The Angry Corrie 51: Sep-Nov 2001
International Football Analysis
It's been a while since TAC last mused on the correlation - inverse or otherwise - between the height of a country's hills and the ability of its national football team. This was first discussed back in TAC33 in light of 1998 World Cup qualifying scores such as Iran (high point 5604m) 17 Maldives (3m) 0, and Indonesia (5030m) 8 Cambodia (1813m) 0. Such results suggested that jaggy countries habitually flattened - in the footballing sense - lowlying ones, but the theory was immediately undermined by the startling Qatar (105m) 6 India (8598m) 0.
The subsequent in-depth (on-height?) analysis before the World Cup proper (TAC37, pp3-6) failed to shed any particular new light, but another tournament is drawing relentlessly near, to be jointly hosted by the middling-high Japan (Fuji-san, 3776m) and South Korea (Halla-san,1950m).
Various of the results from the qualifying competition cannot be allowed to pass without comment, most notably those from Oceania Group 1. All the matches were played over ten days in April at Coff's Harbour in NSW (near the Glaswegian-sounding Mount Hyndland). The scores merit being given in full:
Samoa (high point: Mauga Silisili, 1858m) 0 Tonga (Kao Island, 1030m) 1
Which all went pretty much to form in terms of high countries beating their low cousins, even if some of the scorelines were, to steal a term from Samoa, a trifle silisili. Australia only works out at 1.66 Ben Nevises - yet the way they've been playing you'd think that the Karakoram were swarming with kookaburras.
Oceania Group 2 followed similar lines, albeit with less startling scorelines: New Zealand (Mount Cook, 3754m) put seven past Vanuatu (Mont Tabwemasana, 1879m), followed by five against both Tahiti (Mont Orohena 2241m) and the Solomon Islands (Mount Makarakomburu, 2447m).
The Asian groups have also included some notable scores, eg Oman (Jabal ash-Sham, 3035m) 12 Laos (Phou Bia, 2819m) 0, Syria (Jabal ash-Shaykh, 2814m) 12 Philippines (Mount Apo, 2954m) 0, and Syria 11 Laos 0 - a set of results that ought really to have been draws or one-nil wins, given the altitudinal closeness involved. More predictable was the Asia Group 2 game that ended Iran (Qolleh-ye Damavand, 5604m) 19 Guam (Mount Lamlam, 406m) 0, especially as the well-named Bagheri scored six.
Another "derby" ended strangely in Asia Group 8: Brunei (Bukit Pagon, 1850m) 0 United Arab Emirates (Jabal Yibir, 1934m) 12, while things returned to normal in Asia Group 6, which featured Nepal (Everest / Sagarmatha 8848m), Kazakhstan (Khan Tangiri Shyngy, 7010m), Iraq (Gundah Zhur, 3607m) ... and Macao (Coloane Alto, 174m). It's really not on for FIFA to force a country only just higher than Stac Lee to face the planetary top seeds along with two other hefty high-lands, and predictably Macao finished flat last, with no points from their six games. The encounters with Nepal ended 1-4 and 1-6 however - no disgrace given the 8674m height difference and the less than level playing field.
The world's high point also featured in the very odd - and even more lopsided - Asia Group 9, which saw China (Everest / Qomolangma Feng, 8848m) 10 Maldives (somewhere in a very flat bit, 3m) 1. The consolation goal came from a free kick which swerved round the Chinese wall. The lagooners went on to lose the return fixture by a mere one-nil, which surely ranks as one of the great results in football history, both height- and population-wise.
Late news of an interesting flatlands cricket derby. C+G Trophy 2002 (played 29/8/01, bizarrely): Norfolk 245-3, Holland 245 all out. Norfolk won by losing fewer wickets.