UEFA 2008 and Game Theory, The Dutch Disease

719654_w2 For those who’ve been watching the 2008 UEFA European Football Championships, there’s been a lot of discussion about whether the Dutch, who lead their group, should let the Romanians win.  The logic is this: if the Romanians win against Holland, the Italians and the French, two of the strongest teams, get knocked out, and the Dutch won’t have to face them later on down the road.  It would be strategic losing, and maybe a decent strategy, game-theoretically speaking, although I haven’t thought through all the sub-games. Dutch manager Marco van Basten has responded to the idea in The Guardian:

Holland may make some changes – they will probably omit the two players carrying yellow cards (Andre Ooijer and Nigel de Jong) and Van Basten hinted yesterday that Klaas Jan Huntelaar will start instead of Van Nistelrooy, and maybe Van Persie and Arjen Robben will come in too – but they will still play to win. They will not willingly disrupt their momentum. Their adventure will not be diluted.

“Ninety per cent of the people back home want us to go for a win,” one Dutch journalist told me. “I think the main reason is because to do anything else would be to invite pressure. Imagine if we deliberately let Romania through and then met them again in the semi-finals: we’d know that we would risk looking like total idiots if we lost to them then.”

So, is this a case of minimizing shame?

[H/t: Mark Blyth]