July 7, 2010

Top ten excuses for World Cup football failures (with citations)

NASA Blue Marble 2007 West by NASA Goddard Photo and Video, on FlickrFootball fever grips the globe as we reach the final stages of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Alongside the traditional game where one winning team takes all, leaving 31 losing teams to go home earlier than expected, there is another competition running in parallel. Which losing team can come up with the best excuses for formidable football failure? All manner of feeble and pathetic excuses are offered, but many aren’t backed up with proper citations of peer-reviewed research published in scientific journals. So let’s set the balance straight. Here are the top ten excuses for world cup losers (with citations), using some help from sports scientists [1] and the wikipedian protester demanding that a citation is needed:

  • Blame it on the players: They are over-paid, under-achieving prima donnas who are too reliant on so-called superstars [2] who fail to deliver the goods under pressure, due to a lack of teamwork [3] and excess of testosterone [4]. They didn’t score that crucial first goal [5] and were never likely to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
  • Blame it on the boss: The manager/coach can’t motivate the players and is useless at managing people. All teams are dysfunctional [6] but the manager is the main reason that the players didn’t function as a successful team. Sack the manager now!
  • Blame it on the ball: The Jabulani ball is too unpredictable for players to pass/score with and keepers to save. The complicated aerodynamics [7] of the ball are the reason our team crashed out early.
  • Blame it on the fans: There were too many / not enough fans who didn’t support their team – instead they made a dreadful noise with those deafening vuvuzelas [8]. How can the players concentrate with that terrible cacophony?
  • Blame it on the women: The absence/presence of Wives and Girlfriends (WaGs) from the training camp was detrimental to player performance [citation needed]. Has anyone done any controlled experiments on this?!
  • Blame it on the funding: Our nation spends too much / not enough money on grassroots / club / national football [citation needed].
  • Blame it on the referee: The referee and the linesmen are visually-impaired, incompetent, stupid, biassed [9], recipients of large bribes and enjoy frequent self-abuse etc [citation needed].
  • Blame it on geography: The altitude, [10] latitude, longitude and climate were to blame – these adverse conditions ultimately impaired athletic performance on the field.
  • Blame it on psychology: It’s only a game isn’t it? What is all the fuss about [11]? We expected too much of our players, they are after all, only human and fallible. Our national ego was massively over-inflated [12] and just waiting for the inevitable deflation.
  • Blame it on FIFA: The Fédération Internationale de Football Association has allegedly been corrupted by the power and wealth they have accumulated [citation needed]. How can they continue to ignore demands for goal-line technology [13] and other video enhancements that would clearly improve the game?

So which teams have offered the best excuses for losing so far? Italy, France, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina and England are currently leading the table and (at the time of writing) will soon be joined by all but one of Germany, Spain and The Netherlands. All of this just goes to prove the Jimmy Cliff hypothesis, that the harder they come, the harder they fall (one and all) and makes for most of the entertainment at the competition.

If you can provide any of the citations needed for the above, please leave a comment below with the details. But wherever you are from, whoever you support, enjoy what is left of the 2010 FIFA World Cup – no excuses.

[update: A spanish translation of this post is available at Las diez excusas via perogrullo.com]


