Predicting Football Scores: Luck or Knowledge?

Many people fancy themselves good at predicting the outcome of a sporting event. They’re always giving it the big one about how they knew that team would win.

Well, in a predictions game that I run with five friends/enemies, there’s no room for hindsight. The original predictions game was on the BBC, but unfortunately, at the start of the 2018/19 season, they stopped providing such a game.

Heart-breaking!

So I, with a little convincing (and a small fee), decided to provide the spreadsheet and scoring for our league as we entered our fourth year.

How does it all work?

I send out the weekly fixtures to the other guys, and state the deadline. They’ll fill it out and send it on back. However, this isn’t as simple as just picking a win, loss or draw. Everybody needs to type a score for each game.

For example, a selection may look something like, Liverpool vs Chelsea 2-1. In that instance, if Liverpool win 2-1, the competitor is rewarded three points. If Liverpool win, but it isn’t 2-1, then the competitor is given one point. If the game is a draw or Chelsea wins, then they receive absolutely nothing.

Over the season, each one of us will have predicted the scores  for a total of 380 games. Come the end of the season, one of the six of us will be able to gloat about winning, and yes, there is a small wager involved. Winner takes all.

All pretty simple, right?

So simple, in fact, that my partner, Alexandra, asked if she could join in to see how well she does. It is important to know that Alexandra has practically no knowledge of some of the teams in the Premier League. I commonly hear her say, “I’ve never even heard of these two teams.” I roll my eyes and a bead of sweat trickles down my temple at the thought of her outscoring me. See, she does have a rough idea of more likely results.

We are in the midst of the 10th week of her participation, but before I share her results, I want to introduce the six “knowledgable” members of the “Bonerleague.”

Don’t ask me why we called it that.

I asked each member, including myself, to answer the following questions:

  1. What is your strategy when making predictions?
  2. What do you think is the most important factor when making predictions?
  3. How would you describe your football knowledge?

(Each person was to also provide a photo of themselves)

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Current position: 1st. Chance of winning: 8/10.
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Current position: 2nd. Chance of winning: 8/10.
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Current position: 3rd. Chance of winning: 6/10.
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Current position: 4th. Chance of winning: 4/10.
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Current position: 6th. Chance of winning: 0/10.

(Unfortunately, Bryan, A.K.A Champ & Fav, wasn’t able to respond to the questions. It is partly believed that he is busy after recently becoming a father. However, rumour has it that the media duties that are thrust upon the reigning champion, along with his poor performance this year are the main reasons behind his absence. Current position: 5th. Chances of winning: 2/10)

So, what about Alexandra?

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Chances of winning if in the Bonerleague: Better than Charles

Since Week 13 (we’re currently on Week 22), the table for the seven people mentioned in the article are as follows:

Dean – 70 points
Mehmet – 66 points
Alexandra – 63 points
Ryan – 63 points
Bryan – 61 points
Charles – 58 points
Matt – 53 points

Luck or Knowledge?

So, in conclusion, clearly luck plays a huge part, but knowledge is definitely more important. Football is one of those games that usually goes according to plan, making it easier for someone with knowledge to take the spoils come the end of the season.

After all, football is not like horse-racing, where seasoned punters spend hours reading the form, only to see an old lady pop in, look through the names of the horses, pick one that she likes the sound of and then go home with a nice little win.

Sigh.

The only hope that I have is that eventually luck runs out, and in the game of predictions, as with life, people with knowledge come out on top.

I Can’t Stop Doing 30-Day Challenges!

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Third month of the challenge activated!

Just over a month ago, I talked about my 30-day challenge and how it was going to make me look and feel amazing. For anyone who missed that article, well, here it is: A Better Body, 30 Days at a Time.

As you can imagine, the second month wasn’t as easy. I had decided to up the workload and put in dietary requirements. Yes, it’s just one fruit, but I can never seem to find fruit  anywhere. (Obviously, “anywhere” seems to never be the grocery store. I never seem to have the same difficulties when searching for a chicken wrap. Isn’t that weird …)

So let’s get the basics out of the way:

Yes, I am doing another month.
Yes, it will be even more difficult.
No, the last month wasn’t easy.

You see, the problem with December was that it was going to coincide with Christmas, New Year, a pre-planned trip with Alexandra, my partner, to Harbin, and the below-freezing temperatures that Beijing’s winter had to offer. Despite this “adversity,” I managed to complete the month. It wasn’t all plain sailing, though. The last week was a ball-ache to say the least.

