Friday, June 18, 2010

World Cup 2010 Game 23: England 0, Algeria 0

What's the opposite of the "Group of Death"? The Group of Life Support maybe?

There will be even more nail biting in England this week than in America. If the United States fails to advance it would be a major setback for the team, but if England were to fail to advance it would be a calamity. They would pretty much lose any notion of being a soccer power.

England is sitting third in their group based on tiebreakers having scored one goal in two games. Goal differential is tied with the United States, but the Americans lead the next tie breaker, goals scored, by two. Of course were England to tie Slovenia 2-2 and the U.S. were to play a socreless tie with Algeria the team that would go through would be...decided by the drawing of lots. I'm not kidding.

Since England's lackluster play leaves little to write about I thought I would put in a word about two of my least favorite sports catch phrases:

"A Must Win Game" : How often did we hear this from the United States and England. My definition of a "Must Win" game is a game that, if the team doesn't win, they are eliminated from any possibility to win the (season/championship/tournament). No doubt we will hear oodles of people saying that the Algeria match is now a "must win" for the United States (which could advance with a tie) and that England's match with Slovenia is also a "must win." In the latter case that is probably though not technically right. I guess a "must win or tie by scoring at least three goals if the common opponent doesn't score" just doesn't have the ring to it.

"Controls Their Own Destiny." First off, if any team truly controlled their own destiny, then wouldn't they be through? (How would a team controlling its outcome not choose to go through.) This typically means that a team cannot be eliminated so long as it wins its remaining games, regardless of other results. Aside from the fact that we've just seen how a team can win and have their result taken away because they don't control their own destiny, here's the problem I have with this phrase in this instance. We'll be told over and over again that the United States controls its own destiny. So does Slovenia. So does England. So does Algeria. Yeah, I know, Algeria could win and still fail to qualify if England beats Slovenia. So they "need help" right? Well, does needing to beat an opponent by more than one goal cease being in control of your own destiny? No result would mathematically assure Algeria qualification. They could win 10-0 and if England wins 11-10...yeah, these scenarios are silly. That's my point. When does an improbability become rhetorically meaningful?

Of course, I suspect one reason the American press spent most of the evening assuring a public that might have only been half paying attention that the U.S. side controlled it's own destiny is because those spectators might be surprised at that fact given they had been told for a week that the Slovenia game was a "must win" game.

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