Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It Could Take A Lottery To Get Us Through...

I've been keenly following the World Cup, mostly because it's football on TV and just because I can now that I'm almost finished with marking. But, while the group stages have contained some memorable matches, it's the knockout stages that I'm really looking forward to. In particular, they raise the possibility of the dreaded penalty shootout - often derided as a lottery.

Regular readers will know about my interest in lotteries, and I've already had my say on penalty shootouts in Soccer and Philosophy (currently 25% off at Amazon UK).

I'm happy to see that there's actually a role for lotteries - genuine lotteries - in the group stages too. Reading the BBC's build up to the match I see: "England must win to potentially top the group, but if both they and the US - who face Algeria - draw their matches, Capello's side need to score two goals more than the Americans to stand a chance of qualification through the drawing of lots."

This page further explains the possible permutations: "In this scenario [i.e. England and USA both drawing], England need a high scoring draw on Wednesday. Slovenia would go through as group winners, with England and USA finishing level on three points. Goals scored would decide who progresses. There is the possibility for drama even greater than that of a penalty shoot-out - if both sides are totally even then lots will be drawn to decide who goes through and who is out." Basically, the two teams will be level on head to head results, goal difference, and goals scored - so what fairer way to break the tie than a lottery?

It's not the first time lotteries have been used to decide the outcome of a football match - it's happened to both Liverpool and Celtic in the European Cup - but I wonder if they'll become more popular should England progress?

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