Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
The secret to Australia beating Brazil at soc -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Robyn Williams: Soon Australia will play Brazil at soccer. Could there be a way to win? Sounds very unlikely, doesn’t it? But Professor Liam Lenten of La Trobe University has a theory of how it could be done, based on a myth. And I must warn you, he’s an economist.

Liam Lenton: The Socceroos have a friendly match lined up against Brazil, in Brazil, on 6 September. It’s coming up soon. Now, you might be imagining that an economist would be espousing something along the lines of the cost-benefit analysis to Brazil of hosting the World Cup next year. That’s not so much what I’m interested in. The results of such studies are generally unfavourable to the sports industry and that’s not really what the Brazilians want to hear ahead of the World Cup next year, anyway.

So I’ve decided something a little bit different. What do we mean by the underdog firing the first salvo against Brazil? Well, the underdog in this case refers to Australia. In their own backyard next year, Brazil are going to be heavily favoured to win the tournament and even more heavily favoured to easily dispatch Australia in this friendly.

But it doesn’t necessarily mean to say that Australia has no hope. Perhaps there are tactical ways that Holger Osieck can kind of skew the probability of victory in Australia’s favour. OK, firstly, why am I studying this? Well, I like football, like a lot of people out there. This study started out as a curiosity I had when I was watching a Confederations Cup match in 1997, again between Australia and Brazil. And I distinctly remember the commentator talking about a myth involving the Brazilian national team. It turns out that this myth is a highly appealing exercise to economic students, in the sense that I think that it’s a little bit more fun than the average problem.

OK, the myth itself is that when you’re playing Brazil, the last thing you should want to do in the match is score, or at least score too early in the game. Perhaps a better approach is to score in the last 10 minutes of the game. The only time by the way that Australia ever defeated Brazil was with a lone goal in the last 10 minutes of the game. The reasoning behind the myth is that if you score against them too early in the game you only serve to make Brazil angry and that leads them to attack with more vigour.

Now, there are analogies to industry, because major business deals provoking competitive responses from rivals is something that we observe in industries all the time.

From a sports fan’s point of view, this myth may sound—at least at face value—like a bit of a crock. I mean, why on earth would a team choose not to score when they have the occasional opportunity. However, there’s anecdotal evidence to back it up. The first time that Brazil ever made the final of the World Cup, in 1958 against Sweden, the host country, Sweden went ahead in the fifth minute, and then Brazil proceeded to go on a scoring rampage, eventually winning 5-2.

The story was not too dissimilar four years later in Chile, when opponents in the final, Czechoslovakia, went ahead 1-nil in the 15th minute, only for Brazil to equalise almost immediately and eventually run out 3-1 winners.

And if you trawl through the history of the World Cup, you’ll find a handful of other cases where something similar occurred. In another such instance, in the first round of the 1982 World Cup, Brazil was playing Scotland. The final score was 4-1 to Brazil, but Scotland scored the first goal. Many years later, Scottish player Alan Hansen would describe Scotland’s opening goal as the big mistake that they made that day, for very similar reasons.

Finally, with reference to this upcoming friendly between Australia and Brazil, it’s worth asking the question: why should Brett Holman be interested in these results? Well, just imagine: it’s Brazil versus Australia, it’s the 13th minute of the game, Brazil has had all the possession, but then all of a sudden Australia gets possession inside the Brazilian half, a very rare occurrence thus far. Tommy Orr manages to chip the ball behind the Brazilian defence and finds Brett Holman in space. He beats the Brazilian offside trap and he finds himself one-on-one with Júlio César, then magically he’s able to get around him. Then he has the open goal at his beckoning. Well, what these results tell us is that he should have absolutely no reason to deliberately blast the ball wide of the goal to avoid waking the sleeping giant, as it were. And as a supporter of the Socceroos, I find this to be a most comforting thought.

So in conclusion, when you’re watching this friendly, please consider the first 15 or 20 minutes to be the most important part of the match; otherwise, obrigado and ‘Go Socceroos!’

Robyn Williams: Professor Liam Lenton is at the La Trobe University.