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Tag Archives: Game theory

Is the World Cup really free from doping?

THE FOOTBALL World Cup and the Olympic games have long vied for the title of the world’s biggest sporting event. The marquee competitions for many of the planet’s most popular athletes are watched by nearly half of humanity, and generate more revenue than the annual GDP of one-quarter of the world’s countries (roughly $9bn for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, and a projected $6bn for the current World Cup in Russia). Yet with so much on the line, there seems …

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Despite Germany’s exit, this World Cup has been quite predictable

IT WILL go down as one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history. On June 27th Germany exited the tournament at the group stage, marking the first time that the country had failed to reach the quarter-finals since 1938. The debacle was all the more astounding for its farcical conclusion. The reigning world champions lost 2-0 to a South Korean side that had already been eliminated, and which delivered the knockout blow when the German goalkeeper ventured into the …

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Why predicting the winner of the World Cup is so difficult

IF ONLY Paul were still alive. Though he had never watched a game of football, learnt how to use a spreadsheet or issued a press release about his state-of-the-art machine-learning-based forecasts, he was globally renowned for his preternatural ability to predict results at major international tournaments. Throughout the European Championship of 2008 and the World Cup of 2010 he was wrong on only two occasions. That Paul had only ever issued 14 predictions before his untimely death in October 2010 …

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The maddest March: at last, a 16-seed upsets a number one

THE line separating the improbable from the impossible is hard to pin down. The annual single-elimination tournament to crown the champion of North America’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in men’s basketball is known as “March Madness”, thanks to the steady diet of upsets it produces. Every year, a few ragtag gangs of fresh-faced students from little-known universities, likely destined for mundane careers in accounting, sales or the like, somehow manage to topple a heavily favoured juggernaut packed with future …

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Savvy or collusion? Why baseball’s free-agent market has turned ice-cold

BACK in 1987, Andre Dawson, a star outfielder in Major League Baseball (MLB), was looking for a change of scenery. After spending a full decade with the Montreal Expos, he was at last a free agent, able to sign with any team he chose. The Expos had finished third-to-last in attendance during the previous season, and their stadium featured an artificial-turf playing surface that aggravated his balky knees. At 31 years old, Mr Dawson surely had at least a few …

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Italy’s World Cup exit is far from an apocalypse

“FINE” (“the end”), howled the front page of La Gazetto dello Sport, Italy’s most popular sporting newspaper. “Apocalisse, disastro” wailed Corriere dello Sport, one of its rivals. Muted supporters, some of them weeping, filed out of bars across the land. An impotent 0-0 draw against Sweden in Milan’s San Siro stadium on November 13th, following a 1-0 defeat in Stockholm three days before, meant that the impossible had happened. Italy’s four World Cup titles have only been surpassed by Brazil. Yet the Azzurri have failed to qualify for …

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