SOCU focuses too much on PPP officials, politicians – US analyst finds

first_imgIn his analysis on Guyana’s geopolitical state and its security, United States analyst and author, Dr Evan Ellis, has documented the fact that persons have complained about the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) and its witch hunt against People’s Progressive Party members.US Analyst and State Department employee, Dr Evan EllisAccording to Ellis, in his publication Journals of America, 3rd edition, SOCU was originally formed as one of the highest-profile elements of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) to investigate persons who were flagged by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).“SOCU has been criticised, however (particularly by the PPP), for focusing its investigations almost entirely on senior PPP-affiliated functionaries of the previous Government and their business partners without, to date, producing any convictions,” Dr Ellis said.He cited the March 2017 detention of senior People’s Progressive Party (PPP) officials, including Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, former Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, and former Natural Resources Minister Robert Persaud, all with the media present.Special Organised Crime Unit“Those more sympathetic to SOCU would say the focus was driven by (allegations of corruption), and that the reason for the lack of convictions has been the inability or unwillingness of the Director of Public Prosecution (chambers) to take cases forward”.Ellis, a research professor and author at the Institute of Strategic Studies of the US Army War College, stated that SOCU is supposed to be supported by the FIU, which is tasked with monitoring financial transactions and flagging any suspicious ones. However, Ellis observed that there have been complaints that the work of the two agencies overlap.“Operationally, while the work of the FIU under the current Government is well regarded, some complain that its work sometimes overlaps with the SOCU and that it focuses too heavily on politicians who are presumed to receive payoffs or otherwise benefit from illicit activities rather than the criminal leaders who actually conduct them,” Ellis added.Guyana is slated to be evaluated in 2022 by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) and FATF. It will be the fourth round of evaluations, with Guyana having been removed from the global watch list in 2016.The state of SOCU, Guyana’s main money-laundering investigation arm, has been a source of concern, however, ever since the information came to light that a probe into the unit being conducted by the Guyana Police Force (GPF) had unearthed irregularities that included falsified records and missing documents.According to reports, there was even a case of an official who alleged that his signature was forged. In addition, there are reports of listed expenditure being concocted and receipts being backdated.In the fal out from this case, then Head of SOCU, Assistant Commissioner Sydney James, was forced to proceed on administrative leave while investigations were carried out. Althea Padmore consequently took over.Sections of the media recently quoted Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan as saying that James would not be coming back. In addition, the Police recently reopened further investigations into him after advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). However, James’ absence has done little to help secure convictions for the beleaguered agency.last_img read more

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‘No one would blame me’ – Ajax star hints at move amid Everton and Spurs talk

first_img1 Davy Klaassen Everton and Tottenham target Davy Klaassen does not believe anyone at Ajax would begrudge him a lucrative move this summer.The Ajax captain produced another excellent display in last night’s Europa League final defeat to Manchester United and many believe it could have been his last game for the club.Ronald Koeman has shown an interest in bringing him to Everton during the summer, while there has also been speculation that Tottenham are keen on the deal.And Klaassen feels after years of service at the Amsterdam Arena, nobody could deny him a big-money switch.Speaking to Dutch newspaper Trouw about a transfer abroad, Klaassen said: “I think no one would blame me.“But I want everyone to have a good feeling.“I can see that I cannot be honest about a lot of things right now.”last_img read more

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Raiders’ Derek Carr on Chiefs showdown: ‘We better show up or they’re going to beat us by 50’

first_imgIt’s not as if Raiders quarterback Derek Carr hasn’t done this before, taking the podium and trying to put some kind of spin on a one-sided loss.He hadn’t done it in a while, though. Not since the Raiders were pummeled 34-14 against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3 have the Raiders dealt with the long, agonizing flight home after getting manhandled.And next up for Carr is Arrowhead Stadium and the Kansas City … Click here if you’re unable to view the photo gallery on your mobile device.last_img

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Bok squad bolstered for home tests

first_img23 September 2013Springbok coach Heynecke Meyer has bolstered his squad ahead of South Africa’s upcoming Castle Lager Rugby Championship home tests against Australia and New Zealand.Lock Pieter-Steph du Toit returns to the Bok camp having overcome the sternum injury that forced him out of the South African squad earlier this year. He has recently played two full matches for The Sharks.Centre Juan de Jongh, after failing to crack the nod for the trip to Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, is also back in the line-up.‘Great’“It’s great to see Pieter-Steph back in action and I have to commend The Sharks for the good work they’ve done on getting him back to full match fitness,” Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said in a statement on Sunday.“He has always been part of our long-term plans and we’re looking forward to welcoming him back into the Springbok fold.“Juan is an experienced player and will slot back into the squad with ease as we start our preparations for the test against Australia at DHL Newlands on Saturday.”Fourie du PreezScrumhalf Fourie du Preez, who was superb when he came on as a substitute in the Boks’ 73-13 thrashing of Argentina in Soweto, is once again in the squad. The agreement with his Japanese club Suntory Sun Goliath is that he is he is available for South Africa’s home tests.After the Springboks’ highly controversial 29-15 defeat to New Zealand in Auckland, which subsequently resulted in the International Rugby Board withdrawing the red card handed to Bismarck du Plessis that forced the Boks to play 50 minutes with only 14 players, they trail the All Blacks by four points in the Championship standings.The Kiwis, after four wins in four outings, have 18 points. South Africa has 14 points from three wins, while Australia is on four points after edging Argentina 14-13 in Perth last time out. The Pumas prop up the table with two points.Potential deciderWhat it means is if both the Springboks, who take on Australia in Cape Town, and All Blacks, who face Argentina away from home, win this coming weekend, the test between the world’s top two teams at Ellis Park on 5 October could decide the winners of the title.Depending on the outcome of the game in La Plata, the Boks might also need another bonus point win over Australia.Given the unfortunate nature of their loss in New Zealand, South Africa will, no doubt, be hugely motivated to show they could have won with 15 men playing 15 men.The clash in Auckland was on its way to becoming a classic before Du Plessis’ sending off. That sets up the Johannesburg showdown as another potential doozy. Beating Australia, though, is the only focus for coach Meyer and his charges right now.The Springbok squad starts preparing for the test against the Wallabies on Monday in Cape Town.SPRINGBOK SQUADForwards (17): Lourens Adriaanse, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi, Juandre Kruger, Francois Louw, Tendai Mtawarira, Coenie Oosthuizen, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Gurthro Steenkamp, Adriaan Strauss, Flip van der Merwe, Duane VermeulenBacks (13): Bjorn Basson, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers (captain), Fourie du Preez, JJ Engelbrecht, Bryan Habana, Zane Kirchner, Patrick Lambie, Willie le Roux, Ruan Pienaar, Jan Serfontein, Morne Steyn, Jano VermaakSAinfo reporter and SA Rugbylast_img read more

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Davis to serve as interim director of OSU Extension

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Greg Davis has been selected to serve as interim director of Ohio State University Extension.Now Extension’s assistant director overseeing community development, Davis will begin his role July 1, 2015, as Director Keith Smith begins his first day of retirement following 23 years as leader. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.Davis serves on the steering committee for Conversations on the Future of Extension, an effort that began in spring 2014 with discussions to identify the most challenging trends and issues Ohioans will face by 2035. It is now in the “So what?” phase, he said, determining how Extension should address those issues.As interim director, Davis will look at how Extension approaches its work given the anticipated changes.“It’s exciting to take the organization down the initial steps, to flesh out where we go next for Extension,” he said. “When the next director is chosen, some things will already be identified.”As assistant director, Davis leads field-based Extension specialists and educators who are working to improve civic, environmental and economic conditions throughout Ohio. He earned his Ph.D in extension education from Ohio State, his MPA from Bowling Green State University and his BA from the University of Findlay.Brian Raison, Extension director in Miami County, will serve as interim assistant director for community development on a part-time basis until Davis returns to the post. A search is currently underway for the director position.last_img read more