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Last day of the 4th week…

Everything was going very well up until the fourth week. Saturday 29th December 2018, it was -8 degrees Celsius (17.6 degrees Fahrenheit). I was too afraid to scroll down and look at the “Feels like” section. I had run a total of 0 km and was looking at the possibility of endless mocking from a somewhat smug Alexandra, as she had wrapped up her daily challenge earlier on in the day.

The next part I am not proud of, but I will admit that I started bargaining with Alex.

She was having none of it. (See, this is true adversity.)

Holding back the tears, I put on some running attire and hit the streets.

Now, before you start celebrating my success. I have something else to admit. Although I had done my entire day’s workout on the 29th, I had missed a couple of days prior to that. So on the 31st of December, I found myself with five times my normal day’s workout to do.

I know, I know, you can’t make up missed workouts and blah blah blah, but in my defence … shut up.

So, there I was, in my hotel room on the final day of 2018, with a long list of exercises that I needed to do. It took me a while to say the least. However, it was the wake-up call I needed going into the third month.

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Another 30-day challenge completed

Firstly, I reduced the workout, just incase I had any catch-up days. We don’t want a repeat of New Year’s Eve, now do we? Secondly, I increased the run to 10 km per week. I also need to do yoga three times a week, which I have been loving so far. For anyone interested, you should youtube “Yoga With Adriene” or click here. The most difficult aspect of this month will be the “no bread” rule.

For me, bread is like an addiction. I have been brought up eating bread with everything. It’s the one thing that would always be on the dining table. It was only later on in life that I realised bread likes to camp out on the lower level of your belly, making me look big and cuddly.

I hate looking big and cuddly.

As you can imagine, there are some exceptions to the bread rule for this month. Why? Well, simply because I don’t want to die from going cold turkey, or even worse, end up at cafes sucking up the breadcrumbs left from a prior guest’s half-eaten muffin. The fear is real, people!

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So far, so good.

I can happily say that everything is going very well. Then again, this time last month, I was feeling the same. Hopefully by the end of the month I will feel as in control as I do now.

Ha! I just made myself giggle with that line!

 

Title Decider?

We are only half-way through the season, yet the game tonight between Man City and Liverpool has the ring of a title decider.

A win for the Reds (Liverpool) will put them nine points clear of a very inconsistent Tottenham, and ten ahead of Man City, who are the only serious challengers. I realise that there are still 17 games after this one, with a total of 51 points to play for, but that will not be enough for the chasing pack to pass a formidable Liverpool side (that have only failed to obtain six of the 60 available points possible so far).

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Mohamed Salah

More importantly, Liverpool are playing with freedom, and a swagger that no other team seems to have this year. In Salah, Mane, and Firmino, they have goals. Defensively, they are stronger, and there is a lot of force and doggedness in midfield. Shame about the lack of quality on the bench.

Will a win secure the title with half the season to go?

Short answer: Yes, I believe so!

Looking ahead to Liverpool’s fixtures, they play both Chelsea and Tottenham at home, which is a great advantage. The only tough-looking away fixture is to Old Trafford – to face a rejuvenated Manchester United – on February 24th (a trip that Manchester City also have to make on March 16th).

So, if Liverpool win, the title is theirs.

Can Manchester City stop Liverpool?

Manchester City will be defiant going into the game, despite being on a bit of a bad run of late. Three defeats in the last five league games has put them in a bit of a precarious situation in terms of the title, yet they can go into the game knowing that they dominated Liverpool at Anfield. On that day, surprisingly the game ended goalless. The recent lack of points for Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola shouldn’t surprise anyone. Even at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, it was well-known that if you could get past the initial pressure exerted by Pep’s teams, you had a chance to catch the defence short-handed – something that Chelsea, Palace and especially Wolves have done.

Liverpool are a cut above all three of those teams, and have the ability to demolish what feels like an ageing Manchester City side. Fernandinho doesn’t seem to be able to recover as quickly. David Silva is missing more games than usual. De Bruyne isn’t quite fully fit yet, and Aguero isn’t his usual prolific self.

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No time like the present, Sergio!

Recent history isn’t looking favourably on Man City’s chances either. Liverpool beat their rivals three times during the last campaign, and have only lost twice in their last 11 meetings.

What will happen?

