Map of Premier League Teams

Speaking of soccer (football), if you enjoy the English Premier League but wonder where some of the more obscure teams are located, check out this helpful map. While most non-British fans know which teams are in London and which are in Liverpool and Manchester, fewer are familiar with the locations of teams like Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion, and Hull City.

You can find more geographic/sporting goodness ((Other leagues that are mapped out here include various soccer leagues, the US’s big four — MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL — as well as…the European Poker Tour.)) on the Sport Map World home page.

(Link via my college teammate Danny S. at The New York Fitness Institute blog.)


“Goalkeeper Science” in the NYT’s 2008 Year in Ideas

As I may have mentioned in the past, I’ve been a soccer (football) goalkeeper since the age of 7. I can’t get enough of the game, and I absolutely love goalkeeping. (I still play regularly today.) ((A few of my favorite goalkeeper-related Web sites include The Glove Bag — an exceptional online community of goalkeepers — and the news blogs The Goalkeepers’ Union and JB Goalkeeping Blog. And if you’re seriously into the philosophy of goalkeeping, I recommend this manual: “The Art of Goalkeeping or The Seven Principles of the Masters.”)) So I was delighted to see that, according to the New York Times, one of 2008’s big ideas that begin with the letter “g” — along with topics like genopolics, gallons per mile, and the guaranteed retirement account — is goalkeeper science:

What’s the best way to stop a penalty kick? Do nothing: just stand in the center of the goal and don’t move.

That is the surprising conclusion of “Action Bias Among Elite Soccer Goalkeepers: The Case of Penalty Kicks,” a paper published by a team of Israeli scientists in Journal of Economic Psychology that attracted attention earlier this year. The academics analyzed 286 penalty kicks and found that 94 percent of the time the goalies dived to the right or the left — even though the chances of stopping the ball were highest when the goalie stayed in the center.

If that’s true, why do goalies almost always dive off to one side? Because, the academics theorized, the goalies are afraid of looking as if they’re doing nothing — and then missing the ball…

(To read the rest of the entry, visit the link above and then choose “g” in the navigation bar. Sadly, there’s no direct link.)

For more on this subject, I recommend this blog post: “The Rationality of Soccer Goalkeepers” ((Insert joke about all goalkeepers being necessarily — and perhaps genetically — irrational here.)) ((And if you want to see a photo of yours truly saving a penalty kick several years ago in Taiwan — and I apologize in advance for the tight goalkeeping pants, but it was cold and the pitch was terrible — click here.))

This study illustrates the tension between internal(subjective) and external (objective) rationality discussed in my last post: statistically speaking, as a rule for winning games, to jump is (externally) suboptimal; but given the social norm and the associated emotional feeling, jumping is (internally) rational.

(Hat tip to B.L. for the NYT link. Image credit: Flickr.)


Messi’s Argentina Advance in Olympics

Speaking of football (soccer), here’s a New York Times interactive feature called “An Argentine Advance.” It’s about Argentina’s pint-sized playmaker Lionel Messi (Wikipedia page, highlights on YouTube) and his team’s dominant performance at the Olympics yesterday. The masterful Argentines beat rivals Brazil 3-0 (match report here) to book their place in Saturday’s final against Nigeria. Messi, who plays his club football at FC Barcelona, figured in all three goals.


Yahoo English Premier League Fantasy Football

If you’d like to join our annual Yahoo English Premier League Fantasy Football (soccer) group, you can find more info on the game here. It’s free. And entertaining.

If you’re interested, email me (newley [at] and I’ll give you our group name and password. The deadline to compete in the first week is…before today’s fixtures kick off. You can participate after today, but you’ll miss out on the first week’s points. (Which, given the length of the season, isn’t entirely important.)

As ever, we’ve got a geographically diverse group of participants, with folks from the US, Thailand, Hong Kong, and the UK joining in the fun.


Euro 2008 So Far

Euro 2008 Team of the Tournament So Far

You’ve gotta love the beautiful game, diving and all.

The Euro 2008 group matches have now concluded and it’s on the quarterfinals. First up is Germany v. Portugal, which kicks off in six hours or so. Then Croatia take on Turkey tomorrow. On the other side of the bracket, Holland meet Russia and then Spain play Italy.

My gut tells me that the winner of tonight’s contest — which I think will be Portugal — will have what it takes to defeat the winners of Croatia-Turkey (I like the latter) and get through to the June 29th final. I’d bet on Holland overpowering Russia, and then I think Spain will out-class an aging Italy but then fall to the Dutch. Holland are playing some scintillating football; a Portugal-Holland final would pit two attacking sides against one another, and while my heart would like Holland to win, I’d bet on the Portuguese taking home the title. We shall see.

Here’s some recent news coverage:

Rob Hughes in the IHT: “Russia grabs last quarterfinal slot, beating Sweden, 2-0.”

The final piece of the Euro 2008 fell neatly into place Wednesday when Russia comprehensively beat Sweden, 2-0, to claim a place in the quarterfinals of the competition.

With goals in each half, but with many more created and spurned, the Russians were too swift on the ground, too eager, and too darned young for Sweden’s aging team to hold.

The victory at Tivoli Neu stadium in Innsbruck, Austria, makes this the first time that Russia, as opposed to the former Soviet Union, has reached this far in European competition. How far will it go?

A question for the Dutch – indeed a double Dutch question because Russia next meets the Netherlands at St. Jakob Park in Basel, Switzerland, on Saturday, meaning that the coach now converting the Russians to be newcomers on the grand stage must find the tactics to outwit his own countrymen.

Sport, of course, is for players to win or lose, yet if ever there was a coach who finds a way to instill a way of playing in men from cultures and tongues so very far from his own, it is the Dutchman Guus Hiddink. “Euro 2008 Winter’s Word: Team of the tournament – so far”

A tournament so good that Michel Platini describes it as “sizzling”, Euro 2008 produced a multitude of terrific individual displays in the just-concluded group stage which deserve the formation of a Dream Team XI.

Time: “Euro 2008: The Energy and the Agony”

“Expect Emotions” goes the slogan to Euro 2008. We’ve certainly experienced some. First there was the realization that having ourselves arrived in Europe on Friday, our tickets for a Sunday match would be delivered promptly the following Tuesday. A visceral, sinking feeling, that — something Sweden must have endured in the waning seconds of its last gasp loss to Spain. Then we nearly got trampled by Russian fans swarming on to a stadium shuttle bus-a frightening feeling. That could well describe Italy’s experience when the Dutch ran riot over them in their opening match, 3-0. We also got hauled off the road in Salzburg by a motorcycle cop who insisted, in German, that our license plate was illegal. We nervously nodded and nodded in English and waited and waited until, just like the Greek team, he gave up and went home.