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NCGA offering scholarships

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest The National Corn Growers Association and BASF Corporation are currently accepting applications for five $1,000 scholarships to be awarded to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a degree in an agriculture-related field during the 2017-18 school year. While these scholarships are open to any NCGA members and their children or legal guardians, all submissions must be postmarked on or before December 2, 2016 for consideration.“Building the leaders of tomorrow is essential to NCGA’s work to a build a productive, sustainable and profitable corn industry,” said Paul Taylor, chair of the Engaging Members Committee. “Our partnership with BASF helps ease the financial pressures these students face in pursuing their degree and, in doing so, helps ensure the brightest minds remain engaged in agriculture.”Applicants for the NCGA William C. Berg Academic Excellence in Agriculture Scholarship Program must be entering at least their second undergraduate year or any year of graduate study, and they or a parent or legal guardian must be an NCGA member. Scholarship applications must be postmarked on or before December 2, 2016.Scholarship recipients will be selected in early 2017. Recipients and a parent or guardian will enjoy travel and lodging to attend the 2017 Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas to be recognized at the NCGA Banquet and have the opportunity to learn more about modern agriculture.last_img read more

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Lady Warriors get newfound joy under Roque

first_imgView comments Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university PLAY LIST 01:29Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university01:35Panelo suggests discounted SEA Games tickets for students02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City Mary Ann Mendrez, who had 21 points against the Golden Tigresses, said Roque just let them have fun on the court.READ: Roque says Vicente left UE for ‘personal reasons’“Coach Roque just told us that we should always have fun, we shouldn’t let go of the enjoyment when we play,” said Mendrez in Filipino. “Because when you’re not having fun, you’ll just end up working miserably.”For libero Kath Arado, her dreams of changing the public’s perception of UE is slowly coming into fruition.“It started in the first game, I really wanted to change the peoples’ perception of UE,” said Arado in Filipino. “I’m really speechless right now, and with the help of the coaches and my teammates, we’re slowly changing our image.” Google honors food scientist, banana ketchup inventor and war hero Maria Orosa Families in US enclave in north Mexico hold sad Thanksgiving Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. It took Vicente 47 games to get to two wins but Roque, who is also UE’s athletic director, has steered the Lady Warriors on a journey that uses happiness and camaraderie as its fuel.The visibly jolly Lady Warriors defeated University of Santo Tomas, 25-23, 18-25, 28-26, 26-24, in the UAAP Season 80 women’s volleyball tournament Wednesday at Filoil Flying V Centre.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSWATCH: Drones light up sky in final leg of SEA Games torch runSPORTSLillard, Anthony lead Blazers over ThunderSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutoutREAD: UAAP Volleyball: UE pulls off another stunner, keeps UST skiddingRoque said that he fully embraced the Lady Warriors’ flaws when he took over the team back in late February and instilled a positive mindset on a squad that lost five straight games before he sat at the bench. Read Next “I noticed that they were scared of committing mistakes, and if you’re scared of committing those mistakes you’ll end up playing worse,” said Roque in Filipino.“Nobody’s perfect, and it’s normal to commit mistakes. What’s important is to get back up when you did something wrong and I saw that they’re doing that. That’s why I’m very happy, I love these ladies.”READ: UE upsets Adamson for 1st win Roque’s first order of business with the Lady Warriors was have them watch game tapes, something Vicente didn’t do.This off court study sessions gave another avenue for the Lady Warriors to build the camaraderie they needed to win their first string of two games since 2012.ADVERTISEMENT LATEST STORIES Typhoon Kammuri accelerates, gains strength en route to PH Ginebra seals semis spot, ousts Rain or Shine MOST READ Brace for potentially devastating typhoon approaching PH – NDRRMC John Lloyd Cruz a dashing guest at Vhong Navarro’s wedding LOOK: Iya Villania meets ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ cast in Mexico Typhoon ‘Tisoy’ threatens Games Pussycat Dolls set for reunion tour after 10-year hiatus In just his third game as University of the East’s interim head coach, Rod Roque has already matched the win total of his predecessor Francis Vicente.ADVERTISEMENTlast_img read more

