay showing, with statistics, that Messi is not only the world’s best player (it’s also my opinion and that of my friend Seamus Malin, who’s seen all the greats of our time), but is an impossibly good player. Reader Hardy called my attention to this piece by Benjamin Morris at FiveThirtyEightSports called “Lionel Messi is impossible.” It’s an eye-opener, and loaded with stats. Here are two I found interesting, with Morris’s commentary (indented):
To make all those unassisted shots possible, Messi has to take on a lot of defenders one on one. There’s a stat for that, and in my view it’s one of the most revealing, reflecting both Messi’s skill and style, and the relationship between the two. Of all forwards in our data set who’ve played 100-plus games, he “takes on” defenders the most, and he’s the most successful at it.
Scoring by distance:
If we break this down using shot-location data, it’s clear that Messi is highly efficient across a wide range of distances.
The percentage of shots Messi makes from outside the penalty area is absolutely stunning. He scores almost as often per shot from outside the penalty area (12.1 percent) as most players do inside it (13.1 percent).
Of 8,335 players in our dataset who have taken at least one shot from outside the box, only 1,835 have scored from that distance at any point. There are 47 players with 50 or more attempts from outside the box without a single goal, and about 500 with at least 20 attempts and no goals. Messi leads the world with 21 goals from outside the penalty area, on just 173 shot attempts.
For many of the stats, of course, Ronaldo is up there with Messi, and both are way ahead of the rest of the pack. You may argue with Morris’s analysis, but his analysis, which I highly recommend, has a ton of statistics, and statistics don’t lie. Watch Messi closely from now on: you may be seeing the best player in history. And I hope Argentina makes it to the final match.
Finally, for LOLz, reader George called my attention to a piece on Mashable that has 15 pairs of gifs using cats to demonstrate the US/Belgium game (there’s also a video at the end). Here’s one pair: