Soccermatics Book Summary - Soccermatics Book explained in key points
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Soccermatics summary

David Sumpter

Mathematical Adventures in the Beautiful Game

3.9 (36 ratings)
15 mins
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    Successful teams often utilize geometric patterns of movement and establish decentralized passing networks.

    Most of us know that soccer is all about team strategy and that a team’s ability to work together determines whether it will soar or plummet. But did you know that math is an integral aspect of these tactics?

    It’s true. The movement patterns of successful soccer teams often fall into geometric forms. Just take Inter Milan, which during the 1960s used a formation known as the “net.” In this strategy, the midfield and defense form a web of connections, making it nearly impossible for an attacker to break through.

    Or consider Liverpool FC in the 1970s and 80s, which filled the pitch with right-angled triangles, helping the team pass and move ahead.

    And there’s FC Barcelona’s 2008 team, which invented a strategy known as tiki-taka. In this technique, players quickly pass the ball, hoping to force an imbalance in the other team’s defense. Tiki-taka also relies on the beauty of geometry because the team uses well-spaced zones for passing, building a network of wide-angled triangles.

    But using shapes in their formations isn’t all successful teams do; they also form decentralized passing networks. For instance, while analyzing matches in the English Premier League, scientist Thomas Grund paid special attention to the relationship between passing networks and performance. He found that teams that passed the ball between fewer players – in other words, who employed more centralized networks – were on average less successful.

    A good example is when, in the 2012 European Championship, Italy went up against England in the quarter-finals. Italy employed a solid passing network centered around the midfielder Andrea Pirlo, but while the Italians were in possession of the ball for two-thirds of the match, they couldn’t turn this advantage into goals. As a result, the match ended in a 0–0 draw.

    In the end, Italy’s passing network was too centralized, allowing the English players to easily block their central path forward.

    On the other hand, Spain’s national team in Euro 2012 relied on four central midfielders. This decentralized passing network produced greater variability, more striking options and resulted in them winning the championship.

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    What is Soccermatics about?

    Soccermatics (2016) highlights the link between the world’s most popular sport and something slightly less popular – math. These blinks will show you how statistical models can help explain the beautiful game, from strategy on the field to tips for beating the spread.

    Best quote from Soccermatics

    The first international football match ever played was held between England and Scotland in 1870 and ended in a 1–1 draw.

    —David Sumpter
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    Who should read Soccermatics?

    • Every soccer fan
    • People who want to predict scores
    • Anyone interested in applied mathematics or collective behavior

    About the Author

    David Sumpter is an applied mathematician and a professor at the University of Uppsala in Sweden, where he leads the collective behavior research group. In his spare time, he coaches his ten-year-old son’s soccer team.

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