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9 days agoArsenal boss Emery played Ozil, Mustafi in Reading friendly

first_imgArsenal boss Emery played Ozil, Mustafi in Reading friendlyby Paul Vegas9 days agoSend to a friendShare the loveArsenal boss Unai Emery fielded a strong XI for Tuesday’s friendly with Reading.The match was Mark Bowen’s first as new Royals manager.The game finished 2-2, with Sam Baldock netting both of Royals’ goals.The former Brighton man had given Reading the lead, before an Arsenal team – which included senior pros Mesut Ozil, Ashley Maitland-Niles, Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and Shkodran Mustafi – hit back.Baldock had the last laugh though as he claimed his second goal to earn Royals a draw. About the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your saylast_img

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Indias gold demand picks up ahead of festivals subdued elsewhere

first_imgBENGALURU/MUMBAI: Demand for physical bullion was subdued in major Asian hubs this week as high prices dampened consumer interest, although some hefty discounts on offer in India led to a slight uptick in buying ahead of a major festival season. Gold futures in India, the biggest bullion consumer after China, were trading around 38,504 rupees per 10 grams on Friday, easing from a record high 39,885 rupees touched on Wednesday. “Demand has been slowly improving,” said Daman Prakash Rathod, a director at MNC Bullion, a wholesaler in Chennai. Also Read – Thermal coal import may surpass 200 MT this fiscal”But we need a bigger fall for normal demand during the festive season.” However, dealers offered discounts of up to $45 an ounce over official domestic prices this week, the biggest since August 2016, as jewellers held off on fresh purchases. Last week, discounts of up to $24 were offered. The domestic price includes a 12.5 per cent import tax and 3 per cent sales tax. “Jewellers are not making purchases anticipating a bigger fall,” said a Mumbai-based dealer at a private bullion-importing bank. Also Read – Food grain output seen at 140.57 mt in current fiscal on monsoon boostJewellers are running business with thin inventories and have to build stocks for the festive season, the dealer said. Demand in India usually strengthens in the final quarter of the year due to the wedding season as well as festivals such as Diwali and Dussehra, when buying gold is considered auspicious. India’s August gold imports plunged 73 per cent from a year ago due to a price rally and a hike in import duty, a government source said on Wednesday. Global benchmark spot gold prices were set to mark a weekly decline, but still held above $1,500, having hit $1,557 earlier in the week, the most expensive since April 2013. In top gold buyer China, bullion was sold at a premium of $9-$10 an ounce over the benchmark, unchanged from last week. While buying did pick up slightly, it’s mostly coming from the investment side while jewellery demand is weak, said Samson Li, a Hong Kong-based precious metals analyst with Refinitiv GFMS. Hong Kong premiums were little changed at $0.50-$1.15 from last week’s $0.60-$1.10 range. Though signs of easing political tensions in Hong Kong boosted sentiment in wider markets, impacts are yet to be seen in terms of activity in the bullion market, traders said. In Singapore, premiums were quoted in the $0.50-$0.60 an ounce range versus last week’s $0.60-$0.80. “We’ve seen substantially more interest in silver versus gold this week,” said Vincent Tie, sales manager at Silver Bullion. Global spot silver prices have risen about 27 per cent since the end of May. In Japan, gold was sold at an about $0.75 discount, a Tokyo-based trader said. Japanese retail gold prices, meanwhile, hit their highest since 1980.last_img read more

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How Neymars Injury Affects Brazils Chances at the World Cup

Brazil has been FiveThirtyEight’s frontrunner to win the World Cup since the beginning of the tournament. But A Seleção will have to do it without its star, Neymar, who is out of the tournament after fracturing a vertebra in Brazil’s quarterfinal win against Colombia. In the semifinal against Germany on Tuesday, Brazil will also be without defender Thiago Silva, who was suspended after accumulating two yellow cards (Silva will return if Brazil reaches the final).Our forecast, which gives Brazil a 54 percent chance of treating its home fans to a title, doesn’t account for these player absences. This article will attempt to measure their impact and recalculate the numbers.We have some reasonably good news for Brazil. Even without Neymar and Silva, the team remains the leading contender to win the World Cup in our estimation. You may or may not agree with the math, but the intuition behind it is this: Soccer is a team sport, and Brazil is a very deep team. Whether Brazil is better than Germany without Neymar and Silva is up for debate. However, Brazil will play at home, where the national team hasn’t lost a competitive match since 1975.Our rating systemOur World Cup forecasts are based on ESPN’s Soccer Power Index (SPI). SPI is essentially two ratings systems rolled into one. It measures a national team’s performance, placing more weight on its most competitive matches, and evaluates the talent on its roster based on players’ performance in national and club matches.The player ratings work by means of a plus-minus system that assigns or subtracts points from players based on goals scored and allowed at the time they’re on the pitch. They include data from national team matches, along with the top-flight club leagues in Spain, England, Italy, Germany and France, and matches from the Champions League.In principle, the system operates something like this. The average English Premier League team scores and allows about 1.4 goals per game. But let’s say Arsenal wins a game 3-1 instead against an average EPL opponent. Its three goals scored are 1.6 goals above the league average, so we have 1.6 goals worth of extra credit to apportion out to the players who were on the pitch at the time. Arsenal also allowed 0.4 goals less than average, so there’s 0.4 goals worth of defensive credit to split up, too.In theory, this allows us to estimate the impact of any one player. But the plus-minus works better for some players than others. The statistics it accounts for are goals scored, bookings and the starting lineups and substitutions of a match, along with the players’ positions. This works fine for strikers like Neymar, whose main objective is to score goals and set them up, but it isn’t as helpful for defenders like Silva.1Soccer statistics are rapidly improving — and we hope to be able to account for things like time of possession, passes completed and tackles in future versions of the system. SPI will give about the right overall amount of credit to the back line and midfielders on a team — for instance, to Silva’s Paris Saint-Germain after an impressive victory. But if Silva is better than the other defenders, it will give him too little credit and his teammates too much.So we’ll use the SPI method to account for Neymar’s absence, and then an alternative method that might more accurately measure the loss of Silva.The impact of Neymar’s absenceFor forwards and strikers, the SPI plus-minus ratings line up reasonably well with subjective perceptions. The following chart compares SPI plus-minus ratings for forwards, measured as the number of additional goals they help score and prevent per 90 minutes of play, as compared to The Guardian’s consensus list of the top 100 footballers in the world.The correlation isn’t perfect, but it’s reasonably good. The amazing Lionel Messi, along with Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, rate as the best forwards in the world by far in both systems.Based on data from his FC Barcelona games over the past two years, along with his recent play for Argentina, for instance, we estimate that Messi contributes about 0.65 goals per game relative to an average international footballer. (Almost all of that impact comes from Messi helping his team get more goals — only a little bit is defense or goal prevention.)How big is that impact? The SPI match predictor estimates that if you put Messi on an average team, it would go from winning 50 percent of its games (assuming a knockout-style format with no draws) to around 65 percent instead. That’s impressive — not far from the effect you might see by replacing an average NBA player with LeBron James. But James plays a 5-on-5 game, while Messi and Ronaldo play one with 11 players to a side.Neymar isn’t quite at Messi’s or Ronaldo’s level — nor is anyone else. Instead, SPI estimates his impact at about 0.4 goals per 90 minutes. Almost all of this (0.37 goals) comes from increasing