Spain Like Each Other

Via Bloomberg, it seems some academics have put together a fancy paper and set of graphics that diagram the connectedness of national soccer teams as determined by their passing patterns.  Not unsurprisingly, Spain are the most inter-connected team, in which players pass more often and more diversely throughout the team.

What the researchers found is that the World Cup champion Spain team boasted not only the largest number of passes per game, but the highest scores for clustering and the biggest clique. It sounds like the description of a high school prom, but what the math says is that Spain won by sharing the ball well and sharing frequently, and by being broadly and evenly connected to each other.

The PDF of the paper looks very interesting, and the authors openly disclose that there are limitations to interpreting the results.  But as they and a number of people have noted of late, soccer’s stubborn resistance to statistical assessment is being chipped away at every month these days, and this is a great development for fans like us/me.

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