Whatever way you look at it, this is a huge game in the title race. Both Man City and Liverpool are gunning for the trophy, and if Liverpool win, they will all but secure it in my eyes. And yet, I see Man City showing up and closing the gap to the top with a convincing 3-1 win. Eventually, Man City will be able to grind down Liverpool as the season progresses. The expected cries from Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool’s coach) will be about how his players are tired, especially if they progress to the latter stages of other competitions. That’s the reason they weren’t able to secure the title.

Or …

Liverpool win tonight.

They then go on to lift the title …

… And I look like a fool!

 

A Better Body, 30 Days at a Time

I was sat at home relaxing when the bringer of bad news walked in …

“Babe, I have something to tell you …”

Those dreaded words!

I realise you lot are probably thinking the worst. But I knew it was even worse than that.

I could tell from the determined entrance and tone of voice that my partner had some genius fitness idea to get us both in to shape.

Note to all: Circle is a shape!!

And then the dreaded words: “Let’s do a 30-day challenge.”

The basic premise of the challenge is to set yourself a daily challenge, which needs to be completed for 30 consecutive days. The challenge needs to be something that you wouldn’t normally do.

Queue the jokes.

My first response was that I would, “Smoke a cigarette a day.”

(Playful slap)

I took it seriously after that.

Now, I realise that this sounds a little like a non-religious version of Lent. Except it is taken more seriously than Lent, but not as serious as fasting during Ramadan.

The Challenge

So, about this 30-day self-torture. I set myself a simple task, as I didn’t want to screw myself over.

Unfortunately, I screwed myself over.

My daily challenge started well, as the workout (50 crunches, 50 ankle touches, 30 push-ups, 10 leg lifts and 10 roll-outs) wasn’t too difficult. Stupidly, though, I designed a set of exercises that would work my stomach – something I hadn’t done in almost a year.

Day 2: It hurt to laugh, cough or do any other movement.
Day 3: I couldn’t sit down properly.
Day 4: I couldn’t tell if I needed the bathroom, or if I was feeling uncomfortable from the workout.

By Day 5, I was looking for ways to alter the workout itself.

By the end of the 30-day challenge, that pain left it’s place to boredom and tediousness because the workout had become a little mundane, and easy. Don’t get me wrong, I am still incredibly happy to have done the challenge and completed it. As the benefits were visible.

I hated Wednesday nights, though. I really did.

It’s tough to get home from two hours of football and hear the dreaded words, “You should do your workout soon and then shower.”

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Colouring in that final segment to wrap up a successful challenge.

I can proudly say that I stuck to the original set of exercises, and I feel much stronger for it. I’m still far away from a six-pack, but my belly is a powerful one. The best thing is that I get to share another experience with my partner, and become healthier while doing so.

What Next?

I have set myself a new challenge. This time, I wanted to add more elements to my daily goal.

The New Challenge:

50 ankle touches
15 leg raises
30 push-ups
25 dips
30 second side planks
60 second plank
30 second wall sit
1x fruit and 1x vegetable
Run 8km over the week (not including running at football)
No fast food

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Already looking great. 

As you can see, I have kept the workout, but also added weekly cardio and, most importantly, some dietary requirements. I realise the dietary part isn’t very demanding, except, I am absolutely terrible at eating fruit.

Verdict

The challenge was a very good idea, and definitely worth doing, as it gives each individual the chance to decide their own challenge.

So, for anyone who is interested in getting healthier, I would advise the 30-day challenge, but there are some things you should consider:

  • Share the experience with someone, as you will motivate each other.
  • Set goal-orientated challenges and not time-orientated ones.
  • Create a chart that you can colour in on a daily basis. Visually seeing your progress helps keep you motivated.

Good luck!


Quick Note: Portions of this blog previously ran on my partner’s site, as she detailed her own experiences during our 30-day challenges. You can check out her pieces here:

Phooooah! Was That You?

As I was looking through the BBC, I noticed a smelly article from a top level sporting event. The said match was between Gary Anderson and Wesley Harms during the Grand Slam of Darts.

Gary Anderson & Wesley Harms deny farting accusations at Grand Slam of Darts

Some of the quotes were exceptionally funny. Wesley Harms declaring that it would “take him two days to get rid of the rotten smell” and Gary Anderson swearing on his children’s lives that he didn’t do “it.” His children are still alive, so, guess we have to believe him now.

However, Anderson has admitted to “blowing” the opposition off the stage in the past, and as we know, “once a farter, always a farter.”