  1. Travis, K. (2010). Scoring a Career in Sports Science Science DOI: 10.1126/science.caredit.a1000067
  2. Lucifora, C., & Simmons, R. (2003). Superstar Effects in Sport: Evidence From Italian Soccer Journal Of Sports Economics, 4 (1), 35-55 DOI: 10.1177/1527002502239657
  3. Duch, J., Waitzman, J., & Amaral, L. (2010). Quantifying the Performance of Individual Players in a Team Activity PLoS ONE, 5 (6) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010937
  4. Zak, P., Kurzban, R., Ahmadi, S., Swerdloff, R., Park, J., Efremidze, L., Redwine, K., Morgan, K., & Matzner, W. (2009). Testosterone Administration Decreases Generosity in the Ultimatum Game PLoS ONE, 4 (12) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0008330
  5. Elmar Bittner, Andreas Nussbaumer, Wolfhard Janke, & Martin Weigel (2006). Football fever: goal distributions and non-Gaussian statistics Eur. Phys. J. B 67, 459 (2009). arXiv: physics/0606016v1
  6. Lencioni, P. (2002). The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (J-B Lencioni Series) (1 ed.). Jossey-Bass.
  7. Goff, J., & Carré, M. (2010). Soccer ball lift coefficients via trajectory analysis European Journal of Physics, 31 (4), 775-784 DOI: 10.1088/0143-0807/31/4/007
  8. Swanepoel de W, & Hall JW 3rd (2010). Football match spectator sound exposure and effect on hearing: a pretest-post-test study. South African medical journal = Suid-Afrikaanse tydskrif vir geneeskunde, 100 (4), 239-42 PMID: 20459971
  9. Kranjec, A., Lehet, M., Bromberger, B., & Chatterjee, A. (2010). A Sinister Bias for Calling Fouls in Soccer PLoS ONE, 5 (7) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0011667
  10. Bärtsch P, Saltin B, Dvorak J, & Federation Internationale de Football Association (2008). Consensus statement on playing football at different altitude. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 18 Suppl 1, 96-9 PMID: 18665957
  11. Schmied C, & Dvorak J (2010). Football is the most important unimportant thing in the world. European Heart Journal, 31 (12), 1425-7 PMID: 20556872
  12. Abell, J. (2010). ‘They seem to think “We’re better than you”’: Framing football support as a matter of ‘national identity’ in Scotland and England British Journal of Social Psychology DOI: 10.1348/014466610X514200
  13. Wayne C. Naidoo, & Jules R. Tapamo (2006). Soccer video analysis by ball, player and referee tracking SAICSIT ’06: Proceedings of the 2006 annual research conference of the South African institute of computer scientists and information technologists on IT research in developing countries DOI: 10.1145/1216262.1216268

[Creative Commons licensed picture of Earth from the fantastic NASA Goddard Photo and Video collection on flickr]


  1. […] Top ten excuses for World Cup losers (with citations). Finally, in honor of the recently-concluded World Cup, Duncan of O’Really? gives us the top ten excuses for failure — and the scientific citations that back them up! […]

    Pingback by ResearchBlogging.org News » Blog Archive » Editor’s selections: International romance, sluggish T-rex, double rainbows and World Cup excuses — July 12, 2010 @ 5:09 pm | Reply

  2. Come on! How can “Blame it on the Octopus” not be on that list?


    Comment by Javier — July 12, 2010 @ 11:04 pm | Reply

  3. Another quite debated excuse is the national crisis. I’ve heard the Italian variant: we’re a corrupted, Mafia country, lead by patronage and by a gerontocracy, which stifles youth and innovation. And the French variant: multi-cultural society is not working yet, nation is still divided and so on. Both types of arguments are only partially true. The winning France of ’98 was as multi-cultural as it is nowdays and not much different than the France which almost won 4 years ago. Then Italy won, and the country was in a quite bad situation at that time as it is today, although, at present we are even more corrupted, gerontocratic and a more damn Banana-Berlusconi republic. Beside, we won the world cup in 1933 too, when fascist regime was at its height. I think truth is that a country life is indeed reflected on its popular sports, but only partially.

    Comment by Marco — July 23, 2010 @ 3:33 pm | Reply

  4. […] the month of the World Cup, a big hit with the media. It was covered by C6-H12-O6, Dormivigilia, Duncan Hull, Research-digest blog, New York Times, Telegraph, U.S. News & World Report and a number of […]

    Pingback by Monthly PLoS ONE News and Blog Round-Up « everyONE – the PLoS ONE community blog — August 2, 2010 @ 4:41 am | Reply

  5. […] the month of the World Cup, was a big hit with the media. It was covered by C6-H12-O6, Dormivigilia, Duncan Hull, Research-digest blog, New York Times, Telegraph, U.S. News & World Report and a number of […]

    Pingback by PLoS ONE News and Blog Round-Up: 2010 in Review | EveryONE — January 1, 2011 @ 12:36 am | Reply

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