Archive for July, 2010

La Copa: Football Analysis Illustrated

How Spain beat Germany
For most of history, soccer has been fueled by passion and ambiguous calls rather than the statistics and absolute precision common in other sports.

Numbers alone don’t mean much in soccer from game to game. The number of goals, assists, foul, saves matter more in the span of a season or an entire career. However, analysis is not completely irrelevant or uninteresting. It just needs a graphic element as the NYTimes knows oh so well. They love infographics as much as words there.

The NYTimes live blog of World Cup matches includes four minute-by-minute graphics. Below are clips from the 17th minute of the Spain-Germany match.

The Line-Up

Based on amount of times a player touches the ball. Nearly the entire Spanish team touches the ball while only 5 Germans make contact.

The Passes

Lines connecting players by their passes. Look at the density of Spain's passes compared to Germany's.

The Heat Map

Where the ball is on the field. Spain safely keeps possession in their half.

General Stats

What numbers alone cannot describe is the rhythm of the game revealed over time. (Rhythm is so crucial in soccer which is way video replays cannot be implemented the way it is in football which is not to say not at all, but it is a slippery slope....)

See the Spain’s dominant possession, but the game breaks a little before the half. Then see how Spain allows Germany to take the ball after they score the goal. Also, this match was probably the least controversial in the entire World Cup. No yellow cards and the first foul isn’t called until the 30th minute.

Statistics and more statistics makes statistics seem important.
This is even better:
The possession of all the games in the World Cup broken down. And at the bottom, breakdown of Americas versus Europe and the Dutch versus the Spanish.

Cristiano Ronaldo is the most popular soccer player in the world
Given our world in the age of social networking, opinion sharing, data mining, this interactive graphic is the best one of the entire tournament.

The NYTimes tallies day-by-day all the names of soccer players mentioned in updates, statuses, notes, comments on Facebook. The image of the soccer player is then sized accordingly. Scroll through the days and watch them change (see link above)!

Cristiano Ronaldo’s looming figure throughout the tournament seems to confirm his place as the most popular soccer player in the world or just the one that teenage girls find most attractive?

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La Copa: Parte 2

The Holland – Brazil match today left us all wanting for some more jogo bonito (in the first half) and complete football (in the second half). Finally, there were the inspired moments of brilliant passing and fluid plays from two teams that are expected to do so every time they step on the pitch.

Despite playing their best halves of the tournament so far, they both managed to be needlessly irritating. Who was more obnoxious depends only on who side you were on. Robinho turned into a cursing machine who went off anytime Arjen Robben went down. Robben ended up on the floor clutching some random part of his body every time a Brazilian approached him at a crucial moment.

Robinho, yelling his head off for the nth time during the match.

Despite my penchant for balding midfielders with their hair shaved off (like Zidane), Robben has proven himself to be worse than Cristiano in his early years. While Cristiano sat on the ground like a helpless 3 year-old, Robben falls dramatically with arms failing followed by punching the ground with his fist as if in great pain. Perhaps he took this intensive one day course.

Robben's reaction after the Brazilian defender failed to make contact.

The worse heartbreak in soccer is when a genuinely brilliant player consistently cheats the game. Luckily, before I lost all hope, Sarah sent me this Nike commercial from 2002. It features the chicken dance move, the scorpion move, Ronaldihno with better hair, and all-around soccer merriment.


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