Big Data for World Cup and Sports

Germany’s winning at the World Cup has been often analyzed and the World Cup itself attracts a lot of viewers. Yet, there is something that many people might not be aware of.

The German Football Association (or in other words DBF) worked together with the German software company SAP to develop an application called Match Insights. This application analyses data about the German team members and their opponents with the help of data derived from their on-field performance. The resulting simulations can be viewed on tablet or smartphones, and can be used during pre-match preparations to increase the performance of players.

So, how does it work? Every player has a unique identifier and their movements are tracked digitally using cameras, while the pitch itself is transformed into a grid. Data derived this way can be transformed into key performance indicators, like movement speed, directional changes, number of touches etc. For instance, the German team knew it had to increase its passing speed prior to the game if it wanted to win. Players’ biometric data and the opponents’ play history with tactics were analyzed.Germany’s team was one of the first ones to understand the value that can be derived from aggregating Big Data.

The DBF is using SAP Match in an early adoption phase, but SAP plans to open up its app to other clubs and football federations later on as well. Traditionally, SAP specializes in making business operations more efficient.

Indeed, in The Huffington post R. Attias writes: ‘According to head coach Joachim Loew, this analysis was instrumental in Germany’s World Cup triumph.’ So, in a way we can say that the data revolution is also affecting sports, and is replacing more traditional analysis, like drawing out tactics on paper. Players can now use only their smartphones or ipads and basically train at any time and anywhere.

I think it is an interesting way of being able to use so many data on each player in the team and also about the opponents. So many data points can be combined, and apparently it can be quite useful as the German example suggests.


In addition, you can use this technology not only for better trainings, but you can even make this information available to sports journalism and the fans. One example of this is the (The NBA’s statistics site), which got over 20 million views. Here, you can for instance find information on points, steals or the shooting percentage of Kevin Durant to that of Milwaukee Bucks, and the type of pass a player uses most. Though, that is only a supplement and it is not the main focus of the technology.

Nevertheless, sport stays the same, and in order to win you have to train and work hard!!! Indeed, there is no substitute for hard work in my opinion, but now with SAP teams can work also smart to become the best they can be.
What is your take on this issue? Let me know.




3 responses to “Big Data for World Cup and Sports”

  1. thegroupofdeath2014 says :

    I guess it has to work if the GermanI won the World Cup! 🙂

    I agree with the final paragraph of your post: data is a good tool to increase the team’s results, but in no way can it substitute hard work.

    As a business student and hardcore football fan I am really happy that data is beginning to play such a prominent role in the sport: about time! The only problem with statistics in football is that not many people actually know how to use them… Therefore I would say that the most important now is to really choose the best possible pundits and educate the average viewer.

    Gary Neville is doing a great job in this dimension:

  2. 347216am says :

    I am always fascinated by the fact that people tend to gather so many statistics about everything and try to derive meaning from these numbers. I completely agree on the fact that hard work, dedication and mind numbingly devotion to a single cause will be the biggest factor in achieving goods results. Regardless of sport or profession, hard work pays off.

    Nevertheless I am also interested in ways to make money. I occasionally make a small wager on big sporting events where bookies make a certain quotation and you get a certain payoff if you win. You may win some money on occasion but in the long run you will definetly lose money! I never figured out how these quotations work and on what these are based on. Is it expert judgment or are they also using statistical tools to help them? I am wondering if these kind of platform could provide you with a meaningful statistical advantage over the internet bookies that make the betting quotations. To rephrase the question in a more basic, simplistic way: can these number help you make money on sport bets in the long run?

  3. 337547nr says :

    Nicely written blog! I think your blog has some very nice findings. As for I know they do not use statistics like this to produce the quotations on sites like unibet. I do not think that entrance to this software can get you rich. To have the statistics actually a functional meaning you have to know a lot about sports in general. So somebody that has great understanding of the human body and its anatomy would find these highly useful.

    If you use statistics it can improve your overall performance, whether or not you can win the world cup with it is highly unlikely. Football is a very dynamic sport with a lot of moving factors. Compare it with a sport like baseball which is much more static, where it is possible to buy yourself a winning team through statistics (moneyball). The trend that is going on now is a good one, statistics can help the game but like the last paragraph states it starts with hard work and training.

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