Closing the Gap: Winning from Behind in Football


In my analysis of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the 2011 Asian Football Cup I looked at the probability of not losing after scoring the first goal. These are the summary data for both tournaments.

In the 2010 World Cup:

In the 64 games played three teams scored first and lost. Nigeria scored first in Game 19 of the tournament. Greece won the game 2-1. It is interesting to note that: Greece was higher in the FIFA ranking; Nigeria had a player sent off in the 33rd minute; both of Greece’s goals were scored after the sending off. In Game 26 Cameroon scored first. Denmark won the game 2-1. Denmark was lower in the FIFA rankings than Cameroon. Both the teams to have scored first and lost in the Group Stage of the tournament were from the African continent and were been beaten by European teams. Cameroon was beaten twice by lower ranked teams (Japan and Denmark). Brazil scored first in Game 57 and lost 1-2 to Netherlands in the quarter final game. Brazil was the higher ranked team.

In the Asian Football Cup 2011:

Group Games

64 goals were scored at the 2011 Asian Cup in 24  Group games. The team that scored first won in 18 games, drew in 3 games and lost in 2 games. There was one 0-0 draw (DPR Korea v United Arab Emirates). The exceptions were: Iraq scored first against Iran and lost; Syria scored first against Jordan and lost.

Knockout Games

26 goals were scored in 8 Knockout games. The team that scored first won 6 games, drew 1 game and lost 1 game (Qatar scored first against Japan and lost).  One of the Knockout Games was decided by penalties. Japan defeated South Korea 3-0 in the penalty shoot out. Japan scored the first penalty and won the game.

Looking at Other Football Codes: Australian Rules, Rugby League and Rugby Union

The 2011 season in Australian provides an opportunity to look at scoring patterns in Australian Rules, Rugby League and Rugby Union Football codes. This season I am interested in the scoring gap that can be closed.

As of 11 April:

Australian Rules

Rugby League

Rugby Union

Super 15

Six Nations


These three football codes provide an excellent opportunity to compare the number of occasions when teams come from behind. I intend to post these data after each round of the respective competitions.

Photo Credits

Honk, Honk, Honk

Starling Flock


Joel: Private Troubles and Public Issues

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about R U OK Day. I have received some very kind comments about the post and the sentiments expressed in it.

I have been thinking about the issues the post raised yesterday and today as the story of Joel Monaghan has exploded in the digital media. I was interviewed by a researcher from PRIME about Joel’s behaviour and I thought I would use this post to make the points I made to her.

  1. Regardless of the behaviour exhibited by Joel the publication of the story has enormous outcomes for Joel’s well-being.
  2. He is a remarkable rugby player who behaved in a way that most of us would not behave. From now on he is THE player in THAT photograph. All his commitment and skill will be trivialised and he will be the butt of taunts.
  3. The behaviour that took place appeared to be in a private residence. Discussions about a Raiders’ player have to be put in the context of the location.
  4. The photograph that forms the basis of the story was taken by someone and there may have been other people in the room. These people were ‘friends’ of Joel.
  5. The behaviour occurred on a ‘mad Monday’.

The viral story about Joel is replete with statements of revulsion and a statement on behalf of Joel by his manager. The R U OK part of me acknowledges the gravity of what occurred but raises questions about the duty of care we owe to each other.

I wondered:

  • If many people commenting on the behaviour are conscious of and honest about their own fallibility.
  • If the NRL and the Raiders could transform madness into happiness hereon. Rather than ending a season in such a mad way what if the game celebrated with its communities and then left each player to celebrate in privacy.
  • Highly trained athletes are vulnerable to binge drinking and we should find ways to manage their risks.
  • Viral media are viral! The use of the photograph on Twitter and other web sites confirms with unforgiving permanence that there is a fragile link between private troubles and public issues.
  • Joel is described as a Raiders player in all the media accounts. I think we must be clear about identity. At some point each of us acts as a private citizen and accepts the consequences of our actions. If the events around Joel’s story are located within an organised Raiders’ event in Raiders’ premises then we are involved in a different story.

