by Neil Morris
In lieu of attempting to match the grandiloquence of my Triangle Offense colleagues, allow me to merely relay two startling statistics I encountered that are appropriate on this opening day of the 2010 World Cup.
Although every team plays three games during the group stage, the importance of the first match cannot be overstated. Over the last three World Cup competitions, 86 percent of the teams who won their opening match advanced beyond the group stage; 58 percent of the teams that drew ended up advancing. By contrast, only 3 out of 36 teams (8.3 percent) that lost their opening match managed to claw back into the knockout round.
And, before all the chatter gets cranked up about “the impossible dream” and Madiba magic in advance of host but lowly ranked South Africa’s opener versus Mexico, keep this in mind: NO host country has ever been eliminated in the opening round of the World Cup. Not Switzerland (1954), not the United States (1994), and not South Korea and Japan (2002). And, it won’t change in 2014 when Brazil is set to host. Adjust your brackets accordingly...