his team’s scoring, while just a fraction (0.03 goals) comes from improving its goal prevention.These player ratings can be carried forward to the team level. For instance, if you removed Neymar from the pitch and replaced him with an average international footballer, Brazil’s scoring would drop by 0.37 goals per 90 minutes, we estimate. Brazil would also allow an additional 0.03 goals per 90 minutes of play.But the players replacing Neymar are going to be well above average. An average international soccer player, according to SPI, is something like a starter on Israel or Libya or Uzbekistan. A player on Brazil’s second or third string would be a star on one of those sides.It’s not clear exactly who will replace Neymar. In fact, it may wind up being a combination of players, given that his injury will have knockoff effects on Brazil’s depth. But Neymar’s playing time will likely be distributed principally among three players: the forwards Bernard and Jo, and the winger Willian.Of the three, we have the best data on Willian, since he plays his club football for Chelsea in the EPL — one of the leagues we track. SPI estimates he’s worth about 0.2 goals per 90 minutes relative to an average footballer. If Neymar is worth about 0.4 goals per 90 minutes, Willian is 0.2 goals per 90 minutes worse. (Some numbers in the tables below may look slightly off due to rounding.)For Bernard, who plays for Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine, we have data only from his performance with Brazil, plus a smattering of Champions League matches. And for Jo, who plays for Atlético in Brazil, we have the national team data only. But they rate similarly to Willian, at about +0.2 goals per 90 minutes.Certainly these players lack Neymar’s explosiveness and creativity. But this isn’t a total disaster for Brazil. Ratings in the range of +0.2 goals per 90 minutes imply that Willian, Bernard and Jo would belong somewhere in the top 200 or 250 footballers in the world, and would start for most of the teams that made the World Cup.The impact of Silva’s absenceBrazil will also be without Thiago Silva for the Germany match, and coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has a number of options to replace him. Brazil played Dani Alves in its first four World Cup matches, then replaced him with Maicon for its game against Colombia. Scolari could choose to play them both instead, though Brazil would need to rotate its formation, as they both typically play right back rather than center. Scolari could also go with Dante, who plays center defense for Bayern Munich and who has the advantage of being familiar with some of Germany’s stars. Henrique, who plays as a center back or defensive midfielder, would be another option.The SPI plus-minus ratings suggest that there’s hardly any difference between Silva and some of these options — and what impact it does find comes on offense, such as on set pieces.But this conclusion may be misguided. As I mentioned, the SPI ratings are a crude tool for evaluating defensive players. They do get us somewhere: SPI knows that Silva plays for Brazil and Paris Saint-Germain, two excellent teams, and gives him credit for being in those lineups. But it will have trouble distinguishing truly world-class defensive players from merely very good ones.There’s a more aggressive way to approach the problem, however, which is to approximate Silva’s defensive value by using his position on The Guardian’s top 100 ranking. Silva was No. 17 on that list.As I mentioned, the SPI plus-minus should be pretty solid for forwards and strikers. So we can calibrate the value of Silva by estimating how much a striker rated as the No. 17 player in the world would be worth. This value turns out to be about 0.37 goals per 90 minutes based on the regression line I drew in the chart above. By comparison, the raw SPI numbers put Silva’s impact at 0.19 goals per 90 minutes, considering both offensive and defensive contributions.So let’s assume that The Guardian’s panelists have it right and that Silva is in fact worth 0.37 goals per match. We’ll further assume that SPI is missing Silva’s defense but that it gauges his offensive contributions about right. That implies having Silva on the pitch reduces an opponent’s goal-scoring by about 0.28 goals per 90 minutes relative to an average player, while he adds 0.09 goals per match with his offense.If we make this fix for Silva, however, we should do so for Dante and Dani Alves, who also rank in The Guardian’s top 100. (We won’t make any adjustment for Henrique and Maicon, who are outside the top 100.)Averaging the figures for Silva’s potential replacements yields a combination of players that rate at +0.22 goals per 90 minutes. That’s about 0.15 goals per match worse than Silva. More precisely, we estimate Brazil’s goal-scoring to decline by 0.03 goals per 90 minutes without Silva, and for it to allow an