Germany’s 12th Man at the World Cup: Big Data
16 Jul 2014 Marcel 0
Germany won the world cup against Argentina, it had Big Data on its side! 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.”
The tool also allows coaches to determine performance indicators for individual players, which they can then send to teammates’ mobile devices. If a coach wanted to adjust Thomas Mueller’s speed, position or possession time, for example, he could send those stats and a video clip from that day’s game to Mueller’s cellphone. Players can also take a look at their performance data at a setup in the players’ lounge.
The tool is giving the German coaches in Brazil the ability “to crawl through complex video and make it simple for them to know what they need to win,” said Chris Burton, SAP’s group vice president for global sponsorships.
When it comes to positioning on the field, Match Insights can show the team virtual “defensive shadows” that show how much area a player can protect with his own body, Mr. Jungkind said. That can help them visualize and exploit weak links in an opponent’s setup.
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, andeven, just a little bit, Ultimate Frisbee.
When not watching their own tapes during the World Cup, the German team was studying up on the performance of its competitors. “We also have a lot of qualitative data for the opposition available,” German team general manager Oliver Bierhoff said in aninterview with ESPN this week. “Jérôme Boateng asked to look at the way Cristiano Ronaldo moves in the box, to use another example. And before the game against France, we saw that the French were very concentrated in the middle but left spaces on the flanks because their full-backs didn’t push up properly. So we targeted those areas.”
Before it walloped Brazil earlier this week, the German team had spent years working with university students to gather intel on the home team, Reuters reports. Working with sports students at a university in Cologne, they reviewed an extensive dataset that included how Brazil’s players reacted in pressure situations, their preferred routes and how they responded when fouled.
The Match Insights tool is exclusive to the German team right now, but SAP has plans to sell it more broadly in the future. “We are all about supporting our home team right now,” said Mr. Burton. “After this we’ll want to maximize what we think is a credible tool for sport.” There’s no public timeline, he said, but the tool “will become a product I’m sure in Q4.”
Source: Wallstreet Journal
Tags: Big data
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