Prominent nations not going to the 2018 World Cup

We’ll take a look at a few nations that will not take any part in the finals in Russia. I’ll start the list in ascending order of relevance.

4. USA

The US wouldn’t have made the list but for the fact that I live here now and follow the team. In global terms, the USMNT (that’s US Men’s National Team) hasn’t done anything in the last few editions to make them a relevant team. Costa Rica and Mexico from the CONCACAF division has done more. Costa Rica in 2014 topped their group of Uruguay, Italy, and England and then went on to lose to Netherlands in the quarters on penalties. With a current ranking of 24, the US laughably sits one spot above Los Ticos, while the latter will be making merry in Russia. The US came in 5th in the Hex, behind Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, and Honduras, and didn’t even make the play-off.

The team going forward will be built around Christian Pulisic, the most technically gifted footballer the nation has produced. Ever.

3. The Netherlands

What a fall for the mighty Oranje, finalists from 2010 and destroyer of Spain in the first game in the last World Cup, with Van Persie’s “Flying Dutchman” goal. They couldn’t even make it to the play off round from their group, coming in third behind France and Sweden. My personal favourite team on the world stage, I’ll have to fall back on the Albiceleste to go all the way.

Robben, Sneijder, Van Persie et all had been carrying this team for far too long. The future will be looking to Memphis Depay.

2. Chile

Winner of the last two editions of Copa America, incidentally beating Argentina both times on penalties in the final, Chile will be the second most high profile nation to miss out on the quadrennial event. Boasting of households names such as Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez, and fielding a solid team, Chile was in a good position going into the last match-day of qualifications. They had to avoid losing to Brazil or hope Columbia beat Peru. Instead, Chile lost 0-3 and Peru drew 1-1. Peru and Chile ended up on the same points, with Peru ending on 5th place due to better goal difference. Peru went into the inter-continental play-off and Chile was left wondering. Also read about the fascinating back-story behind Peru and Chile’s campaign.

1. Italy

Italy missed out on a World Cup for the first time since 1958. That’s 60 years! Buffon will not get a chance to aim for a second World Cup trophy. Curious man management by Gian Piero Ventura, who’s being blasted as the worst gaffer ever, where he didn’t play red-hot Lorenzo Insigne in either of the two legged play-off with Sweden. Italy didn’t score a single goal in over 180 minutes of open play. After having finished second in their group behind Spain, they were handed a not too unfavourable draw against the Swedes but couldn’t muster up enough firepower, or willpower, to get to the finals.

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Big clubs, big decisions their way

After Barcelona’s incredible win against PSG with a few controversial calls going the victor’s way, and a couple of games this past weekend, where bigger clubs were awarded decisions which turned the games in their favour, I decided to write this post.

The 3 games I’m going to talk about here are: UCL Barca-PSG on Mar 8th, Serie A Milan-Juve on Mar 10, La Liga Real Madrid-Real Betis Mar 12.

Let me be clear on one thing. In all the three instances, the eventual winner was the clear favourite (before and during the game) to win. I am not for a moment suggesting that somehow the losers were “robbed” of a win. What I am suggesting is that the eventual winners could may have lost or tied the games had some very debatable decisions not gone their way.

Ok, so for the UCL game the 3 crucial calls the referee made mistakes, in my opinion, are the penalty call on Neymar (by Meunier), the penalty call on Suarez (by Marquinhos), and the non-penalty call on Di Maria (by Mascherano). Mascherano even openly admitted to his foul in post-match interviews.

The author at this URL has made lucid points on the all the 3 decisions I mention above.

There was one other non-call for a penalty that was made in the same game, and I believe that was the right call. This was a penalty call against Mascherano in Barca’s box when he slid in to stop in a cross from Draxler (#23). Even though the ball clearly strikes Mascherano’s hand, he was barely a foot or so away from Draxler when the shot was taken. There are 3 things to consider while making the decision to award a penalty based on a hand ball: 1. Intention, 2. Proximity for body from where the ball was kicked, 3. Unnatural positions of arms.

