Nigeria-Croatia 2018 World Cup Game, and Why Hell is a Bottomless Pit.

Subtitle: Judging What We Do Not Know

This Low-Carb Thingy, My Keto Flu – 9/11 Averted by a US Politician – Nigeria 0 Croatia 2 – Barcelona’s Rakitic and Madrid’s Modric

This Low-Carb Thingy, My Keto Flu

Last week, I found myself in pains, just enough to make me feel very, very uncomfortable. It came somewhere from my stomach, and it was annoying to say the least. But what did I (happily) desired?

A calm, soothing stomach, of course; that will allow me to sleep (and do my experiments) in peace. After a few google searches, I found out the culprit – it was a keto flu. I had been aggressively cutting off carbs off my diet over the last few weeks, but I never knew it could have such nasty repercussion (but it’s worth it).

So, I asked myself: how could I have aptly enjoyed the calm stomach I had wished for, if I had not endured the turbulent ones?  I found that that was a good question to ask, and it’s worth thinking about. The question presented itself – disguised in another form – when I watched the 2018 World Cup Game between Nigeria and Croatia yesterday.

I will get to that in a minute.

9/11 Averted by a US Politician

Let me put forth my thesis early-on: human beings, generally, are lame when it comes to dealing with events that did not occur. Let’s call such events, ‘non-events’.

It was the Philosopher Nassim Taleb that gave an illuminating alternative history: A United States politician was able to gather some intelligence that helped prevent the 9/11 catastrophe.

One could ask my question here again: how could we have aptly appreciated the heroic effort of this imaginary US Senator, if the event, that is 9/11, did not happen. Again, that’s worth thinking about.

Paradoxically, 9/11 had to occur for us to appreciate someone who prevented it. Unfortunately, the two events can’t occur, and that’s the problem.

Now, let’s talk about soccer.

Nigeria 0 Croatia 2

Nigeria lost their first game to the Croatian team yesterday, in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It was bitter to watch. I watched the game with six friends, all black Africans, packed in a room, screaming and shouting at the slightest chance the Nigerian team got to shoot.

Watching the game sprouted out a nostalgic aura of my younger self watching Nigeria play in the previous world cups. I remembered just a little bit of France 1998, just a little bit; a lot about Korea Japan 2002 (I can still remember the couch I slept on while I watch France play Senegal, even though I was being swept away by malaria); Nigeria missed Germany 2006; South Africa 2010 was not that cool (Keita’s red card pops out); and a lot more of Brazil 2014.

And then I got into an argument.

A friend complained bitterly about the tactic of Super Eagles’ Head Coach, Gernot Rohr, “he is too defensive,” he proclaimed. Rohr used a 4-2-3-1 formation, which means, roughly speaking, he is being defensive by stocking players into the midfield. One could say he played cautiously.

My friend, later during the game – after we conceded two goals – declared vociferously, that losing the game was inevitable, given the formation Rohr used.

Let’s break this down: before the Croatian scored, he objected to the formation. Fair enough. After the Croatians scored, he then went further and said he knew they will score. The key word here is ‘knew’.  And the phrase “to know” something is very powerful.

How does an objection morphs into knowing? Well, the only way that could have happened is through a hindsight bias. He did not know it beforehand, he only objected to it, now that the deed is done, he suddenly knows it. This is a creeping determinism, I-knew-it-all-along effect.

But it’s even deeper than that.

The pathologies of hindsight bias go deep, as it predisposes one to pass a judgement on the quality of a decision based (solely) on the outcome.

And that is not logical. But it’s so hard to avoid.

Barcelona’s Rakitic and Madrid’s Modric

Maybe we should ask then, why did Rohr decided to use a more ‘defensive’ formation by stuffing his midfield? Perhaps, because he realized that (and very rightly so), that hell is a bottomless pit – one could get beaten badly in a soccer game, and it can even get worse.

No one will stop a competitive game just because there are too much goals. One must not forget Germany Saudi Arabia 8-0 game, in the FIFA 2002 World Cup.

Hell is like a score line in soccer game. It accommodates an infinite number of goals, it is a bottomless pit.

What am I saying here?

I am saying that Ratikic plays for Barcelona and Modric plays for Real Madrid, some of the biggest football team in the entire world. And we have got Mikel who plays in f*@#ing China. They have got Mandžukić (who plays in Juventus) and we have got Ighalo, who, again, for some reason plays in f*@#ing China.

The Croatian team had the player strength – I believe – to lead the game 3-nil in the first half easily if we had played less cautiously. That is less probable with the Nigerian Team.

Perhaps Rohr is right to contain their attack. And I think they did so, though not without mistakes. That said, I would have advocated for a slightly attacking game in the second half.

Nigeria’s problem in that game, in my opinion, have more to do with players (and team) quality than formations.

And what does all these have to do with my keto flu? (and an imaginary US Senator who prevented 9/11?):

We have great difficulty in appreciating what we avoided – we have very, very practical problems dealing with non-events.

2-0 loss is not a good thing in a world cup but, it can be wise to remember, in the right context, that it could be worse.

Thank you for reading.

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2 thoughts on “Nigeria-Croatia 2018 World Cup Game, and Why Hell is a Bottomless Pit.

  1. Michael Eggleston says:

    Hi Bif! I love the style of this article to give life to the lesson you highlight at the end…I was wondering if you could elaborate more on what you mean by ”difficulty in appreciating what we avoided”? Am I right to understand that you believe we have a difficult time to predict the future because we are clouded by prejudgments and biases made in our past? Perhaps this could be the reason for humanity’s fear of change…Great work man!

    • Olatomiwa Bifarin says:

      We have difficulty appreciating what (i.e. a disaster) we avoided. That is a disaster that did NOT happen. For us to appreciate such avoidance (as if it had occur), then it had to occur. To restate my example, if the 9/11 attack was prevented in the US, Americans would not appreciate such avoidance (appropriately), and that is just because the event (9/11) did not occur. In order words, for the avoidance of a terrible event to be appreciated, it had to occur. And that is impossible, naturalistically.

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