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Analytics for FIFA World Cup 2014

Analytics for FIFA World Cup 2014

I have to make a confession: I’m a not a die-hard soccer maniac. However, The World Cup is still the highlight of my year every time it rolls around.  It is fascinating to witness how Soccer Mania takes over the world.  It might only happen every 4 years, and most people only use it as an excuse to hang out in bars all day… But still, I love every minute of it.

What I particularly love about this World Cup is the humungous amount of data that is being generated across social media and via other online/offline channels, and how accessible it is. Data is a rising star in professional soccer and it could soon become some teams’ most valuable player. Although soccer has lagged behind other sports, such as baseball and basketball, in making broad use of data and analytics, the 2014 World Cup brings up numerous examples of data making an impact on many different aspects of the game.

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Already, stats and predictions for almost every facet of the event are flooding in; Brazil are expecting 3.7 million visitors, and a $3.03 billion boost to their economy; Panini are expecting £89.1 million in sticker sales in Brazil alone; in the UK, Domino’s Pizza stands to make an estimated £84 million during the World Cup. The one area where facts and figures seem comparatively scarce is in accurately predicting the World Cup winner. We can estimate how many people will be flying out to Brazil, how many pizzas the Brits will consume in front of their TVs, how many stickers rabid fans will collect; but can we use data to predict who might actually win? We take a look at the sceptics, and those such as Goldman Sachs, who are confident their data-driven models will be successful in predicting the World Cup winner.

Continue reading at: Predicting the FIFA World Cup 2014 with Big Data!

FIFA has an entire site for “statistics” that appears to update after each game is played.  It is a soccer fan’s dream – from aggregate stats including goals per match, average cards per match and average passes per team; to team stats, and even individual stats including top scorer, top runner, and top saves. The only thing missing? It’s not in real-time, which is a major drawback in this information era.  (And, to be honest, for being an organization with a TON of money – apparently around $1 billion – FIFA’s statistics site looks a little amateur.  I would love to see live infographics and other data visualizations.  Hey FIFA, I’m waiting for your call!)

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But beyond FIFA, everyone seems to be jumping on the data bandwagon and finding new insights before, during and after every single game. We have always had ESPN, or other broadcasters, who were armed with a seemingly ending supply of stats – but now the data sharing has expanded beyond just the broadcasters with high-power TV networks behind them:

–  An interesting site is done by Brandwatch: they are collecting social content and providing brief analysis.  They have a globe showing the total number of global World Cup mentions on Twitter (6.5M since June 12th), the top hashtags, and topics. The sight seems to be struggling a bit with its font… but other than that, it’s a pretty cool use of Social Media data.

– The Wall Street Journal has also jumped on the bandwagon – but they are not using real-time data to do it.  They created an interactive “bracket” that looks at “The World Cup of Everything Else.” They have some World Cup related items, but then also have “most McDonalds”, “most rainfall”, “biggest drinkers” (congratulations Russia), and “cheapest gasoline prices.”  It is a very fun way to use the World Cup to very smartly organize data, and utilize all kinds of data sets to create a very interesting and fun data visualization.

Basically, what the World Cup is showing us, on a global scale, is that data is available to everyone now.  There are tools, databases and real-time feeds that make it easier than ever before to really find whatever you need.  The prevalence of all this during a global event validates the power of analytics to a mass audience.  It’s getting people to care about numbers and understand their value in a way that’s accessible. People are still struggling with – “I have the data… now what?” But, as the Wall Street Journal example above shows us, people are starting to get it! With everyone’s eyes on the World Cup, it’s gratifying to see us watching much more than the matches.

There is little wonder why teams are increasingly acknowledging the value of data and analytics. Global soccer revenues equaled $28 billion annually, nearly as much as the combined revenues for all other sports, according to a 2011 estimate from consulting firm AT Kearney. 46 percent of the world’s population in 2010 watched at least a minute of that year’s World Cup, according to FIFA.  With so much at stake, data’s role is all but assured in the starting lineup of teams and fans around the world.

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