Three Percent #77: Books to Read Between World Cup Matches [UPDATED]
In this week’s podcast we talk about the forthcoming World Cup of Literature and about some of the summer books that we’re both looking forward to reading. Almost all are translations; a few are authors you may have already heard of (Knausgaard); and others will be new to a lot of listeners. In our “Rants and Raves” section, Chad raves about a poem (?!—seriously, but it’s a really depressing one), and Tom takes down a particular aspect of the Internet.
And don’t forget that we have a dedicated podcast email address now, so send your own podcast-related rants, raves, and ideas to email@example.com.
Opening and closing this week’s podcast is Crouching Bees by Fight Like Apes off their new EP, Whigfield Sextape. (If you used to watch 120 Minutes, you’ll probably enjoy the video as well. It’s all smashing and fireworks, a fox costume and streams of paint.)
Michael Orthofer succinctly corrected all the bullshit I said about where the World Cup teams come from and how all that works. So, to clarify:
First: League strength has NOTHING to do with this (would be perverse if it did, since many leagues are filled with foreign players . . . )
Second: FIFA has six geographic confederations — the European one is UEFA, North/Central America CONCACAF, etc. (Check them out here.) These are actually pretty closely corresponding to the continents themselves; most of the old Soviet states (and Israel) are in the European confederation, but otherwise its geographically logical — the Gulf states in the Asian confederation, but the African Arabic speaking nations in the African section.
Anyway, the number of places each confederation gets is divvied up after each World Cup. International success factors into this to a great extent — but more success on the continental level than local (i.e. it doesn’t matter which European teams make the WC quarterfinals, but the number that do). Europe gets so many places because European teams always do so well in international tournaments (and vs. teams from other confederations in friendlies (which are weighted much less)) — helped also by the fact that it has so many nations (over 50 — not that sheer numbers do Africa much good). South America is the one with the greatest World Cup places vs. # of teams discrepancy — the confederation only has 10 teams! But South American teams (as a continental whole) do very, very well in international tournaments. The Wikipedia page on WC qualifying offers all the numbers and a good overview.
People complain about Africa (50+ teams) being underrepresented, but lets face it, they’ve never done anything internationally at the adult level (Nigeria’s under-21 is great, their overs, not so much). But the confederation that really gets too many places is CONCACAF — two strong teams (Mexico, and in recent years the US (though I still have a hard time taking it seriously — even non-qualifying Austria beat them last year)) and nothing else of note.
Results (especially at the WC — the only true international measure) really matter: if Africa or Asia put a team in the semis they’ll demand (and get) another place for their confederation at the next WC.
Hope all this doesn’t just confuse you more — but main point: league strength has nothing to do with international play (and strong continents (pretty much regardless of number of teams in confederation) get more WC places).