The Beautiful Game Just Got More Beautiful After This Book

The Beautiful Game Just Got More Beautiful After This Book

Brazil is out! Argentina hangs on by a thread! Spain has been out! And U.S.A….well, sadly, that’s old news now.

As a family we’ve enjoyed the hell out of this World Cup cycle, and the timing couldn’t be better. This fall we just started watching Premier League and La Liga (thank you, Fubo TV), my kids are in their second year of youth club soccer, and the week before the World Cup started, I finished reading The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer is Wrong.

To say that I appreciate the game more now is an understatement. It’s beyond appreciation, and more, awe. Because according to The Numbers Game, chance plays a huge role in soccer, at least 50%. Which means that Saudi Arabia can defy in-game statistics for shots on goal and possession and beat Argentina 2-1. It means that Tunisia can beat France in a stroke of good luck. After reading The Numbers Game, I see that soccer is a statistician’s dream, and much of what we think works in soccer, after a review of the numbers, just doesn’t pan out how we expect. Here are some examples from the book:

“Soccer, they determined, was a stochastic sport (that is random) process: one in nine shots yielded a goal, but which one of them was hard to say.”

“It was also, they discovered, a game of turnovers: the vast majority of movements ended after zero or one completed pass, while 91.5 percent never reached a fourth successful pass.”

“Teams were more efficient if they scores more goals with less possession, and fewer passes, shots, and touches.”

“It is immediately after they have scored that teams are likely to concede.”

“You can have one corner of you can have seventeen corners: it will have no significant impact on how many goals you score.”

“Goals are rare and precious events.”

“When two teams are similar in quality, then luck and on-the-day form decide the contest, and the two teams’ odds of winnings in the eyes of bookmakers will be identical.”

“the brighter the uniform the more likely he is to look at the goalkeeper- something that is there- rather than the space around him.”

“not conceding is more than twice as valuable as winning.”

If you’re a nerd like me and love soccer, this is the soccer book to read. You’ll never look at the game the same again.