Stats Predict Argentina Wins 2014 World Cup

World Cup Brazil

[Note: Germany did, in fact, win the 2014 World Cup. The stats had the teams neck-and-neck save for some intangibles. Scan down to "How It Compares" for why Germany edged Argentina in extra time as opposed to full time.]

For a couple weeks every four years, the whole world gets a little soccer—football—crazy. Americans dust off their Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard jerseys. Other countries cheer on stars like Lionel Messi of Argentina, Thomas Muller of Germany, Cristiano Ronaldi of Portugal, and, of course, Neymar Jr. of Brazil.

The 2014 World Cup final between Argentina and Germany takes places this Sunday, July 13 at 3 p.m. ET but we couldn’t wait to find out the winner. We used EA’s soccer game, FIFA14, to pit Argentina and Germany against each other in 11 simulated games.

The rules were pretty simple: no human interaction, the game AI would essentially be playing itself. Difficulty was set to the highest setting (Legendary), games were played in the Estadio Nacional (Brazil), the weather was clear, time was set to 4 p.m. local time in the summer with light turf wear and 10 minutes halves (there is no option to play a full 90-minute game).

In the game, Germany’s team statistics were more balanced but Argentina had a slightly better attack rating, would that be the difference?

World Cup Results

Argentina beat Germany in the World Cup simulation by just one game (6-5). In all 11 games, Argentina scored a total of 17 goals whereas Germany scored a total of 16 goals. The results are below:

  • Game 1: Argentina (2-1)
  • Game 2: Germany (2-1, Extra Time)
  • Game 3: Argentina (2-1)
  • Game 4: Germany (3-1)
  • Game 5: Germany (1-0)
  • Game 6: Germany (3-2)
  • Game 7: Germany (1-0)
  • Game 8: Argentina (3-2)
  • Game 9: Argentina (2-1)
  • Game 10: Argentina (2-0)
  • Final Game: Argentina (2-1, Penalty Kicks)

Argentina wins 6 games to 5.

What to Look Out For

In all the games, there were some trends that stood out. The German team was able to impose their will thanks to their size and strength. In all the games, Germany was able to win battles for the ball and excelled at set pieces and crosses. But, despite their size, Argentina had a higher ball possession percentage (usually around 60%) even in games they lost.

The simulated games had some surprising heroes. The top goal scorer for Argentina was Gonzalo Higuain, who had 8 goals total in 11 games. The next highest scorer was Germany’s Mesut Ozil who had 5 goals in 11 games. Argentina’s captain, and star player, had 3 goals. Whereas Thomas Muller, Germany’s current breakout star in the World Cup, had just two goals in the 11 simulated games.

One other odd quirk was that most games saw goals traded in rapid succession. When one team, Germany or Argentina, scored a goal, the other team would usually score a tying goal in 10 minutes or less.

How It Compares

In reality, both teams have relied on different key players. For Argentina, Higuain, for example, has only scored one goal in the current World Cup whereas Messi has already scored four goals.

For Germany, Ozil, one of Germany’s top players and an expert playmaker, has had a lackluster performance this year (compared to his previous international appearances) with only one goal and one assist. On the other hand Muller, who was average in the simulated games, has become a star in the real World Cup. Muller currently leads scoring for both teams with five goals and three assists. And Germany far outpaces Argentina’s offense with 17 total goals in the World Cup. This is compared to Argentina’s 7 goals, which is actually below the tournament average of 5.1 goals. (Statistically speaking, Germany is actually way ahead of Argentina when it comes to overall game performance.)

There are of course some big differences between the real world and a video game. FIFA14’s AI prefers caution over risk, resulting in high pass completion numbers and basically no fouls or yellow cards. Also, the game never botches calls either for fouls, handballs, or offsides. Fans of soccer (sorry, football) can attest that this is rarely the case in real games.

So, FIFA14 says that Argentina wins the 2014 World Cup, but what do you think? Germany has never looked stronger and Argentina is missed Di Maria for another game. Can offense from key players like Messi and Higuain make the difference on Sunday? If the later stages of the World Cup are any indication, the World Cup final will be an exciting game to watch no matter what.

[Note: I know the image is of Brazil, but out of solidarity for a very rough week, I'm showing them some love]

How the LEGO Movie Was Built – Esquire.com

esq-lego-xlg-81734785
The new LEGO Movie (out Feb 7.) is actually, improbably, really great. There’s a twist at the end which falls kind of flat but the best parts – and the real DNA of the project – owe much to early stop motion classics like Jason and the Argonauts and the “Wait, really?” humour of Robot Chicken.