I am absolutely clear that what occurred is repulsive and in my own case unthinkable. My R U OK sense leads me to support a person who will face a desperate struggle to manage his own identity and the stigma of what occurred. Joel is a person from a culture where appalling acts do occur and that become the subject of selective indignation.

When I was asked by the PRIME researcher what I thought this did for Joel as a role model I asked her to think of it as a reciprocal relationship … all of us have a part in role modelling. Most people will be reviled by what occurred but it occurred in a private space with Joel’s friends around him and has been shared globally with people who can choose to have compassion as well as loathing.

Each time a mad behaviour occurs we all think we can learn from it and do something about it. I believe we must not normalise or condone this behaviour but we must be real about personal fallibility that is now shared in a public way.

The ACT Government is being asked to legislate about the behaviour exhibited in a moment of madness by someone who gave the community so much joy in his role as a rugby player. R We OK about our part in this story?


Joel left the Raiders on Tuesday, 9 November. This is an ABC report of his press statement. Louise Maher has written a post for The Drum on the topic of Joel’s behaviour.

Photo Credit

Into the Light

Unlocking Experience, Enabling Action

In the last week Bret Easton Ellis has visited Australia. He attended his first writers’ festival in twenty-five years. I caught up with his visit through Margaret Throsby’s interview with him on Classic FM.

What was interesting about the interview with Margaret Throsby was his perspective on how interviewers unlock personal experience. This is the link to the podcast of the interview and his statement about the enjoyment of the interview with her.

It was interesting to read of Ramona Koval’s interview with Bret Ellis at the Byron Bay Festival:

The ABC’s Ramona Koval opened an onstage conversation with Ellis on Friday night by asking about character development and morality in Imperial Bedrooms. Ellis paused, looking puzzled and pained, then began a manic dialogue about having discovered the Australian singer Delta Goodrem while watching music videos in his hotel room.

A podcast of the interview between Ramona Koval and Bret Ellis can be found at this link.

These interviews encouraged me to reflect on watching the broadcast of the Raiders v Panthers rugby league game on Monday (9 August). There was a great glimpse of David Furner (the Raiders’ coach) at half time speaking with his players. It would have been interesting to be in the changing rooms at that time.The Raiders were losing by fourteen points and were facing exit from the competition for the end of season play-offs. They won the second half 18-0.

This is a link to an ABC interview with David after the game.

One newspaper report noted:

Asked what had sparked the turnaround, Campese had no hesitation in nominating Furner’s half-time address. Rather than give the players a spray, as Furner admitted he wanted to do, the former Raiders great calmly told them they could still win but had to keep an opposition side scoreless in the second half for the first time this season.

”… he just told us to get our breath back and sit down. He then said we only got two opportunities in the first half and we scored off both of them, so if we could hold them out, which we had to, and get the ball down their end we could score the tries.

”He said all we needed was about five good attacks and we got that and we scored three tries. That was about all he said and we just talked about shutting them out in the second half. I think what he said just gave us confidence and we went out and did it.”

Furner said: ”I wasn’t happy but I think the big thing we needed was belief and confidence. We talked about discipline in our game and discipline in defence, but the main thing was that they couldn’t score a point in the second half. It was about 40 minutes of character. It was 18-0 in the second half and I said that is what it would take to win that game.”

The Canberra Times observed that:

Whatever David Furner said to his team at half-time last night, the Canberra Raiders need to bottle it and use it for the rest of the season. With their season on the line, Furner’s words ignited the Raiders to help them storm to a 30-26 win over the Penrith Panthers at Canberra Stadium. Down by 14 points at the break and with their finals hopes slipping away, it wasn’t a verbal lashing that spurred the Raiders to just their second come-from-behind victory this season. The players said it was Furner’s restrained address that inspired them to a rare fightback.

What no one has discussed to date is what David said before the game! The second half turn around may have a lot to share about how to trigger action. This I think is the essence of the Bret Ellis interviews too.

I am hoping to write more about unlocking performance and triggering athletes readiness (and willingness) to perform. This week Bret Easton Ellis and David Furner are unlikely but fascinating partners in starting that journey.

Photo Credits

One Conversation and a Half

Fire Wings