Get the key ideas from

Soccermatics

Mathematical Adventures in the Beautiful Game

By David Sumpter
12-minute read
Audio available
Soccermatics: Mathematical Adventures in the Beautiful Game by David Sumpter

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.

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

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.

Go Premium and get the best of Blinkist

Upgrade to Premium now and get unlimited access to the Blinkist library. Read or listen to key insights from the world’s best nonfiction.

Upgrade to Premium

What is Blinkist?

The Blinkist app gives you the key ideas from a bestselling nonfiction book in just 15 minutes. Available in bitesize text and audio, the app makes it easier than ever to find time to read.

Discover
3,000+ top
nonfiction titles

Get unlimited access to the most important ideas in business, investing, marketing, psychology, politics, and more. Stay ahead of the curve with recommended reading lists curated by experts.

Join Blinkist to get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from

Soccermatics

Mathematical Adventures in the Beautiful Game

By David Sumpter
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
Soccermatics: Mathematical Adventures in the Beautiful Game by David Sumpter
Synopsis

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.

Key idea 1 of 7

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.

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

Key ideas in this title

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

No time to
read?

Pssst. Sign up to your secret to success: key ideas from top nonfiction in just 15 minutes.
Created with Sketch.