Now, to the Milan-Juventus game. In the 95th min, Milan’s De Sciglio stops Lichtsteiner’s (#26) cross while they are both inside Milan’s penalty box. There was no way De Sciglio could have avoided contact with the ball, he was barely a yard away when it was kicked at him!

And the third incident happened on in the Madrid-Betis match. Navas was waaayy off his line trying to clear the ball and he completely missed the ball and took out, I mean TOOK OUT, the Betis midfilder Darko Brasanac. It should have been a free kick (as it happened outside the box) to Betis  and a red card to Navas (last man, clear goal scoring opportunity). Neither was given.


Then, I read this report from La Liga, about Barcelona getting more penalties in La Liga than any other club.

A little more digging brought up these numbers from UCL:  Most penalties for, and most penalties against.

From the above 2 list of numbers I made the following list for most net penalties awarded to clubs in UCL.

You could very well argue that these biggest club play in the most games and they have the most gifted forwards so they get more penalties. That certainly can be a part of the answer, maybe not just the whole. Any one who has followed Champions League football over the years will remember how ManU, in their heydays, could be certain for the game to go on till they equalized or won. Same with Milan of the early 2000s. Barca, Madrid, Munich and Juventus in the recent few years.

Clubs Penalties For Penalties Against Difference (For – Against)
Barcelona 42 16 26
Real Madrid 38 20 18
Bayern Munich 35 22 13
Manchester United 24 11 13
Liverpool 10 2 8
Chelsea 19 12 7
Sevilla 8 1 7
FC Porto 18 12 6
Juventus 19 13 6
AC Milan 18 13 5
Internazionale 8 3 5
Borussia Dortmund 8 4 4
Manchester City 12 8 4
Arsenal 26 23 3
Atletico Madrid 8 5 3
AS Roma 10 9 1
Bayer Leverkusen 13 13 0
Celtic 9 9 0
Valencia 11 11 0
Olympique Lyonnais 10 13 -3
Shakhtar Donetsk 10 13 -3
Olympique Marseille 5 10 -5
Benfica 5 11 -6
Paris Saint-Germain 7 14 -7
AFC Ajax 4 13 -9
PSV Eindhoven 7 16 -9
Olympiakos 7 18 -11
Categories: Analysis, Loves | 1 Comment

2014-15 European football leagues – analysis

After skipping this exercise last year – World Cup year – we’ve come to our 3rd annual Krishanu’s analysis and predictions of the top 5 football leagues in Europe: England, Germany, Spain, Italy, France. Here are the pieces of from 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.

[all snapshots courtesy]


English Premier League – Chelsea won its 5th top flight league title, the first in five-year, at the beginning of May, with 3 games to spare. There was a point where Arsenal were challenging City for the 2nd place, but slots from 2nd to 6th neatly fell into place without much drama, except for Liverpool’s 6-1 hammering by Stoke, which saw them slip to 6th and lose out on a Europa league spot to Spurs. I think this is the best thing to happen to Liverpool! Without Europe lurking mid-week, they should be able to do better in the league next year.

Premier League table 2014-15

Premier League top scorers

Harry Kane was the surprise package with almost claiming the Golden Boot before Aguero took matters in his, well, own feet. It is amazing how Spurs keep on producing world-class players and then sell them off.

My predictions for 2015-16

It will be hard to dethrone Chelsea with the squad they have, and especially with The One as their manager. Mourinho has to be in the top 5 best managers ever in club football. Under LVG, United should see the renaissance continue next year. Arsenal is just 2 signings away (a defensive midfielder and a defender) from launching a legitimate bid to the title. Hard to say.

This would be my top 5 finish next year: Chelsea/Arsenal, City, United, Liverpool.


German Bundesliga – The German top flight has become a one-horse league. Munich won their 3rd straight tile, 25th overall. Dortmund’s challenge has fallen off and no other team even thinks, let alone look, to fight for anything higher than the 2nd place spot. Wolfsburg – where Kevin De Bruyne has had a superlative season establishing him as one of the top midfielders of the world, and Bas Dost, who came from nowhere to score 16 goals, had an excellent campaign –  made the 2nd spot their own. Dortmund were languishing at the bottom of the table at the start of the year, but managed to finish 7th. They could have claimed a Champion’s League spot by winning the DFB-Pokal (the German cup) but De Bruyne was there again to inspire Wolfsburg to the title. It was a disappointing year for Schalke but they will take consolation from finishing above Dortmund.

