Technology and Analytics in The FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014

By: Hector Guerra – Consulting Services Director

This edition of the World Cup has left us a lot to talk about.

It has been a while since we’ve seen an edition with so many close matches, especially when some of the clear favorites are playing.

There are definitely players that have stepped up and showed leadership to carry their teams on their shoulders not only from the technical, but also, the inspirational point of view. The way that USA, Mexico, Colombia and Costa Rica played surprised everybody, plus it gave this World Cup a unique touch and excitement.

bigdataThe coaches usually give a lot to talk about. Typically there are a lot of debates about specific changes they make, but in this world cup most of them have been on target, from Germany’s Klose saving a point for his team against Ghana while matching the World Cup record in Goals, to Van Gaal replacing Netherlands’ goalkeeper at the 120th minute just for the penalty shootout.

But one thing that remains on the top of mind during this period of time is always technology. Generally people complain about the lack of it, because of controversial plays; but this time, I think there is a lot more to discuss.

In this Edition, for example, the German Football Association partnered with SAP to analyze huge amounts of information available nowadays (Big Data) to be able to make the best decisions possible using the revolutionary SAP Match Insight. What if you could know ahead of time that given the characteristics of the game (players’ height, speed, city’s temperature, opposing team profile, etc…) Klose was your best bet coming from the bench?

In a previous conference I have the opportunity to talk about a similar situation with NBA coach Avery Johnson, and he mentioned that if he was down by two points at the end of a game, he would have somebody from his technical team telling him not only which player has the best 3pt percentage, but also, data responding to exactly the last minutes of the game or against specific teams. I am not saying that anybody can be a coach now, far from it; among other things, he still needs to design the best play possible for that shooter to be in the optimal position to make it happen.

From my point of view, with the power of analytics and of course the effort of an entire team, squads are more competitive and we have gotten what some experts are calling the best cup ever. Even with big teams out at early stages, some of the remaining/non-favorite teams were able to step up and give hope to an entire country.

Who would have thought that Costa Rica was going to be in the quarterfinal after being in a group with Uruguay, England and Italy? Actually some people did. You can check part of that on the bracket made by the SAP DataViz team with SAP Lumira where they only made one mistake in the round of 16 and quarter finals.

The guys at ESPN made some really accurate predictions based on the ESPN Soccer Power Index, where, based on certain defensive and offensive characteristics they assigned a score to each team and they can simulate the same game 10.000 times to assign a percentage chances of winning or tying that match.

If I am Van Gaal, and I know there is a big chance I am going to go to a penalty shootout, maybe I am going to save that last change to get the best goalkeeper for penalties in.

Imagine if this could be the same with businesses. If you could take that kind of value out of the information you have available, predict customer or provider’s behavior, knowing the decisions being made are based on all this relevant data and chances are it’s the best decision for your organization at this time, wouldn’t you be up for this?

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