Germany coach Joachim Low may have hailed Mario Gotze as the “miracle boy” for sealing the team’s 1-0 victory over Argentina in the World Cup final but it seems it was actually big data “wot won it”.
Big data may still have its knockers in the world of direct marketing, but the German Football Association (DBF) is a massive fan, having developed an application with software giant SAP, called called Match Insights.
The programme analyses huge amounts of data about members of the German team and their opponents, and converts it into simulations and graphs that can enable trainers, coaches and players to identify and assess key situations in each match. These insights can then be used during pre-match preparations to improve player and team performance.
Player performance is analysed using eight cameras that surround the pitch. The pitch itself is transformed into a grid, and each player is assigned a unique identifier, allowing their movements to be tracked digitally.
This data can then be used to measure key performance indicators, such as the number of touches, average possession time, distance travelled, movement speeds and directional changes.
For the German national team, one of their key targets ahead of the World Cup was to improve their passing speed. With the help of SAP’s Match Insights technology, the team cut average possession time from 3.4 seconds in 2010 down to 1.1 second in 2014.
Oliver Bierhoff, manager of the German national football team, told the Telegraph: “SAP’s involvement has transformed the football experience for coaches, players, fans, and the media.
“Imagine this: In just 10 minutes, 10 players with three balls can produce over seven million data points. With SAP, our team can analyse this huge amount of data to customise training and prepare for the next match.”
As well as enabling the German team to analyse its own performance, Match Insights can help coaches and players to identify opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, and inform defensive tactics.
Ultimately SAP plans to open the Match Insights app to other clubs and football federations. SAP and the DFB are also planning a series of additional projects that will take the app’s capabilities beyond match analysis, linking various disciplines – including psychology and medicine – with match analyses, and integrating all the data in a single solution.
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