Saturday, June 26, 2010

World Cup Round of 16 predictions

The Round of 16 starts today and here are my quick predictions for these 8 matches coming up. Now logic or explanation given - just going by gut feeling for now

Uruguay - Korea Republic  - Prediction - Uruguay 2-1
USA - Ghana  - Prediction -  USA - 1-0
Germany - England - Prediction - England on penalties  (1-1 after 120 mins) (Yah I know - stupid prediction :D)
Argentina - Mexico - Prediction - Argentina 3-1
Netherlands - Slovakia - Prediction - Netherlands  2-0
Brazil - Chile - Prediction - Brazil 3-2 :)
Paraguay - Japan - Prediction - Japan on penalties (2-2 after 120 mins)
Spain - Portugal - Prediction - Spain in extra time (1-1 after 90 mins)

I am convinced I will get at least one score line correct :). Let's see.
Here's hoping for some thrilling football !!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Capello Pep Talk ?

With England playing Germany on Sunday - if I were Fabio Capello, I would think of using the following lines said by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) in Inglourious Basterds as a pep talk before the match.

"......We will be cruel to the Germans, and through our cruelty they will know who we are. And they will find the evidence of our cruelty in the disemboweled, dismembered, and disfigured bodies of their brothers we leave behind us. And the German won't not be able to help themselves but to imagine the cruelty their brothers endured at our hands, and our boot heels, and the edge of our knives. And the German will be sickened by us, and the German will talk about us, and the German will fear us. And when the German closes their eyes at night and they're tortured by their subconscious for the evil they have done, it will be with thoughts of us they are tortured with. Sound good? "
Haha - Correct right ?
Jokes apart, expect an epic match this Sunday. May the best team win

Saturday, June 19, 2010

European powerhouses

Watching England take on Algeria last night was an effort to stay awake. And in order to stay awake, I decided to do some basic research to find out as to who have been the best European teams in major tournaments for the last 20 years. I took 1990 as I cut off because 1990 World Cup was the first one I ever watched. And I have considered both  World Cups and European Championships for this exercise as I believe the Euros are played at almost as good a standard as the World Cup.

The point scoring system that I have used is as below

And after that it was just a task of fitting the results of the teams into a box to come up with totals to find out which have been the best teams in Europe. And the results are below (Click to see the entire table)
A summary of the results is here below:

And the results clearly show that Germany has been the best European team of the last two decades. They were clearly the dominant team of the nineties - head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the countries. The Netherlands coming a distant second. However there has been no such dominant team in the noughties - the Italians coming marginally ahead with 27 points over Germany, France and Portugal - all of whom have 26 points.
And so the best 3 teams from Europe over the last two decades have been - Germany -64 points, Italy - 47 points and France - 44 points. Netherlands, inspite of not having won any World Cup or Euro in this period are a respectable fourth with 42 points. England (31 points) struggle to come in 6th place, just ahead of Portugal (30 points). Spain, perennial under-achievers (like the English in fact) - jump into 5th spot - thanks to their Euro 2008 win.
I think this gives a sense of perspective when we call some teams as big teams. Clearly Germany and Italy are the 2 teams from Europe which have over the years, including the last two decades, done remarkably well. France (1998-2000), Spain (2008 - 2010 ?) and Portugal (2004-2008), underachievers for long, all have had purple patches during the last two decades, possibly because of having their all time greatest squads being assembled in this period. Portugal of course can be debatable as their so called Golden generation was supposed to be playing in the 1990s, but once they started qualifying for these big tournaments consistentely in 2000, they have done quite well for themselves. While the all time greatest Dutch teams have been in the 1970s and 1980s, they have been fairly consistent in these big tournaments, thanks to their individual talents, without really cracking it big yet. I, for one, am hoping that 2010 is the year for the Netherlands.
And where does that leave England in the midst. Considering all the hype and attention that they garner, thanks to the Premier League, England have been largely disappointing in major tournaments. And with 2 draws in 2 games so far, things are looking grim for them once again.
This blog will be updated with the results of the 2010 World Cup and it will be interesting to see which European team goes the furthest in this year's edition.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Some thoughts on quizzing

