Sunday, June 27, 2010

On football

As I get older I seem to be more interested in football. Eight years ago I rang up the passport office in Liverpool to get an interview for the renewal of my passport. The voice on the phone sounded very suspicious of me. This was particularly annoying because he had a Northern Island accent. Midway through the conversation he said "your country has just scored a goal in the world cup". I suddenly thought, "oh my God. I can see why he was suspicious. I just hope on one ever finds out."

I thought I should know more about football, particularly as a number of people have asked me to predict the score of today's England Germany game Instead of getting a book that explains what the fu*k a 4-2-2-1 system is, I ended up with Why England Lose by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski. This book uses statistical and economics techniques to analyze international football games. This was a popular book, so was not full of equations, but had stories in it as well. They claimed that a model of England's success at winning games was a constant probability of something like 0.67. I don't think there is enough data on games to build a more complicated model, so that it could predict the number of goals in a game. If could I would create an Android application and perhaps earn 10 pounds.

The Guardian were not impressed with the book.