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I ran into a sentence on a sports site:

The home side dominated possession in the first half and created the better of the chances, with Inter reduced to taking potshots from distance in order to give Marco Sportiello anything to do in the Fiorentina goal.

Better is also a noun, but its definition in ODO says:

The better one; that which is better.

  • ‘the Natural History Museum book is by far the better of the two’

This definition doesn't seem to fit in the context. Why is it not created better chances?

Edit:

What I am uncertain about this usage is that the "the better of the" + noun construction where the noun is a collection of things seems so rare that this is the first time I have seen it. I have tried Google/Google books search of different combinations with different nouns, but the only hits I got are false positives. Examples, either from a dictionary or an online source, would really help.

For instance, if two families are in a dog park with their dogs, could one family say to the other "We have the better of the dogs"? Or this: Two schools are in a competition. Can a student from one school say, "We have the better of the students/athletes"? Or one person saying to another, "We have the better of the jobs." I have tried to search for all these combinations in Google, but only false positives turn up, such as "for the better of the dogs/students."

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    The writer could have said that as well, but he wanted to suggest the inequality between two items. This is a stylistic issue with an added nuance. – Robusto Apr 14 '18 at 2:51
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If we were to say, as you have suggested

The home side created better chances.

and leave it at that, it could have several meanings:

The chances (that is, opportunities) created by the home side were better than the chances created by the other side.

or

The chances created by the home side were better than the shots on goal that were enabled by those opportunities. They were better at creating opportunities than they were at taking advantage of those opportunities.

We don't know what two things are being compared, except from context.

But if we say

The home side created the better of the chances.

we know that one set of chances is being compared to another set of chances. The sentence is clearer about what things are being compared.

P.S. The "better of the chances" can refer to the superior subset of the set of chances created by both teams combined. The "cream of the crop". When we look at all of the chances created that day, the superior ones were those created by the home team and the lesser ones by the other team.

Compare:

New, improved soybean varieties are now produced largely by hybridization. Most of the crosses that are being developed through the cooperative program are made at four or five breeding centers and the better of the segregating plant populations are distributed in an early stage to all of the interested experiment stations so that further selection can be done in the area for which the strains are being developed.
History of the U.S. Regional Soybean Industrial Products Laboratory, p. 194 (Urbana, Illinois, 2017) compiled by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi.

  • What I am uncertain about this usage is that the "the better of the" + noun construction where the noun is a collection of things seems so rare that this is the first time I have seen it. I have tried Google/Google books search of different combinations with different nouns, but the only hits I got are false positives. Examples, either from a dictionary or an online source, would really help. – Eddie Kal Apr 15 '18 at 4:03
  • Please see my P.S. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Apr 15 '18 at 11:43

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