Anderson did then go on to add, “It was bad. It was a stink, then he (Harms) started to play better and I thought he must have needed to get some wind out.”

The match took place on Thursday, and ended up finishing 10-2 to Anderson. Unfortunately for him, somebody’s backside took the plaudits.

You’re all probably wondering how far Anderson got in the tournament. Who cares!

Some Novelties Wear Off, While Others Do Not!

I was going through my usual routine of checking the different sports websites – BBC Sport, SporX.com, SkySports.com – and they were reporting on the same-old topical stories. Apparently some person scored a goal or did something amazing, while another was upset because of a referee’s call. Then, on the BBC, a couple of articles that caught my eye.

Wayne Rooney to play for England again: Does it cheapen an England call-up?

&

Floyd Mayweather: Boxer to fight kick-boxer Tenshin Nasukawa in Japan

Let’s begin with the insanity surrounding Floyd “Money” Mayweather. He has decided to take up mixed martial arts and will fight Tenshin Nasukawa.

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Floyd “Money” Mayweather (Via WikiCommons)

Who? I hear you ask.

In the world of MMA, he is pretty much an unknown. But don’t let that fool you. Nasukawa, 20, is unbeaten in 27 fights. (Four of those fights being in MMA.) He currently fights in the RIZIN Fighting Federation, the organisation that Mayweather also signed with.

He is no mug!

Mayweather is double Nasukawa’s age, and a retired boxer, albeit an exceptional one.

This fight has already been confirmed for December 31, but the rules and weight class are yet to be decided. Everything is due to be ironed out over the next few days. And you know, Mayweather isn’t going to be allowing his “money-maker” to become too disfigured going into 2019.

Expect a hell of a lot of rules, one of which will be, “No fighting on the ground,” (which immediately disqualifies this from being an MMA fight). So, we are looking at a kick-boxing match, with extra rules. What those rules will be, I’m not really sure. Maybe a limitation on the number of kicks being allowed. Even with a limitation, I am confident that Nasukawa will be knocking Mayweather out, as long as those yet-to-be-decided “rules” allow for it.

This fight is basically the equivalent of someone asking you if you want a fight, but then following it up with, “Okay, but no hitting me in the face.”

Which, for me, makes the contest a waste of time, and one that I will not watch. Not even to see Floyd’s eyes widen once that first blow lands on his melon, and he realises that the fight was not a good idea.


What about Wayne Rooney’s inclusion to the England national team?

People have argued that it’s a ridiculous decision, and it takes away an opportunity from a youngster who could become an England star in the future. Especially as England coach, Gareth Southgate, has been complaining about his main stars having to play too many competitive games, and that he doesn’t have enough opportunities to give youngsters an opportunity.

As a result, many people are adamant that Wayne Rooney’s appearance prior to the game would have sufficed, instead of taking up a position in the team. That way, he could have got the send-off that he deserves.

Wayne Rooney (left) and England coach Gareth Southgate. 

Yeah, maybe.

But it’s important to know that such a procedure (Introducing a legend before a game and giving them a ceremonial round of applause) is more common for retired players who haven’t kicked a ball in months, or a player who is playing at a very low level, and hanging onto a career because they’re not ready to call it a day yet.

Rooney doesn’t fit that description.

So, is it ok to give him the call-up?

Absolutely!

He is clearly still a great player!

Still skeptical?

Let’s look at the facts here:

  • It’s not a competitive game.
  • Rooney is playing competitively against international players (Plays for DC United in the American MLS).
  • He has scored 12 goals in 21 games.
  • He is the second-highest-capped player in England history (119 caps).
  • Highest number of England goals (53 goals).
  • Always fulfilled his England duty with pride.

Rooney is an England legend and deserves the correct send-off. This will be exactly that. A friendly game, against America, with the revenue from ticket sales going to the Wayne Rooney Foundation. Most importantly, his name will be chanted by the fans at the iconic home of football, Wembley Stadium.

Wembley Stadium, London (Via WikiCommons)

So, what about the youngsters?

Their time will come.

The funniest part of it all is that on the BBC, Rooney’s selection is being questioned, yet, Mayweather’s announcement is reported like it’s just normal behaviour.

What has the world of sport come to?

Who Next For Real Madrid?

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Photo by Vienna Reyes on Unsplash

As mentioned several days ago, Julen Lopetegui has been relieved of his duties at Real Madrid. So now, the question on every football fan’s lips is: Who will be the next permanent manager?

