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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

World far

It was apparently painful watching the US versus the Czech Republic. The US lost 3-0 against the #2 ranked team. The game was over long before time elapsed.

I'm not the greatest soccer fan even in my house, but I like the sport enough to follow the tournament and watch some matches -- and was surprised to learn that the US was ranked #5 going into the match Monday. Italy, another member of the US group, is ranked #13. However, teams 11-12 (Nigeria and Denmark) didn't qualify, so Italy is effectively the #11 seed in the tournament.

In other words, the US group of 4 teams (E) includes 3 of the top 11 teams in the tournament! Yet, only 2 teams will advance to the next "knockout" round, which includes 16 teams. By design, a lower ranked team placed in some other group is assured entry into that stage.

The fourth member of group E, Ghana, is 48th in the world -- and the 30th seed in this year's tournament according to FIFA rankings. Fair enough.

When the US is trying to beat Italy, think about how a more fairly designed tournament would have had the team already (potentially) winning a match against a much lower rated team, such as Saudi Arabia or Costa Rica, instead of losing decisively to the Czechs.

This is not just an American quibble. The Czechs and Italians were screwed too.

Here's an interesting IR-related coincidence: all 3 were also members of the "coalition of the willing" in 2003.

OK, enough whining about the luck of the draw...and the unlikelihood of a US advance.

Did you catch this AP story about coverage of the Cup in Somalia?

Recently, an Islamic militia took over the provision of security in Mogadishu. Here's what happened next:
Two people were wounded Saturday as the militia, which is controlled by a group of religious court leaders, broke up World Cup viewing parties by firing in the air and cutting electricity to theaters. The vice chairman of the Islamic Courts Union, Sheikh Abdukadir Ali Omar, said that was a way to prevent "corrupting the children in this Muslim community."

"As soon as the Islamists took over the security of our city, we thought we would get freedom," said Adam Hashi-Ali, a teenager in Mogadishu. "But now they have been preventing us from watching the World Cup."
The AP writer interpreted this as a sign that the fundamentalists in charge "could install strict Islamic rule."

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