Putting this up a little bit early, as I'll be traveling and not able to check in. THis post is to talk about the last half (or the whole thing, if you want) of Soccernomics. The last half of the book focused less on the game and more on the people who watch it and what external factors influence what makes certain nations good at soccer. My thoughts after the jump!
I want to focus on Part 3 first, because it dealt with countries and what makes them good. Part 2 focused on fans, which is all good (hey, I am one), but I'm more interested in the future of soccer.
It interested me (though did not necessarily surprise me) that richer countries are better at soccer, but its players from poorer backgrounds that succeed. Richer countries tend to have healthier populations, which leads to taller and stronger players to select from when making national teams. In the mean time, its poorer kids who spend most of their time playing soccer that end up making those squads. By looking at countries that are on the rise in terms of wealth and population, its possible to take a guess at who will be winning World Cups in the future. Good news, America! We're on the list. So is...of all places, Iraq. Other places that the book mentions as being up and comers in the soccer world have already had success: Australia and South Korea.
The other thing that makes a difference in international play is experience of the country. The US is not as experienced as England or Germany. But, once the US gets its resources organized and developed it will be better. Perhaps in the next few World Cups a USMNT run to the quarters or beyond will be expected (their lack of Olympic qualifying aside).
In terms of Part 2, my only take away was the info about the communal feeling people get from sports and how that can make them happier and even prevent suicides. Fans may be fickle (the chapter on fans switching allegiances has some great info), but soccer has a unifying aspect to it that brings people into a community.
Over all, I thought this was a good read. I'm not a math guy, but putting the game in that context was something I'd never seen before. What are your thoughts on the book?