Bundesliga table 2014-15

Bundesliga top scorers

My predictions for 2015-16

With Jurgen Klopp departing from Dortmund, it would hard to say whom the club lands up with, and that will in turn have bearings on where they end up next year.

This would be my top 5 finish for next year: Munich, Wolfsburg, Schalke, Leverkusen, Dortmund


Italian Serie A – Much like the Bundesliga, Juventus has turned the Serie A into something they own. The Bianconeri won their 4th title in row, 31st overall, and they won the Scudetto with 4 games to spare. But the Italian League is in decline and has been for some years. Nothing encapsulates this decline better than the exploits of  38-year old Luca Toni, who finished as the top scorer. My Milan finished lowly 10th, and the reason I had to extend the table! Lazio and Napoli had a last day skirmish where the winner (Lazio) got the Champion’s League play-off spot. Juve also won the Coppa Itallia (Italian Cup) and were on course to win the coveted treble with the Champion’s League against Barcelona (which did not happen).

Serie A table 2014-15

Serie A top scorers

My predictions for 2015-16

Until something dramatic happens, Juventus will continue to steam roll opponents. Rafa Benitez leaving Napoli can only mean good things will happen to Napoli. God help Real Madrid! There has been a lot of talks about Milan being sold to a Mr. Bee or a Chinese consortium. Whatever happens, a buyer with a cash infusion will be the best thing to happen for Milan in the past few years. Berlusconi is mad, Galliani is incompetent, the coaches (Seedorf, Inzaghi) were great players, the club needs money to buy quality players in every single position (except maybe for keeper).

My top 5 finish for next year: Juventus, Roma, Napoli, Inter, Lazio


Spanish La Liga – Atletico Madrid claiming the league last year was such a punch in the face for Barcelona and Real Madrid that it couldn’t be allowed to happen again! And, by the way, Atletico’s achievement was so big that Diego Simeone should have won the Coach of the Year Award (instead of Joachim Lowe of Germany’s national team). Barcelona righted that wrong from last year. With MSN (Messin, Neymar and Suarez) hitting 122 goals combined in all competition, there could be only one Campeones! Madrid had a streak of 22 wins in all competition at the end of last year but Luca Modric’s injury and subsequent lay off showed how important he’s to the center of the field. Having won the Copa Del Ray (Spanish Cup) and the Champion’s League, Barcelona has achieved the treble.

Primera Division table 2014-15

Primera Division top scorer

In any other league around Europe, Neymar’s 22 goals would have landed him the Golden Boot. Not in La Liga. Messrs. Messi and Ronaldo have very different ideas on how to win the Pichichi.

My predictions for 2015-16

Barcelona and Madrid are still too strong for anyone else. Rafa Benitez will conspire to bring Madrid down and will probably be sacked mid-season. The new coach will get Madrid up to top 3 with Atletico claiming 2nd.

My top 5 finish for next year: Barca, Atletico, Madrid, Sevilla, Bilbao


France Ligue 1 – PSG were in a spot of bother in April and going out of the Champions League against Barcelona was the best thing that happened! Under pressure from Lyon and Marseille, they managed to win the important games at the business end of the season. Ibrahimovic was carrying PSG for most the season until Cavani decided to justify his price tag last summer. He score the bulk of his goals at the end of the season to hand PSG a domestic treble: League, League Cup and French Cup (Coup de France).

Ligue 1 table 2014-15

Ligue 1 top scorer

My predictions for 2013-14

Lacazette is very fast rising star and I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes a move to a club in the top 4 leagues in Europe (Ligue 1 is 5th). With Lacazette gone, Lyon will find the going tough. Monaco has done tremendously well after the sell-off of last summer. They will continue to improve. Gignac would have shone with Marseille, but he has signed for Mexican club Tigres. PSG is 3 pieces away from European glory: a goal keeper (Sirigu is solid but makes some key errors), a creative midfielder, and a Thiago Silva-class defender (David Luiz IS a liability, in any team he plays for).

