Friday, June 11, 2010

Dream on

If people could predict football results as easily as say figuring out how much change they have in their pocket then the football pools would have gone out of business before they'd even had a chance to get going. Yet this guy is already predicting England's world cup exit.

Dr Ian McHale has converted a well known mathematical model to predict which teams are most likely to progress through the competition.
The "ordered probit", used in business and medicine, shows that England has a six per cent chance of winning the tournament. 
That means it will win its group stage, then beat Serbia in the second round before narrowly succumbing to the French in the quarters.
The model, similar to one believed to be used by bookmakers, does not just take into account the form sheet but also the luck of the drawer.
It predicts that Holland are the favourites with almost 12 per cent chance of lifting the Cup narrowly ahead of Spain and Brazil.
Dr McHale, a sport statistician at the University of Salford, said: "England have an easy run up to the quarter final and then it is a very level match with the French. Unfortunately even if they win that they meet Brazil or Holland."
Dr McHale, whose work featured in the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s magazine, predicted the form of the teams by studying nearly 9,000 matches over the last eight years and comparing this with their Fifa world ranking.
He then played the form books through a million different scenarios using the statistical model which showed the most probable progression of each team.
The results follow closely the bookies although Holland jumps from fifth ranked to first ranked because of recent improvements in form. That makes them a good bet at the current 10-1 odds.
In the rankings England drop from 4th favourites to sixth under the system but France jump from eighth to fifth.
Portugal, which is officially third ranked ream in the world, is ninth favourite because it has such a tough drawer.
You know it's bad enough that the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish are fixated on our early demise but statisticians too? Hasn't the guy heard of lies, damned lies and statistics? Football is so much more than columns of figures to be number crunched and spew out a predicted result. Every football fan knows upsets happen and prays it isn't their side on the receiving end as you usually don't hear the end of it for years, decades sometimes. We still get the occasional mention of the 1950's USA upset here, wonder what the good Doctor would have made of that.
Most England fans have figured we wont win it, though we'll do our best to cheer our side on and keep our fingers crossed after all, upsets do happen and we do have a reasonable squad who did very, very well in the qualifiers and whilst we may not be as good as say Spain or Brazil, all they need is one bad day, a bit of bad luck or a set of poor refereeing decisions to ruin their tournament as well.
What I and others want from England is that they play with pride and passion, with a bit of fire in their bellies, something that has been missing from England squads in major championships since the 1990 World Cup.

As Sir Terry Pratchett wrote: "The thing about football - the IMPORTANT thing about football - is that it is not just about football."

Statistics can never take that into account.

3 annotations:

BG! said...

"... the luck of the drawer."

"... such a tough drawer."

It looks like standards of spelling are slipping faster than England's cyber-ranking.

Gordon said...

Wow! What a brilliant job! I wish I could get paid to play Football Manager for 8 years too. Mind you, I did manage to get Chelsea relegated two seasons on the trot last time I played it.

James Higham said...

Tomorrow we'll know.