Hopefully you all are not lost under a rock and blinded from the majesty of Lionel Messi. If you have been, unearth yourself to this video below. All 400 of Messi’s goals for Barcelona are contained in 30 minutes of joy. Can he score 400 more before the end of his career?
Lionel Messi kicks the ball 60 feet into the air and then continues juggling to prove he is superhuman. This video also proves how incredibly weird Japanese game shows are. It just goes to show you there are two constants in this world: Messi is an alien and Japanese gameshows are the weirdest shows on television.
With the announcement of the FIFA Ballon d’Or shortlist today, the spotlight again falls on two of football’s current greats, four time winner, Lionel Messi and two time winner and current holder of the title, Cristiano Ronaldo. But how do the pair compare off the pitch?
This is a very interesting study and it is astounding how much each player’s social media pages are worth. Cristiano Ronaldo may not be better than Messi, depending on who you ask, but his social media prowess is second to none in the soccer world. He knows what he’s doing. It also helps that he has a more marketable personality. Some may seem him as arrogant and be annoyed by his pretty boy persona but there is no denying it has helped his international popularity. There is a saying that “all publicity is good publicity” and here this seems to apply. Many people may like Messi better because of his humility and quiet-nature; however, it is Cristiano’s personality that has contributed to his marketability. Head over to the link above to read more of Repucom’s insights. It is a very interesting read.
VATICAN CITY (AP) –Pope Francis is backing an interreligious soccer match that will gather greats from around the globe and is aimed at promoting peace and raising money for at-risk kids…Argentina coach Gerardo Martino and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will put together teams featuring Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist players. Among those who have signed up: Lionel Messi, Filippo Inzaghi, Samuel Eto’o.
This is a great idea by Pope Francis. It is well-documented that he is a big soccer fan and there is no better way to raise awareness then with some of the games biggest stars. It would also be interesting to see the different religions of soccer players around the world as it will help give the audience a unique perspective on how religion has no effect on the abilities of a soccer player just like someone with a different religion makes them no different from any of us. Hopefully this game gets broadcast somewhere because I definitely want to support this endeavor and I’m sure the same can be said for people all over the world
Congratulations to Cristiano Ronaldo on winning the 2013 Ballon d’Or over Lionel Messi and Franck Ribery. A strong case could be made for Franck Ribery winning the award, and there will be conspiracy theorists who point to the extension of voting till after the Portugal/Sweden World cup qualifying games as the reason Cristiano pulled off the victory. However, with 69 goals in 59 games, 14 of which were during Champions League play (a new record), Cristiano Ronaldo fully deserves this award. See below for other awards that were given out:
FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year: Nadine Angerer
FIFA Men’s Football Coach of the Year: Jupp Heynckes
FIFA Women’s Football Coach of the Year: Silvia Neid
FIFA Presidential Award: Jacque Rogge
FIFA Fair Play Award: Afghanistan Football Federation
FIFA Puskas Award: Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Sweden v England
Ballon d’Or Prix d’Honneur: Pele
FIFA/FIFPro World XI:
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer – Bayern Munich
Defender: Philipp Lahm – Bayern Munich
Defender: Sergio Ramos – Real Madrid
Defender: Thiago Silva – PSG
Defender: Dani Alves – FC Barcelona
Midfielder: Andres Iniesta – FC Barcelona
Midfielder: Xavi Hernandez – FC Barcelona
Midfielder: Franck Ribery – Bayern Munich
Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrd
Forward: Zlatan Ibrahimovic – PSG
Forward: Lionel Messi – FC Barcelona
Alexi Lalas, the pertinacious and polarizing former U.S. men’s national team stalwart, has become a mainstay for ESPN/ABC’s soccer coverage. Lalas, never one to shy away from expressing his opinion, often incites the ire of fans with his divisive stances. One of his most contentious beliefs is his oft-repeated quote: “form is a fallacy”. See below for several examples of Lalas tweeting this exact phrase to his audience of 80,000+ followers.
For the remainder of this article I will shift the focus away from Lalas and on to an investigation of the validity of his statement.
The Genesis of “Form is a Fallacy”
In contrast to other sports, “form” seems to be a uniquely soccer term. However, the concept of form or, said differently, being on a hot streak or in the zone exists in other sports. So why is the terminology (“form”) not used in other sports? Perhaps, form is merely a product of differences in diction between American English and British/European English.
However, I do not believe this to be the case. I posit that the absence of this jargon from other sports is more than just a language difference. Soccer, unlike most sports, is not statistics-driven. A top-level soccer team can go a month without scoring more than a handful of goals. As a result, the media and talking heads run into a numbers problem when attempting to discuss, critique, and analyze teams and players.
Unlike basketball, baseball, football, or tennis, soccer does not have points, rebounds, homes runs, strikeouts, touchdowns, sacks, aces, or winners to record and monitor. Soccer lacks the plethora of data and statistics to use to evaluate gameplay. In the absence of these quantitative metrics (though the last few years has seen the beginning stages of soccer’s statistical revolution), soccer analysts turn to subjective criteria in their analyses.
