Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Countries of the World Cup: Netherlands

As we gear up for the third place finalist match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup today — the Netherlands face the host country Brazil — we’re highlighting some interesting facts about one of the competing nations with information pulled right from the pages of the latest edition of Oxford’s Atlas of the World.

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Daniel Mendoza: born on the 4th of July (249 years ago)

By Ronald Schechter
This past 5 July was Daniel Mendoza’s 250th birthday. Or was it? Most biographical sources say that Mendoza was born in 1764. The Encyclopedia Britannica, the Encyclopedia Judaica, Chambers Biographical Dictionary, and the Encyclopedia of World Biography all give 1764 for Mendoza’s year of birth, as do the the websites of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, the International Jewish Hall of Fame, WorldCat, and Wikipedia.

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Songs for the Games

By Mark Curthoys
Behind the victory anthems to be used by the competing teams at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, which open on 23 July, lie stories both of nationality and authorship. The coronation of Edward VII in 1902 prompted the music antiquary William Hayman Cummings (1831-1915) to investigate the origin and history of ‘God Save the King’.

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Countries of the World Cup: Argentina

In preparation for the finale of the FIFA World Cup 2014, we’re highlighting some little-known facts about the competing nations. For instance, did you know that Argentina is the fourth largest Spanish-speaking nation in the world? Or, that ninety-two percent of its population is Roman Catholic?

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Countries of the World Cup: Brazil

The Federative Republic of Brazil, also known by the spelling ‘Brasil’, is the world’s fifth largest country with a population of over 199 million. It has the honour and distinction of hosting the World Cup this year, a fact that had this fútbol-centric nation even more hyped than usual.

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World Cup puts spotlight on rights of migrant workers in Qatar

By Susan Kneebone
As recent demonstrations in Brazil around the staging of the FIFA 2014 World Soccer Cup show, major sporting events put the spotlight on human rights issues in host countries. In the case of Qatar the preparations to host the FIFA 2022 World Cup are focussing worldwide attention on the plight of migrant workers.

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The first rule of football is… don’t call it soccer

By Fiona McPherson
The United States and Great Britain are two countries separated by a common language – a phrase commonly attributed to Shaw sometime in the 1940s, although apparently not to be found in any of his published works. Perhaps another way of looking at it is to say that they are two countries separated by a different ball – a sentiment that is particularly apt when football’s World Cup comes around.

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Does the “serving-first advantage” actually exist?

Suppose you are watching a tennis match between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. The commentator says: “Djokovic serves first in the set, so he has an advantage.” Why would this be the case? Perhaps because he is then ‘always’ one game ahead, thus serving under less pressure. But does it actually influence him and, if so, how?

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World Cup plays to empty seats

By Irving Rein and Adam Grossman
Stunning upsets. Dramatic finishes. Individual brilliance. Goals galore. The 2014 World Cup has started off with a bang. Yet, not as many people as expected are on hand to hear and see the excitement in venues throughout Brazil. Outside of the home country’s matches, there have been thousands of empty seats in stadiums throughout the tournament.

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Ballmer overbids by one billion

By Adam Grossman
On Sunday, the NBA approved the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion. From a brand management and crisis perspective, it is easy to see why the NBA wanted to approve this sale as quickly as possible.

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Football arrives in Brazil

By Matthew Brown
Charles Miller claimed to have brought the first footballs to Brazil, stepping off the boat in the port of Santos with a serious expression, his boots, balls and a copy of the FA regulations, ready to change the course of Brazilian history. There are no documents to record the event, only Miller’s own account of a conversation, in which historians have picked numerous holes.

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Sam sells

By Adam Grossman
It is rare for a seventh round National Football League (NFL) draft pick to be at the center of the sports world. Then again, Michael Sam is not an average draft pick. Sam is trying to become the first openly gay player to compete for a NFL team.

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Banning Sterling makes a lot of cents for the NBA

By Adam Grossman
Donald Sterling’s lifetime National Basketball Association (NBA) ban, $2.5 million dollar fine, and potentially forced sale of the Clippers may seem fit in the category of previous owners who received a comparable punishment. Marge Schott was forced to sell the Cincinnati Reds for her anti-Semitic and racist comment while owner of the team.

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The Compleat Earth Day

First published by Izaak Walton in 1653, The Compleat Angler remains one of the most original and influential books about the environment ever written in the English language. Walton’s narrative depicts a group of urbanites whose appreciation of the natural world deepens as they go fishing in the countryside north of London. In honor of Earth Day, here are some interesting facts about The Compleat Angler as an environmental text.

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What’s the secret to high scores on video games?

When playing video games, do you play better with the sound on or off? Every gamer may have an opinion—but what has research shown? Some studies suggest that music and sound effects enhance performance. For instance, Tafalla (2007) found that male gamers scored almost twice as many points while playing the first-person shooter game DOOM with the sound on (chilling music, weaponfire, screams, and labored breathing) compared to those playing with the sound off.

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Did Russia really spend ‘$50 billion’ on the Sochi Olympics?

By Michael Alexeev and Shlomo Weber
Much of the world is now watching the Winter Olympics in Sochi. While most people are primarily interested in the athletic achievements, the fact that the Games are taking place in Russia has also brought the Russian political system, economy, human rights, etc., into focus, inadvertently highlighting the interaction of the still pervasive Soviet legacy and the momentous changes since the collapse of the USSR.

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