Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Group of Death Champions

Yesterday, Holland moved on to the knock-out stages of Euro 2008 as victors of the Group of Death, more commonly known as Group C, with a 2-0 victory of Rumania. Italy too made it out alive from the Group C. Now what? These teams have lived to see another day but does it mean anything further for the squads? As always, history provides some insight.

The moniker "Group of Death" is an informal name for what the media/pundits/fans see as a group with several perceived strong teams that will result in one of the strong teams not advancing merely because there are not enough available slots. (Please note that there really isn't a consensus on the meaning of the term, but this is what I believe it to mean.) The term was first coined by Uruguayan manager Omar Borras at the 1986 World Cup to describe his team's group opponents West Germany, Denmark and Scotland. Since then, the name has become a fixture in the quadrennial international soccer tournaments, is applied retroactively to tourneys prior to 1986 and even used to describe some groups in the annual club tournaments such as the Champions League.

Wikipedia has politely gathered the previous incarnations of the Groups of Death in European Championship and World Cup play. While not Encyclopedia Brittanica, Wikipedia is probably fairly accurate on this subject considering it really is a subjective exercise.

In European Championship play starting in 1996, the year the tournament expanded to 16 teams, there have been 7 groups of death. This is peculiar since that would mean nearly half of all the possible groups were groups of death. So, either the media are liberal in the usage of the term in Euro Championships or the Euros are quite difficult. I imagine it is a little more of the former than the latter although neither thoughts are devoid of supports.

But, it does appear that being in a so-called Group of Death and progressing is a good thing. Witness the Groups of Death:

Euro 96

Group C --
Germany and Czech Republic advanced, in that order, over Italy and Russia with Germany ultimately defeating Czech Republic in the Finals.

Euro 2000

Group A --
Portugal and Romania advanced, in that order, over Germany and England. Portugal lost in the semis and Romania lost in the quarters.

Group D -- Netherlands and France advanced, in that order, over Czech Republic and Denmark. France ultimately won Euro 2000 and Netherlands lost in the semis.

Euro 2004

Group A --
Portugal and Greece advanced, in that order, over Spain and Russia. Greece defeated Portugal for the Euro 2004 Championship.

Group C -- Sweden and Denmark advanced, in that order, over Italy and Bulgaria. Both squads lost in the next round. *I have some difficulty saying this was an actual group of death, given that these are good squads it would not appear that there was a surfeit of really strong teams or traditional powers in this group.

Group D -- Czech Republic and Netherlands advanced, in that order, over Germany and Latvia. Both squads lost in the semis.

Euro 2008

Group C --
Netherlands and Italy advanced, in that order, over France and Rumania. Results? To be determined.

The sample size is small and I would like to throw out Group C from Euro 2004, but it seems that progressing from the group of death leaves you with a very good shot at winning the Final as the past 3 champions have come from a so-called group of death.

But, if we look at World Cup play it is even more support. In 6 World Cups, a team advancing from a group of death has won the tournament, most recently Italy in 2006, and two other times teams have lost in the final. So, 8 world cups out of 18 have involved the Group of Death survivors.

I'm sure there is some statistical reason to show me I'm wrong, but it sure seems like advancing from the group of death puts you on a fast track to the Final match with a good shot at winning. So, I hereby declare the death of the Group of Death moniker and hereby declare it to be the Group of Champions.


Mike Georger said...

so do you have a new 'the good .. the wtf' article in your legendary hopper ready for liverpools new away kit launch at seven est tonight?

if its the gray check one as leaked, i love it as its a throwback to the candy kit, but i have a feeling a lot of people are going to hate it.

granted these are the same people who probably bought all the hideous yellow/gold/urine colored ones of the last ten years. then youll have the people saying they wont buy them because of the americans, aka retards.

ΓΌ75 said...

Something special and long in about two minutes. Liverpool will have to wait.

The NY Kid said...

Something special and long in about two minutes.

That's what she said.