July 12, 2014


Germany's 12th Man at the World Cup: Big Data (STEVEN NORTON, 7/10/14, WSJ)

To gain a competitive edge, the team partnered with German software giant SAP AG to create a custom match analysis tool that collects and analyzes massive amounts of player performance data.

The tool, called Match Insights, analyzes video data from on-field cameras capable of capturing thousands of data points per second, including player position and speed. That data then goes into an SAP database that runs analytics and allows coaches to target performance metrics for specific players and give them feedback via their mobile devices.

A focus for the German team this year was speed, said Nicolas Jungkind, SAP's head of soccer sponsorships. Using Match Insights, the team was able to analyze stats about average possession time and cut it down from 3.4 seconds to about 1.1 seconds, he said. The tool allowed them to identify and visualize the change and show it to coaches, players and scouts. "That then goes into the game philosophy of the German team. What is apparent is the aggressive style Germany plays."

That style of play was evident Tuesday in Germany's 7-1 victory over Brazil, which included three goals scored in a span of 179 seconds. "Despite possessing the ball for 52% of Tuesday's game, Brazil created barely a handful of chances," the Journal's Jonathan Clegg wrote. "In contrast, Germany passed the ball at full speed to create holes in the defense and clinically took advantage." [...]

Soccer is among the growing list of sports being transformed by Big Data (Moneyball is probably an outdated reference at this point). The use of data and statistics to gain a competitive advantage has grown across a wide range of sports including basketball, tennis, and even, just a little bit, Ultimate Frisbee.

Americans, watching with unjaded eyes, have to be bewildered by how often players hold the ball until defenders collapse on them, making it more difficult to pass.  

Posted by at July 12, 2014 8:54 AM

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