Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Global goal frenzy

28.11.2001


English clubs: statistically sound or struggling to score?
© AP/Martyn Hayhow


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:

nachricht Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs
07.11.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies
20.10.2017 | Naval Research Laboratory

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Antarctic landscape insights keep ice loss forecasts on the radar

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Filling the gap: High-latitude volcanic eruptions also have global impact

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Water world

20.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>