Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Search our Site:

Global goal frenzy

28.11.2001

English clubs: statistically sound or struggling to score?

It’s official: English football teams score fewer goals.

Soccer teams worldwide are scoring more goals than they ought to be, whereas English teams seem to follow statistical expectations. The news may delight fans outside England, but it is puzzling the physicists who have found that the chance of a high-scoring game is significantly greater than it may first appear1.

John Greenhough and colleagues at Warwick University in Coventry, England, analysed the scores of over 135,000 football (soccer) games in the domestic leagues of 169 countries, played between and 1999 and 2001.

They found that games with a total of more than 10 goals occur only once in 10,000 English top division matches (about once every 30 years), whereas they make up about one in every 300 games worldwide - which means that there is roughly one per day.

Low scoring games seem to follow a random probability distribution: the chance of a particular score is more-or-less what one would expect if there is a constant, random probability of a goal at any moment throughout the game.

In such a random process, bigger scores become increasingly unlikely. There are more 1-1 draws or 2-0 victories than there are 6-1 victories, for example. According to the rules of statistics, the chance of a high score should become less and less likely, the higher the scores become - something called a Poisson distribution.

But physicists have known for several decades that football games are far from normal. The chance of goal scoring doesn’t stay even throughout a match, but depends on the previous number of near-goals. The Poisson distribution can be modified to allow for this, resulting in a ’negative binomial probability distribution’.

In a further analysis Greenhough and colleagues find that for English league and championship matches for the seasons 1970-1971 and 2000-2001 the total scores of all matches fit a negative binomial distribution well. In contrast, domestic matches worldwide produce many more ’extreme events’ (high scores) than predicted by this statistical distribution.

Why the difference? Does it mean that the English defence or goalkeepers are unusually good, or the strikers are unusually poor? Possibly, but there may be a statistical explanation: in terms of probability, football games may behave more like the stock market or earthquakes.

In recent years, statistical physicists have realized that probabilistic processes underlying these complex phenomena show something called strong correlations.

Correlations arise when the behaviour of one part of a system is strongly influenced by the behaviour of other parts. In football, this suggests that goals become increasingly likely as their number mounts up. Fans and players will already have an intuitive notion of the effect. When trailing by 5-0, say, a defence is more likely to ’crack’ than when the score is 2-0. Even if the teams are well matched, the game becomes more ’volatile’ if it reaches, say, 4-4: goals then begin to flow more readily.

Why English teams don’t show this effect so strongly is a question sure to provoke endless debate among armchair strategists.

References

1. Greenhough, J., Birch, P. C., Chapman, S. C.& Rowlands, G. Football goal distributions and extremal statistics. Preprint, (2001).

PHILIP BALL | © Nature News Service
Further information:
http://www.nature.com/nsu/011129/011129-8.html

More articles from Interdisciplinary Research:

Investigating cell membranes: researchers develop a substance mimicking a vital membrane component
25.05.2018 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

New approach: Researchers succeed in directly labelling and detecting an important RNA modification
30.04.2018 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige