Skip to main content

Athleticism is not the only reason to win a soccer game

The 2014 FIFA World Cup was held in Brazil in the past summer. The United States was in group G along with Germany, Portugal and Ghana. As two traditional top teams, Germany and Portugal were the two teams that most people predicted to advance. However, Portugal lost to Germany in the first game with a 4 – 0, meaning that they had to make more goals if there’s a tie score in the group at the end. Then Portugal played a tie with USA and Germany played a tie with Ghana. At then, both Germany and USA have 4 points, both Ghana and Portugal have 1 point. The next two matches in the group are Germany against USA and Ghana against Portugal. If any team won, they would gain another 3 points, the lost team won 0 point and if tie both teams would win 1 point. Then here comes the question, is it the best choice for Germany and USA try to tie the game on purpose.


The article from, has explained the situation well. Given a basic background knowledge as above, the article then starts to explain why both teams should try to win instead of playing a tie and this is not only because of the athleticism. Using a game theory, we can set up the game with USA and Germany as the players. And we use the possibility to advance to represent the payoffs.  The payoffs in the original article are not representing the possibility accurately, so I made a slight modification:


Cooperates                                    Defects

Cooperates       (2,2)                                          (0,2)


Defects       (2,0)                                           (1,1)

If Germany wants the 2, they might end up getting 0 if USA defects. If USA wants the 2, they could also get 0. And getting a 0 means a possibility not able to advance to the next round. So according to the the game theory both teams will choose to defect since they are most likely to get (1,1) under the worst scenario instead of getting 0 and taking the risk to guess if the other team will cooperate or not.


This situation happens very often in athletic games, the athleticism and the analyze of the game theory indicate each team has to try their best to win in order to gain maximum benefit for itself.


Leave a Reply

Blogging Calendar

September 2014