additional 0.11 goals in that time.The change to Brazil’s oddsThe next step is to see what impact this has on Brazil’s overall chances of victory. Brazil, at full strength, has an SPI offensive rating of 3.12 (placing it No. 1 in the world) and an SPI defensive rating of 0.50 (putting it at No. 3 — at the team level, lower defensive ratings are better).Without Neymar and Silva, Brazil’s offensive rating declines to 2.90 while its defensive rating worsens to 0.61. Both ratings are almost identical to Germany’s, which checks in with a 2.92 offensive rating and a 0.63 defensive rating.But Brazil still has the home-country advantage. If we run the new numbers through the SPI match predictor, we come up with a 65 percent chance of Brazil prevailing against Germany. This is as opposed to a 73 percent chance of doing so with Silva and Neymar in the lineup.Let me pause here to ruminate on the nature of home-country advantage in soccer. Brazil has developed a reputation for “winning ugly” so far in this World Cup. The team was helped by a dubious penalty in its opening match against Croatia. It needed a penalty shootout to get by Chile. And Brazil’s match against Colombia was marred by rough play, including the foul that knocked Neymar out.But winning ugly is part of what home-field advantage is all about. Home teams benefit significantly from officiating decisions — it’s much harder for most referees to hand out a red card or to award a penalty against the home team’s hero. Home teams may also have some advantage in shootouts. Since 2005 — and counting Brazil’s win against Chile — home teams are 7-0 in penalty shootouts in major international competitions. That’s not to say that Brazil has been in its best form (in fact, its SPI rating has declined slightly over the course of the World Cup). But in Brazil, being in pretty good form may be good enough.Should Brazil make it to the final — with Silva returning but still without Neymar — we estimate that it would have a 67 percent chance of beating Argentina (down from 72 percent with Neymar in the lineup). Almost all of that comes from home-field advantage — the teams would be almost level at a neutral site. Brazil would have a 73 percent chance against the Netherlands without Neymar, we estimate, down from 77 percent with him.We can recalculate Brazil’s overall odds of winning the World Cup as well: They’re 45 percent, as opposed to 54 percent with the team at full strength. The other teams benefit from Brazil’s limitations: Argentina’s odds of winning the World Cup rise to 23 percent from 20 percent; Germany’s to 18 percent from 14 percent. The Netherlands gets the least help and goes to 14 percent from 12.5 percent.Betting markets see things a bit differently. The odds available as of early Sunday afternoon have Germany, Brazil and Argentina as co-favorites, each with about a 27 percent chance of winning the World Cup, and the Netherlands just slightly behind at 20 percent.It could be that the markets see a greater impact from the losses of Neymar and Silva than the ones we’ve estimated here. But I suspect that’s only part of the issue — from the start of the tournament, betting markets have consistently been lower on Brazil than SPI and another computer rating system, Elo, have.So far, SPI and Elo have performed well compared to the betting markets. In general, markets are fairly tough to beat, so this could just reflect good luck. International football is particularly hard to rate, whether using subjective or objective methods. The main problems are that the teams don’t play very many competitive matches against one another, and that the composition of the rosters is always changing. SPI tries to address some of those problems, but it isn’t perfect.But there could also be a pro-European bias in the markets. Even though Europe has performed rather poorly in this World Cup, it has the highest-profile club leagues, and it has a higher concentration of wealthy people who can afford to bet on soccer. FIFA’s ranking of international teams, with methodological flaws that may result in overrating European teams, also has some currency in shaping perceptions about international soccer. That may help to explain why betting markets give the European teams a 47 percent chance of winning the World Cup when SPI gives them a 32 percent chance (even after accounting for Brazil’s player absences). It may also help to explain why Brazil’s ugly wins against Colombia and Chile are given less credit than if they had come against, say, Portugal and France.In a sense, the World Cup has come full circle. At the start of the tournament, SPI’s major contentions were that South America was underrated as compared with Europe — and that Brazil’s home-field advantage shouldn’t be overlooked. Brazil still has those things working in its favor, even without Neymar. read more

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