My top 5 finish for next year: PSG, Monaco, Marseille, Lyon, Montpellier

Categories: Analysis, News, Sports | 2 Comments

Water Softener

Even before we moved to our new place, we knew that we needed to get a water softener system installed fairly quickly. The hardness in the Savage city water is around 19 grains, and anything over 10 grains is considered to be hard. (On a sidenote: The 19 grains is certainly not the hardest of water available for human consumption in the US. Places that use well water can have over 100 grains of hardness). We got quotes from Capones, Culligan, Kinetico, Lowe’s (Whirlpool tank-in-tank), and Home Depot (GE tank-in-tank).

Culligan and Kinetico are considered to be the “best” water softener systems that are available for residential use. I put the quotes around best because on further research, which I’m going to elaborate on below, these systems do have a better quality than the big box store brands, but their prices are nothing but absolutely ludicrous. You can build your own (superior) system for less than half the cost for a Culligan or Kinetico.

Before we dive into the various products available in the market, let’s take some time to understand what all factors we need to consider to build a water softener system.

First is, of course, the hardness of the water that we are trying to soften. You can get a test done to determine the hardness or use the data available from the city.

You need to consider a system which not only addresses your current needs, but also have the capacity to handle additional requirements, if you have a plans for a bigger family in the future or have frequent visitors who spend more than a day at your place. My suggestion is take the number of people in your current household and add 1 to it. The number of bathrooms you have in your house plays a role, but I’m a little circumspect of its importance. Let’s assume you have 3 person household and 3 bathrooms in your home. How likely is it that all 3 bathrooms will have someone taking a shower at the same time? Pretty rare, huh? More likely that 2 bathrooms might be occupied. My suggestion is to subtract 1 from the number of bathrooms in your home.

You’ll need to know the peak flow rate of the water in your home. Pretty easy to find that: take an empty 5 gallon bucket and place under your tub faucet, crank open both the hot and cold water, measure how long it takes the bucket to fill up. If it takes 30 seconds, your peak flow rate is 10 gpm (gallons per minute). If it takes 1 min, your peak flow rate is 5 gallons per minute. In most cities the average household peak flow rate will be between 7 and 11 gpm.

You can use this online calculator to input your numbers from the preceding  3 paragraphs.

Now we come to the components of the water softener system. Assuming we are going for salt based system, the primary component is (not the salt!) the resin. The resin is what removes the hardness (the Calcium and Magnesium bicarbonates) from your water. The salt (the 40 or 80 lbs. bags that you buy) is used to regenerate the resin when it has neared its low efficiency. The resin resides in the tall, cylindrical, metal tube. Since the resin is the most important part of the softening process, the size of the cylinder, and the volume of the resin required, are of utmost importance.

You will want to make sure that the maximum grains of hardness required to be softened by your system fits your needs.

The other very important component of the water softener system is the valve, or the control that will program and actually make the whole thing work. This control system sits atop the resin cylinder. Fleck is almost universally acknowledged to be the grand daddy of all valves available in the market. You can order a Fleck valve (and the whole system – resin, resin tank, brine tank, and connection)  at very reasonable prices at Ohio Pure Water.

Now we have looked at the factors that affect the water softening system and the main components that go towards making the system. How do we align these two? Let’s take an example.

We are a family of 3. Add 1, to get to 4. We have 3 bathroom; subtracting 1, we get to 2. We have a hardness of 19 grains and Iron level of 0.01 ppm. Using the online sizing calculator (and manipulating the “shower head flow rate” to arrive at a “peak flow rate” of 10 gpm), the tool tells us that we will need between 46,550-37,240 grains per week, depending on whether we are using a low or a high salt dosage. Since regenerating per week is a good idea, we can go for a system which will easily handle over 46,000 grains.

Let’s try this from a slightly different (but inherently same) approach.

19 grains of hardness, 4 people, 70 gallons per day per person water consumption on average.

So, that equals 19*4*70= 5,320 grains per day

We want to regenerate every 7 days, so the system needs to handle 5320*7= 37,240. Viola! We are at the same number, when regenerating with a high dosage of salt.