When a team is on a winning streak it is easy to laud the efforts of the main goal scorer or playmaker or to extol the prowess of the goalkeeper or centerbacks. But how do you praise the play of a holding midfielder or any other player whose impact is less likely to be captured by any of soccer’s primary metrics (goals, assists, and clean sheets)? In soccer, form is the word used to describe periods when a player has demonstrated consistently high or low performance.
What is Form?
If Leo Messi scores a dozen goals and Barcelona wins ten consecutive games it is easy to say he is on form. Even without the support of the goals statistic, it would be difficult to dispute that Xavi is equally on form during this winning streak. However, if Messi does not score in the next game or if Barcelona loses, are Messi and Xavi still on form?
Herein lies the epistemological question behind this topic. What is form and how can it be identified? In hindsight, it is easy to look back on a season and pinpoint when a player or team was in good form and in bad form. However, is there ever a point in time when being on form can be predictive? Or is form a transient concept that is only evident when reminiscing on past games?
“Form is a Fallacy”: The Debate
On the one hand, I believe most soccer fans would readily admit and can name numerous times when their favorite team or favorite players have been on form and playing at an extremely high level for an extended period of time. For instance, players like Franck Ribery, Robin Van Persie, and Landon Donovan are clearly in great form and, conversely, players like Fernando Torres and Wayne Rooney are in poor form. This notion supports the idea that form is real and identifiable.
On the other hand, form is, by definition, a temporary state that comes and goes throughout a player’s season and career. For this reason, I believe that there are two components that comprise form. There is the “hot/cold streak” aspect of form that is unmistakable when a player has pulled off a run of good or bad games. However, people also use form to forecast a player’s projected level of play in upcoming games. This second component is the more contentious aspect of form and what I believe Lalas is dismissing when he declares “form is a fallacy”.
The root of the matter stems from the question, ‘does form have predictive value?’ Can a manager or can fans anticipate a player’s level of play in an upcoming match, based upon recent performances? The answer is no. No matter how may consecutive games a player has played well in or played poorly in, his level of play in the next game is independent of the previous games. Thus, form is only recognizable retrospectively, which renders it meaningless, at least in terms of having predictive value.
Why Form is so Popular
I believe that form is so ubiquitous in soccer conversations for two reasons. The first reason relates to the idea of narrative and creating a story. Fans, analysts, and the media all speak about the season as a journey wrought with ups and downs. Form plays an integral role in formulating the story of the season and making sense of the randomness of results and performances.
As a player strings together a run of good games or bad games, fans and media will create a narrative to explain the recent run of form. They will credit swells or dips in confidence, a tactical shift, a personnel change, a reconciliation of a family issue, or a manager’s motivational technique as the driving force behind the player’s good or bad form. While each of the reasons may be valid they do not beget the form that the fans and media mistakenly suggest they do (a common example of the confusion between correlation and causation).
The second reason for form’s omnipresence in soccer circles relates to a point made above – the lack of statistical data to be used in discussion of a player’s or team’s recent gameplay.
Form is such a divisive topic because of its subjectivity. Much to the empiricists’ chagrin, there is no objective way to measure form or to effectively evaluate different soccer players. Observers of the game take stances based upon their personal observations and viewpoints, which cause people to succumb to confirmation biases, justified by illusory correlations. For instance, if a player has five good games in a row, there is still no way to anticipate how he will play in the sixth. If he has a good game you will surely find some explanation (a tactical change, resolution of a personal problem, or any of the points mentioned above) as the reason behind the positive performances. However, what if he had played poorly? The same reasons would have been true but the result would have been different so those reasons would not have been used to confirm any preconceived biases.
Whenever I heard Lalas utter his famous phrase, I shouted out my rejection and dismissal of his idea at the tv screen. However, in writing this article, I have to admit that I was swayed from my initial stance. After investigating this topic, I confirmed my view that the first component of form, being in a hot streak, is real and recognizable. However, my investigation led me to realize that the second component or form, the predictive aspect, is an illusion only made true by retroactive retellings and rationalizations of non-causal details from the past.
If you are a serious soccer fan and have some free time on your hands, do yourself a favor and check out the following two videos.
The video above showcases Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez and illustrates how he controls a game via subtle movements and intelligent field awareness. The nuances of Xavi’s game are what separate him from other great players and inspire quotes like the following from Johan Cruyff “the most spectacular is Messi, but the best is Xavi.”
I also love this quote from Xavi, which perfectly encapsulates his style of play: “I’d love to be faster. Physically I’m limited, but I’ve survived by using my head.” All aspiring players can improve by watching Xavi and analyzing how he reads the game. For instance, just notice how many times he checks over his shoulders before he receives a pass. It’s no wonder that he plays as if he has eyes in the back of his head.
The video above shows the 2012-2013 highlights of Marco Reus, the young German and Borussia Dortmund playmaker, who is one of the most underrated players in Europe and will be a known commodity sooner rather than later.