Soccer and data analytics: How is data science used in the Qatar 2022 World Cup?

Dec 15, 2022

With the growth of data science, many industries are adopting data collection and analysis practices to support decisions that align with organizational goals. Thus, in sports such as baseball and basketball, data analysis tools and techniques have been incorporated for several years to improve processes and predict the behavior of events. The most popular example is found in the book Moneyball and its movie of the same name, which recounts how Oakland Athletics manager Billy Beane used data analytics to create a winning baseball team despite a very small budget in 2002.

Because many experts agree that soccer is much more complex than baseball, baseball has been the sport that has been slowest to incorporate the benefits that applied data science can offer.

In this article we will see how sports data analysis is the tool adopted by the coaching staff of soccer clubs to make decisions on and off the field.From which players to sign to which players to start matches, to studying the opposing teams and determining the best strategy to face them.
 

Content

  • Data analysis and soccer
  • How data analytics is used in the 2022 FIFA World Cup?
  • Case study: How did Uruguay use data analysis techniques to get its ticket to the World Cup?
  • The future of data analysis in sports

 

Data analysis and soccer.

As we saw earlier, data analytics is already common in other professional sports, but in soccer this trend seems to be just maturing.

During UEFA Euro 2020, experts from Oxford University, UK, created a mathematical model that assumes that goals scored and conceded are distributed around an average value, which correctly predicted that Italy would beat England, as well as getting six of the eight quarterfinalists right.

“You want to give each team an offensive and defensive strength, and you calculate that from the total number of goals each team has scored and the relative difficulty of their opponents…You end up with this big set of equations to solve for these two sets of strengths, and then it becomes pretty easy to predict each matchup.”
Matthew Penn, a PhD student at Oxford, who developed the Euro 2020 model. Source.

 

This is just one example of how data analytics is changing the way some decisions are made in soccer; let’s look at some other use cases:

  • Visualization of the most relevant metrics and data of the game for both technicians and spectators.
  • Player performance level using metrics calculated from event data such as passes, corner kicks, free kicks, goals scored and fouls committed.
  • Talent scout; identify players with high performance levels that the market underestimates.
  • Optimize training time and monitor player fitness to avoid injury and overtraining.
  • Plan games and strategies by analyzing the performance of opponents.

 

How is data analytics used in the 2022 FIFA World Cup?

FIFA explains on its official website:

FIFA will share the latest insights, metrics and performance data in the tournament’s history with television and online audiences around the world, along with participating teams and their players. […] the enhanced soccer intelligence service will offer new and exciting metrics to enrich the coverage and analysis of every match at the 2022 FIFA World Cup™. Each match will have its own unique set of enhanced soccer intelligence images during and after the match presented as augmented reality and traditional graphics. These new statistics break down each area of the game in detail and provide operational definitions and multiple video examples to clearly define each action.
Source.

 
In this sense, with the use of probability theory, time series analysis and spatial analysis, FIFA will provide teams with real-time information about the competition as:

  • Player-oriented analytics: FIFA will provide players with access to their personal performance data, match photos and video replays through a dedicated app.
  • Team-oriented analysis: Data about the overall game, with reference to the individual contribution to the team as a whole and the interrelation of the different players with each other.
  • Match event tracking: By combining image recognition in video data and GPS data, teams and fans can access a comprehensive overview of match events, player performance and position.
  • Automatic replays: Machine vision-assisted cameras allow automatic generation of transmission-ready replays.

 

Case study. How did Uruguay use data analysis techniques to get its ticket to the World Cup?

When coach Diego Martín Alonso took over the Uruguayan team, it was going through a complicated moment due to the poor results obtained during the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

However, Alonso’s work, based on advanced analytics and the use of big data, was key to Uruguay winning its last four games and earning a direct pass to the World Cup in Qatar.

“Today, data has a very relevant value. Data is the support for a lot of information, the backup. They help us confirm a lot of patterns that we can’t identify by imaging.”
Andrés Paysee, member of the technical staff of the Uruguayan National Team and coordinator of the video analysis area. Source.

 
Thus, with more than two hundred metrics available, including shots on goal, player performance, attacking zones and areas where an opponent attacks and suffers the most, Uruguay seeks to anticipate everything that could happen during the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
 
 

The future of data analysis in sports

We are only at the beginning of the evolution of data analysis in the world of sports, especially in soccer. What is considered “cutting edge” today will be the standard in a few years.

As shown by Oxford’s Qatar 2022 Predictive Outcome Model that predicted Brazil to be the Qatar 2022 World Cup champion, it would appear that it is still we are far from algorithms deciding what is going to happen on a playing field. However, what is demonstrated is that data has a transformative power in decision making not only in sports, but in any field that seeks to maximize its performance.

If you are part of an organization and you are interested in learning more about how data can help you make better decisions through simple operations that do not require advanced knowledge, bintelligenz invites you to schedule a meeting with one of our experts. We want to meet you!
 

Bintelligenz: 360° BI solution in one place

Just as data analytics is beginning to revolutionize the way decisions are made in sports, something similar is happening in the world of business and corporate decisions.

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Learn how bintelligenz integrates all your management data, validating its quality and generating visualization dashboards to share with your entire organization.

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