Take a look at the table below, or visit here.

With this, we can say that a 1054 system, with 1.3 cu. ft. of resin will do the job for us using medium salt dosage. (There is a trade-off with min and max salt dosage use. With min salt dosage use you’d use the most water, and with max salt dosage use you’d use the least water. Also with high dosage of salt, sodium in your water increases. So it is good to find a balance at the middle.)


We have built the ideal system, so where to buy one now? Let’s go back to the 4 systems we got quotes from.

The Whirpool WHES44 at Lowe’s and the GE GXSH40V at Home Depot are almost the same price ($497/$488),  have very similar specs, and the valve for both is made by manufacturer Ecodyne, a company based out of Woodbury, MN. Lowe’s installation service is $199 and Home Depot’s $299. The city of Savage charges a one-time water softener permit fee of $49.50, which will be added on. You are looking at at around $750 to $850 for the whole thing. Additionally, the longevity of these tank-in-tank units is around 10 years, if you are lucky. A name brand (Culligan, Kinetico) or Fleck systems can easily last for 2 decades.

Culligan quoted us a 1040 (resin tank of 10″ diameter by 40″ height, with no mention of the actual resin volume) Medallist Plus for $1,998.50, including the unit, installation and permit fee.

Kinetico quoted us a 940 (resin tank of 9″ diameter by 40″ height ) Essential Platinum for $1,889, including the unit, installation and permit fee. The resin tanks actually holds a measly 0.6 cu. ft of resin!

I went to the Ohio Pure Water site and configured a Fleck 5600 SXT Electronic Meter with 48,000 grain capacity for $585. This would include 1.5 cu. ft. of resin, the 1054 resin tank, brine tank, 1″ stainless bypass valve, and delivery. I would only need to install it and pay the permit fee. Since I’m not a DIYer (I can follow “orders” from someone who actually know what they doing! I know enough to get myself into trouble, but not enough to get out of it!) I researched for a local reputable installer. On the recommendation of a neighbour I looked up Bob Sable. You can find him here and reviews here. Few of the reviews say that he even listens to your problem and gives out free, but pertinent and valuable, advice over the phone. I called him and we talked for around 10 mins. I asked him if I could meet him face to face and we fixed on a time later that evening. I went over to his place and we talked for almost an hour and half! I kid you not! In the end we came up with the same Fleck model, but from a local supplier. With installation, $798. And he didn’t even charge me anything for the consultation!

footnote: I also had Bob install a whole house filter. Total charge, including all units (water softener and filter), all connections, installation and permit came to $1,148.

water softener and filtration system


Categories: Analysis, Demystify, Home | 2 Comments

2012-13 European football leagues – analysis

Another season has drawn to a close. There were some predictable results, and there were some tectonic shifts.

As a contrast to last season, where the top 2 in each league were very close, this time around the top spot in each league was wrapped up far before the last day of the season. In fact, Munich won the Bundesliga with a whopping 6 games to spare!


English Premier League – United won its 20th title end of April, with 4 games to spare. City was unchallenged to the 2nd place, though never in contention for the top spot. Arsenal managed to pip Spurs to the last, and much coveted, Champion’s League spot.


  • 11 point difference between top 2 team

Robin van Persie, unsurprisingly, won the Golden Boot second year in row, with Gareth Bale coming of age in this season.


My prediction for 2013-14 season:

Top 3: Chelsea, City, Arsenal (not in that order – I don’t know which order!)

4-5: Spurs, Liverpool

5-6: United, Everton

With Sir Alex now gone (and Scholes and Giggs too), I see a mighty upheaval at United. Rooney will leave (too much differences with Moyes) and RVP will not able to carry the team on  his shoulders alone. Mourinho will work his magic at Chelsea; Wenger will actually spend money; City will be calmer under Pellegrini; Rodgers will try his best, but with Suarez gone, it will be an uphill task; Villas-Boas might coax out a top 3 finish for Spurs.


