Saturday, June 12, 2010

Odds on Big Match-ups

First, the most hyped game in US soccer history. I intentionally gave it little discussion in my post on The Big Picture, because it shouldn't really matter in that sense: the loser still should have a good chance of advancing (if they don't let the loss get in their head too much).

I did neglect--both in this case and overall--the possibility/likelihood of draws, which occur in the first round only (in the knockout stages, they play extra time, then, if still tied, go to penalty kicks until a winner is decided). A draw would work well for both England and US in this game: it would set both teams up for wins against the other two teams in the group (Slovenia and Algeria) and both going through comfortably (the Group winner, in this case, would be the team with the superior goal difference in the other two games).

Given this fact, and the fact that both teams are wary of each other, I would expect the probability of a draw to be relatively high. The key will be the reaction of the team that falls behind (assuming a first goal): if the trailing team is persistent, but not heedless, patient, but aggressive, they can respond. After that, quite possibly, both teams would settle down and accept a tie.

If we think of the 90-minute game as divided in three 30-minute sections, I would expect little action and no goals in the first 30. The key section will be the middle 30, including the halftime break, which is when I expect goals to score. The last 30 minutes will be either frantic, if one team is behind, or extremely settled, if it's tied.

My probabilities are: one-sixth chance (16 2/3%) US victory; one-third (33 1/3%) draw; 50% England win. My specific prediction is a 1-1 tie (same as Ruud Gullit's).

Two of Three

Lakers and Celtics are 2-2 in the NBA finals. The fifth game is tomorrow night, but it's different in the finals: in the finals only, the fifth game is played at the home of the "underdog" and the last two games will be at the Lakers' arena. So, this game is critical for Boston, less so for Los Angeles.

I rate the odds--actually independent of the previous results--as 60% chance for Boston in Game 5, 70% chance for LA in Game 6, and 60% chance for LA in Game 7, if it goes that far. Working out the flows, this translates to a 39.6% chance for Boston to win the championship and 60.4% for LA. If Boston wins game 5, LA still has a 42% chance to win it; if Boston loses game 6, LA's chances to win one of the last two is 88%.

1 comment:

Chin Shih Tang said...

A fair prediction, made after the starting lineups were announced but before the kickoff.

The English goal in the first four minutes was a shocker; the US started half asleep but that woke them up. If they hadn't gotten the goal on the English goalie's mistake, I think they might have gotten it anyway. Once they'd scored, they let off the gas pedal and just tried to counterattack.

The English did not want to settle for a draw, but in the end they had no choice.

Tim Howard, the US goalie, was the man of the match for me, making several very solid saves.