Prokofiev and Miers-Beckenbauer

With the knock-out phase of Euro 2012 upon us, this is where the Miers-Beckenbauer solution to the penalty shoot-out conundrum comes into its own.

You may recall that the idea entails carrying forward points from the group stages of a football tournament so that we know in advance  of the knockout match who will go through in the event of a draw – the most deserving team based on previous performance. So, except in rare circumstances, there is no need for penalties, though extra time could still be played. Merit rules instead of luck.

Furthermore, the temptation for weaker teams to ‘play for penalties’ is removed. Instead they must attack and go for the win. The stronger team is caught in two minds: Play for a draw and risk defeat? Or assert your superiority and carry forward another three notional points to the next round?

In other words, the knockout games take on the character of the last game of the group phase, where supposedly weaker teams attack desperately in search of that crucial win that will ensure qualification for the next round.

Look at what’s already happened in Euro 2012. Last night the Czechs basically played for a draw against the superior Portuguese, and the game suffered as a spectacle. Under Miers-Beckenbauer, each would have carried forward 6 points from the group stage, but the Portuguese had superior goal difference, so would have gone through in the event of a draw. The Czechs would have had to attack much more, leading to a more open game rather like the thrilling Croatia-Spain game at the end of the group phase when the Croats desperately tried to beat their ‘superior’ opponents and nearly pulled off the shock of the tournament.

With Miers-Beckenbauer in place, this is how the remaining quarter finals would look:

The defensive Greeks (4 points) would be forced to attack and beat the expert counter-attacking Germans (9 points).

The French (4) would need to overcome Spain (7), promising a classic.

Italy (5) would need to beat England (7). Since England’s default style appears to be clinging on for a draw anyway this might not make much difference, but at least the Italians would need to be more ambitious.

I will report again later in the tournament.

Incidentally, why is ITV’s jingle for Euro 2012 based on the Russian composer Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, when the tournament is hosted by Poland and Ukraine? It’s a bit like if the coverage of the London Olympics played the opening bars of the Marseillaise at every advert break.

Sensing a typical bimbonic cock-up based on ignorance of Johnny foreigner, I was about to lay into ITV when I thought I’d better check my facts on Wikipedia, as all good journalists do.

It turns out that while the Prokofiev is to all intents and purposes Russian in most respects, he was in fact born in Sontsovka, in what is now the eastern Ukraine! To muddy the waters further, a modern name for Sontsovska is Krasne, and there are several other Krasne’s in western Ukraine and Poland.

Lucky or clever, ITV?

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6 Responses to Prokofiev and Miers-Beckenbauer

  1. Nial Smith says:

    Liking Miers-Beckenbauer, Tom.
    Maybe ITV saw England as Peter and any of their rivals* as the big bad wolf come to swallow them up? (*Probably Germany.)

  2. Peter Lloyd says:

    Looking at the way your system actually maps out for the Q-F it does look attractive and would definitely be worth trying. Even though teams know it is risky to play for a draw and may be told not to by the coach, it is too strong a sub-conscious factor for it not to be an influence, perhaps the overriding one .
    Penalties do even up the odds but they are not principally about luck. It’s just that the particular skills and more importantly the mental focus required are very different. I went to the English Championship playoff final for last season and Huddersfield missed their first three penalties and still won. It was so close that all 22 players had to take a penalty with the last one being missed. It was much more exciting than the match!

  3. Doormat says:

    ref your Czech / Portugal example. Couldn’t then Portugal have played for draw. Thus back to the current situation essentially?

    • tdpcm says:

      Yes they could, but it would be a riskier because easier for them to win normally. Also, they would only carry forward one point to the next round. Besdies, games are usually exciting when the weaker side has to attack, exposing itself to the counter. And even if it does end up a draw, then the more deserving team would go through, rather than the team better at penalties.

  4. Edward Latter says:

    In practice though “playing for a draw and/or penalties” is rarely triumphant anyway, as the Czech Republic discovered last night. It created it’s own spectacle, whereby the technically gifted Portugese had to carry on asking questions until they finally unlocked the door – there was always the chance of a Czech counter attack or set piece.

    Under your system, how do you address the relative strengths of the group stages? For example the Czechs qualified out of a very easy group whereas the Portugese qualified through the so called “group of death”. What if they had the same points and same goal difference? The truth is that penalties are the only definitive way of settling a contest that still require some element of skill, guile, mental strength and trumping your opponents on the day.

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