We're not endorsing any big bets, of course, but a pair of London mathematicians say they're confident Spain will win the World Cup final Sunday. It's not just a prediction -- it's science.
Queen Mary, University of London professors -- and soccer fans -- Javier López Peña and Hugo Touchette collected ball-passing data from each World Cup team and used graph theory to analyze each team's style of play. Their results reveal "gaping holes" in England's strategy against Germany, which they say explains team England's loss. The results also show that Spain's propensity for passing might help them beat the Dutch this weekend.
Touchette explains in a university press release that the researchers devised a network of passes among each player. Each player gets a score called centrality, which measures how important he is to the network; the higher the centrality score, the bigger the impact if he can't play. Regrettably, the team did not elaborate on Thomas Müller's centrality score.
Graph theory is often used to study computer networks by modeling what would happen if a certain element was removed. But why not use it to study soccer patterns?
The networks show Spanish players make a lot of passes -- almost 40 percent more than Germany and twice as many as the Dutch. López Peña explains the passes are well-distributed among all the players, especially those playing at mid-field. The stats bear this out: David Villa, the tournament's highest goal scorer, has received an average of 37 passes per game, more than any other forward from any team, López Peña says.
By contrast, Team Netherlands plays a more offensive game, with fewer passes and less intricate footwork, López Peña says. They have scored plenty of goals on free kicks and rely on their sheer physical prowess to dominate the game, he says.
The duo also analyzed the England-Germany game to unveil weaknesses in the English strategy. Forward Wayne Rooney received nearly three times more passes than Jermain Defoe, so it was easy for the Germans to block him.
In other soccer prediction news, Paul the Octopus agrees with the mathematicians and says Spain will win the World Cup. The clairvoyant cephalopod has yet to make an inaccurate prediction, garnering him international stardom and even lucrative contract offers, according to AP.
By choosing a mussel from a Spanish flag-bedecked container, he predicted Spain would defeat Germany in the semifinals. In response, some German fans called for octopus stew -- which prompted the Spanish Prime Minister to offer "El Pulpo Paul" official state protection.
"I am concerned about the octopus," PM Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said. "I'm thinking about sending in a team to protect the octopus because obviously it was very spectacular that he should get Spain's victory right from there."
Maybe those math professors ought to have some protection, too.
Why do they need to do that, Paul the Octopus already predicted Spain would win and that's enough for me. It's too bad too, I was planning on rooting for the Netherlands.
This 'science' sounds like the same style of predicitions the 'Whiz kids' of the late 60's and early 70's used to predict the outcome of the Vietnam war. They said for every X number of bullets fired, Z number of enemy killed.
There are too many variables for this even be remotely accurate. If one of the players has a headache that day the whole equation is bunk.
If their predictions are wrong, they can always add "forcings" and "dark matter" to the model.
seriously did they even account for gravity? there's a black hole a few hundred+- lightyears beyond the sun and not only that, but the sun spots probably put some type of a pull on the ball.
and don't forget wheather change, using calculus we can take our point on the scale of bad to worse and a few minutes in the future and figure out how much the rising temperatures have on the ball and the players actions.
and even that did they account for the average temperature change during the transmission from night to day?
these guys really need to get their stuff togethor. i mean just yesterday i saw a butterfly FLAP IT'S WINGS! no telling what chaos will ensue!
guess it either worked, or they got lucky
They got it right. Thats either really cool or just luck.
well it worked......?
Hello 50 50 chance here. Not like they predicted the score. That would have been impressive.
Even then-- 17 of 46 non-ties this year were 1-0... So, pick a random team and go with 1-0 and you have nearly a 20% chance of being right.
If you want to impress me, I need the analysis of the teams offensive and defensive strategies to tell me which players would score the goals as well.
Granted, if you are essentially just going to pick a random team and then pick the most common score, you could then look at the team leaders in goals scored and go with him...
For Spain, David Villa had 5 of Spains 7 total goals, so it might not be too out of line to suggest that if they are 'going to win 1-0' that Villa had a 71% chance of scoring it, still putting you at a 13% chance of nailing the team, score and goal scorer.
So, with that, I think I'm also going need the time when the goal scored :)