Much of that cred is owed to Chris McKay, the film’s Animation Supervisor, Co-Director, and Editor who previously came from, yes, Robot Chicken. I spoke to McKay for Esquire about how the movie was, literally, put together. As a guy who grew up with both LEGOs and Wallace and Gromit, this was a fun one. Also, writing about toys is kind of rad.

More here: How The LEGO Movie Was Built.

Jon Chu Talks Justin Bieber, Living with a Pop Star for Esquire

i.1.justin-bieber-jon-chu-videoWelcome back from radio silence. There are a couple more stories up but please do take a look at my recent profile of Jon Chu, the director of Justin Bieber’s new movie, Believe. As a guy who grew up in California dreaming of being a film-maker, Chu got sucked into the Bieber’s world. That kind of shift changes the phone calls you get.

Chu’s directed a variety of movies (G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Step Up 3D, etc.) but, really, what happens when half a million Belieber’s follow you on Twitter, and how do the people around the pop star deal with his aggressive afterglow? For the interview, I spoke with Scooter Braun, Nick DeMoura, and Bill O’Dowd to try and answer those questions at the same time that Bieber announced his early “retirement” from music.

Please do check it out here, “The Man Behind Justin Bieber,” and let me know what you think.

Why We Love Big Fighting Robots – A Family Tree of “Pacific Rim”

pacific rimPacific Rim looks really cool, it also looks a little familiar. The newest film from Guillermo del Toro – he of Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy – is a big monster movie mashup of kaiju and mecha films. It also looks a lot like Power Rangers (this fact has not been lost on YouTube.)

It’s one in a surprisingly long line of series that feature lots of people piloting a big robot that saves the world. Why, exactly, are we so drawn to Pacific Rim‘s image of multi-pilot super-robots?

the big o

I had the good opportunity to write about the film and its ties to influential animes like Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Voltron, Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs, Space Battleship Yamato>, and The Big O, and even older books like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

There’s a bit of history and a bit of pop psychology, but it basically comes down to:

Why do movies like Pacific Rim speak to us? First, they’re cool to look at. Second, they realize the universal, childish wish to be bigger. And third, they revel in our desire to break stuff without fear of being in trouble, or getting in trouble (i.e., with mom and dad).

Also, robots with cannons for arms. For arms.

Please check out the full story and click the hell out of it. I’d love to hear what you think.

macross

Why Your Superheroes Are Getting Gayer — Esquire.com

Gay Superheroes

Northstar’s Wedding, Astonishing X-Men #51


The extraordinarily good folks over at Esquire.com recently picked up my story on how the comic book industry at large has unexpectedly become one of the strongest advocates for gay rights and marriage equality. Batwoman’s a lesbian, Green Lantern’s gay, and it seems like everyone (even in the Archie universe) is getting married.

It’s a story that’s been on my mind for a while now, and seems to be ever more important with the rash of hate-related crimes happening in New York.

Major thanks to Marvel, DC, and Archie Comics for finding the time to talk, and to Esquire for rolling the dice. A snippet below, but please do read the whole thing right here: Esquire.com/blogs/culture/gay-superheroes

From the neon spandex costumes to the over-muscled, over-breasted heroes in them, it’s hard not to look at a group of comic-book superheroes and think: “Shit, someone’s got to be gay.”

And in fact, more and more superheroes are literally coming out of the closet, turning the comic-book industry, however surprisingly, into one of strongest advocates for gay rights and marriage equality. In just this past year, there have been two same-sex marriages on the covers of different big-brand comic books and the introduction of the first transgender comic-book character.

Gay characters have been in comics for decades, but it’s been difficult to get someone like Spider-Man or Batman onboard. Now that’s starting to change.

11 Unique Urban Farming Projects Featured at Texas A&M

urban farming

Merry Project

Unexpected. A story I wrote a while back on “The Future of Food: 11 Unique Urban Farming Projects” for Mashable was recently featured in a Texas A&M lecture on Global Food Supply and Its Implications. The section is part of the Academy for Future International Leaders which is definitely overstating the case.

Regardless, it was a fun story, and an honour to show up in the reading materials. Check out the full story on Mashable to hear about underground gardens in Japan, vertical farming in the US, social networks in the UK, and more.