As it stands, ex-player Santiago Solari has taken the role as caretaker-manager. This basically means, “You are the manager until we find someone who is actually worthy of the position.” Now, that doesn’t mean that Solari has no chance of being named the permanent manager. Historically, many clubs use caretaker-managers to give themselves a chance to make the right appointment, and then end up giving that individual a full-time position, especially if those in power see a rejuvenated team start to perform.

It is also very important to know that a club like Real Madrid prefers to appoint managers who have grown up with, played for, or been involved with the club in the past. They need people at the club who understand the Madrid way, so they can eliminate the need for a honeymoon period. Solari fits the bill in this instance, as he was the manager of Real Madrid Castilla (Real’s reserve team) and, prior to that, was in charge of the youth team at the club. He also played over 130 games for the club between 2000 and 2005.

When you put these aspects together, Santiago Solari is rightfully the bookies’ favourite to be given the permanent manager role, especially if he can get the team playing well. He will be following in the footsteps of Zinedine Zidane, who was promoted to Real Madrid manager whilst being in charge of the reserve team.

Unfortunately for Solari, I don’t think he has the technical nous or knowledge to be successful at the top of the game, meaning that Perez will need to look elsewhere.

That leads us nicely onto the most obvious candidate … Antonio Conte.

Conte is currently available, which makes him a fantastic target. As Real Madrid will not need to pay any compensation to another club for stealing their manager from them. After forking out a fortune to sack Lopetegui, this might be the best option for them. Plus, it’s not like Conte is a terrible manager. He brings with him a fantastic record, winning five trophies in his three years in charge of Juventus (3x Serie A, 2x Supercoppa Italiana), receiving plaudits as Italy manager, and picking up a couple of trophies in England with Chelsea (Premier League and FA Cup). Conte is a winner, and Real Madrid need to find a way to win.

Yet, Perez will be tentative to go knocking on Conte’s door just yet. Last thing anybody at Real Madrid wants is a manager who will happily criticise the board members in front of the media, or sulk at not getting what he wants (both of which were things that Conte was happy to do regularly before getting the boot from Chelsea chairman Roman Abramovich).

My Italian isn’t up to scratch, so, I can’t verify what he is saying … but going on his facial expressions, he isn’t being very nice…

Other alternatives may include Roberto Martinez (Belgium’s coach), Joachim Lowe (Germany’s coach), or Jose Mourinho (with Manchester United). Unfortunately, those options wouldn’t be of any use to Real Madrid, as they are all tied up in well-paying jobs elsewhere.

So, it comes down to one of two options, as I see it:

Mauricio Pochettino (left) and Arsene Wenger (right)

Perez’s first choice is likely to be Mauricio Pochettino, who would be an exceptional fit for Real Madrid. Pochettino is a manager who has won plaudits wherever he has gone, despite not having any trophies to his name as a manager. Unfortunately for Perez, he is unlikely to get his wishes right now, and would have to wait until the end of the season before finalising any deal for Pochettino. The added bonus for waiting would be that Pochettino would probably be able to convince star striker Harry Kane to come along with him.

The only other possibility for Real could be to hire Arsene Wenger. Wenger has been out of work, by choice, since he resigned as Arsenal’s manager at the end of last season, after 22 years in charge. This opportunity with Real Madrid may be the one that brings Wenger back into management, as it’s a club that has the right tools for him to be successful.

It is important to know that Real Madrid do have time to make the right decision for them, as neither Mauricio Pochettino or Arsene Wenger are likely to be signing a contract anytime soon. Pochettino will not leave halfway through a season; he has clarified that on many an occasion. As for Wenger, he is only likely to join a top team from a top league, and that list is not very expansive. Especially if you rule out that he would unlikely go to Arsenal’s rival team, and all the other major teams are pretty happy with their managers, as it stands.

What will happen then?

For me, one of the following two possibilities will materialise, but it all depends on how Solari gets the team playing.

Option No. 1: Hire Solari until the end of the season and then approach Pochettino. He will very likely take the job. This option would be perfect, knowing that Wenger could be a very likely back-up.

Option No. 2: Approach Wenger now, knowing that he will definitely want a long-term contract. As a result, approaching Pochettino would be out of the question come the end of the season.

Whatever way you look at it, there will be a quality manager at the helm next year. Teams like Real Madrid don’t stay in a slump for too long.