Who Will Make a Run in the 2014 World Cup?

**Guest Post by Thomas Devaraj**

The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil is almost upon us and you can almost certainly sense the growing anticipation and football fever that is building around the world. Inevitably, the World Cup will tend to dominate conversations whether it’s in offices, pubs, with friends in the park, on the train, or at home with the family. There is also the obligatory World Cup sweepstakes to really get you in the spirit. I for one will be supporting England.

World Cup Blog 1

1966 World Cup glory for England

Recently Prof Stephen Hawking posted an interesting blog on the odds of winning specifically focusing on England’s chances of winning matches in the world cup.

Caution: If you happen to be an England team football player and would like to retain a positive frame of mind, then please take note and DO NOT READ the blog. After all as any sports psychologist will tell you, the battle of the mind can often be a bigger challenge than any physical battles on the field. We will need all the help we can get. That said, all others please feel free to read on and enjoy the full blog here.

Reading his article, it would appear that from the outset, the odds are stacked against England. This is based on factors that work against us, such as match venue, local temperatures, altitude, kick-off time, etc. However, there are some positive outcomes of this investigation that may help contribute to England’s success. I’ve summarized these findings below to prepare us for what we always come to expect in all England World Cup campaigns of late…the dreaded penalty shoot-out.

DO – Aim for the top left corner

DO – Take a decent run up

DO – Kick the ball with the side of foot and place it

DO- Colour your hair blond (if you happen to be blessed with dark hair)

I have to admit that I do not have high hopes of England winning for good reason; we have a young inexperienced side with low expectations of progressing on to the latter stages of the competition. The last time we won the world cup I was not even alive; in fact man had not even set foot on the moon. The weight of history places additional pressure on the shoulders of those on the field. So what chance of breaking this long barren drought of foot-balling glory for the country that most agree invented the beautiful game?

Using Professor Hawking’s study we can begin to quantify our chances of success in Brazil. His analysis is based on the results from all 45 matches England have played in since 1966 and all 204 penalties taken in the 22 world cup penalty shoot outs. Using this data he was able to come up with 2 general logistic models linking the probability of England winning a match and a second model for the probability of a player scoring a penalty.

Using the match winning model below you can see England’s chances of winning their first match in Manaus are pretty poor. (Assuming an average June temperature of 31 C, Distance – approx. 8266 km from London and altitude approx. 72m). You can now understand my cautionary note at the beginning of this article.

Fig [1] - Model that explains England’s chances of winning a match

Fig [1] – Model that explains England’s chances of winning a match

Perhaps the second model is a little more interesting because it involves calculating the chances of success during a penalty shoot-out. Of course, everyone’s got an opinion on how best to take a penalty, and we’d all score every time! But England’s recent record in world cup finals makes this even more crucial, because every time we’ve been in a penalty shoot-out scenario in a World Cup finals, we’ve lost. Based on the analysis, some quite reasonable recommendations for success in scoring a penalty emerge. But incredibly one factor – the colour of your hair also seems to have some weight on the likelihood of a positive result! Surely that’s not going to be the advice from England football manager, Roy Hodgson.

Fig [2] - Model that explains the chances of scoring a penalty

Fig [2] – Model that explains the chances of scoring a penalty

If you are curious and would like to do some of your own calculations/predictions you can download a copy of a PTC Mathcad worksheet with the formula for the 2 models already written out to save you the bother . PTC Mathcad Express is free to download.

PTC Mathcad has hundreds of mathematical functions built and ready for you to make use of including functions for Multivariate surface regression, Principal component analysis, Design of experiments, Statistics, Data analysis and many more.

Have fun calculating!

This entry was posted in Mathcad, The Inside Scoop, Tips & Tricks, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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