A few months, probably on twitter and then in personal conversations with friends, while discussing quizzing, a few of us were lamenting about the lack of quizzing on television. As it so happens, currently the Indian television scene is filled with a mind-boggling array of reality shows, talent hunt shows and such assorted stuff which frankly becomes very hard to relate to for some boring, nerdy folks like me. And a quality quiz programme is badly missed.
Growing up in the 90s, Sunday mornings used to be spent watching some mythological show, followed by some cartoon and then the Bournvita Quiz Contest. Hosted by Derek O’ Brien, BQC was an essential part of the Sunday routine for many young ,enthusiastic quizzers like me. And many young children who got some of their earliest taste of quizzing from BQC went on to become quizzers for life.
As I grew up further, I began to appreciate other, higher standards of quizzes. Two such shows - Mastermind India and University Challenge, both hosted by the remarkable Siddharth Basu, are particularly note-worthy in terms of the quality, format and presentation, which opened up new horizons for what a quizzer can look forward to.
And then came the era of the Game-shows such as KBC (incidentally produced by Siddharth Basu himself), which on the one hand brought quizzing to a much larger audience and for some time capturing the imagination of the nation itself, on the other hand however, it can perhaps be argued that it also sounded the death-knell of the other regular quizzing that we had on television. The point being who would care to attend or organize a quiz show where the winner gets Rs. 500/- when you can win lakhs and crores by answering some simple stuff and get to meet a superstar as a bonus.
All along of course, schools and colleges in India have always had a culture of quizzing. Come to the larger towns, the 4 metros, Bengaluru and Hyderabad and we can find quizzing forums who conduct regular, open quizzes which are attended with great enthusiasm by quizzers. We also have a few Corporate Quizzes on TV such as the Tata Crucible or the Brand Equity Quiz by ET, both extremely prestigious, which keep the flame of quizzing burning on TV now.
I feel that the best time to create a quizzer out of person is when he or she is young and that the absence of a programme like BQC or even the ESPN School Quiz Olympiad, will perhaps be felt perhaps 10 years down the line.
Having said that, I work at Infosys, Mangalore and we conduct an annual school quiz here for kids of class 8-10 – SCHOLARS and the incredible levels of participation and then performance of the kids last year left me in awe of them on one hand and a little humbled as a question setter on the other, considering how well they cracked my questions :)
Perhaps the future of quizzing is different. For instance we have quiz blogs such as this one from my friend Suhel, which provide tremendous food for thought on a boring working day. Social networking is bringing together like minded folks a lot more than before and more open quizzes will probably be a reality. Internet and the new media will no doubt provide plenty of material for current quizzers to test their skills. I however have my doubts on its power to draw in new quizzers. That's just something we have to wait and see.
Talking about quizzing, you would always meet the types who say that quizzing is for nerds and you need to have a strong GK for it etc etc (and they are mostly right J), there is a lot more to quizzing than mere general knowledge or mugged up stuff. Going through the net, I found these two quite, brilliantly written articles on Quizzing. The first by Amit Varma: Quizzing is not just a trivial pursuit and the second by Salil Tripathi: What quizzing teaches us. Both are must reads for quiz lovers and articulate beautifully the various facets that draw people towards quizzing and why we love it. And both also talk about the ultimate question which distinguishes a good question from a bad one, a good quiz / quizmaster from a bad one: How is the question asked and not what is the question is what counts. And the more quizzers and quizmaster we have who understand this art, this skill, the more people we can draw to the world of quizzing.
Till then, Happy Quizzing  :)  
PS: This blog was triggered by an argument I had with a friend in office over a quiz, which later got me thinking about quizzing and writing this blog post which I had planned to do for some time.
[PS2: 3rd October: This post by Arul Mani is added here, simply because it is a collector's edition.]

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