German Bundesliga – The German top flight has become, much like the Spanish League, a two-horse league. Munich and Dortmund were at least a body length ahead of rest of the 16 teams, with Munich being head and shoulders ahead of Dortmund. Even the Champion’s League final were contested by these 2 teams! Though it was a lively, free-flowing match (the CL final, that is), with both sides getting a lot of scoring opportunities, you always got the feeling that this was Munich’s year. With a treble (league, Cup, and CL) Munich IS the team to beat next year.



Look at the table and try to take in the significance of Munich’s achievement.

  • Had a 25 point gap between 2nd placed Dortmund
  • Had a +80 goal difference
  • Won the league (22nd title) in beginning of April, with 6 games to spare (well, to be fair, you can’t infer that from the table!)


german top scorers


Now, another blow-your-face-away stats. Even though Munich scored 98 goals, their top scorer, Mandzukic, was only 6th on the list with 15 goals. The whole effing team is full of goal scorers! Müller, Robben, Ribery, Pizaro, Gomez. Not to mention Schweinsteiger and Alaba!

My prediction for next season:

1. Munich

2. Dortmund

3. Schalke/Leverkusen


Italian Serie A – Juventus managed to hold on to the top spot (their 29th/31st Scudetto – depends on who you ask), relatively with ease – 3 games to spare. Milan started horrendously, but still managed to get the last CL spot,  leaving Fiorentina frustrated, due to a) Unbelievable effort by El Sharawy at the beginning,   b) a late surge inspired by Super Mario,  and  c) Pazzini’s workhorse-like effort throughout

italian table


As you’ll notice, Inter Milan is not in the top 5. They finished 9th,  a great fall from the time they won they treble just 3 years ago.

Edison Cavani almost pulled off a “Maradona”, inching Napoli closer to the Scudetto.

serie a top scorers

My predictions for 2013-14:

1-2 – Juventus, Milan (not in that order). Allegri’s staying at Milan heralds good news. They have a lively, young squad and if Balotelli can be “managed”, great things will happen!

3-5 – Inter, Udinese, Roma (not in that order)

6-7 – Fiorentina, Lazio

(A lot depends on the Cavani saga though. If Napoli manage to hold on to him, I’d give them a top 3 finish. If not, they’d be lower than 7.)


Spanish La Liga – Barcelona wrapped up their 22nd title with 4 games to spare in middle of May. They had actually opened up a 9 point lead over Real Madrid going into the new year, and never let it drop. In fact, they just built on it, eventually ending with a lead of 15 points over 2nd placed Madrid.

la liga table


The real shocker (or maybe, by now, it’s not a shocker any more) lies in the goals ratcheted  up the 2 current best players in the world.

In any other league, Radamel Falcao would have been the top scorer, but not in this one.

My prediction for 2013-14 season:

1-2 – Barcelona/Madrid, no dislodging these two. Who will come out on top will  depend on  a) If Ronaldo stays at Madrid  b) How Neymar links up with Messi  c) How leaky Barca’s defense will be

3-5 – Malaga/Athletic Bilbao/Athletico Madrid


France Ligue 1 – With PSG being bankrolled by the oil money from Qatar, and elevating it to stratospheric level in just 1 year, Ligue 1 needs to be counted among the continents elite. Now Monaco, being promoted to the top-level and fueled by fertilizer money from Russia, showing signs of similar promise, the French league should be very interesting.

ligue1 table


Unsurprisingly, Ibrahimovic was the runaway leader, with no serious contenders. The 2nd top scorer in the league didn’t even break 20 goals. It will be interesting to see the duel between Falcao (who moved to Monaco) and Zlatan next season.

french top scorers


My predictions for next season:

1 – PSG

2 – Monaco

3-4 – Marseille/Lyon


Munich’s thrashing, a 7-0 aggregate win over 2 legs in CL semi-final, of Barcelona signals a shift in continental powers. This is not to say that Barca is a finished power, far from it. Barca needs to heavily invest in a couple of physical center backs, but looking at their summer signings till now, it doesn’t look like they learnt their lesson. Munich on the other hand have an abundance of riches, and are still looking to “strengthen” their squad. Not sure where this will lead to.

Categories: Analysis, News, Sports | 1 Comment

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