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The Science Behind Football

Soccer Players

Already completely boosted for the World Cup? For those who do not have enough of all competitions, previews, and afterthoughts, The web compiled an extensive dossier about the science behind The Netherlands’ most popular sport. About grandstand language, Orange madness, new balls, fans dropping the coach or demolishing the stands, and of course the dreaded penalty kick.

Scare off! Sorry? If you have trouble with football language, you can check out his goals to learn more, with all kinds of examples of football language. Handy, because football jargon also pops up outside the sport, when we speak, for example, of ministers who play on possession but miss opportunities for open goals. Those who are not careful can let themselves be fooled by football language. If the commentator sometimes talks about a dirty violation, another time it can be quite a useful intervention. Such commentary largely determines how bad television viewers think a violation is. Not that the commentators have to use neutral language but actions that we actually condemn are secretly the most fun to watch.

Sociology of the supporter

Football is an important phenomenon in our culture, and the European Championship or World Cup is a moment when our entire country is turned upside down. But what is it more than a fascination for the sport itself? When winning matches, the whole of the Netherlands stands as one Orange mass behind ‘our boys’, not for nothing a term that is also used for soldiers: the Orange madness is according to one nothing but catch-up nationalism and according to others almost a new kind of religion.

Psychology of the turf

As Dutchmen, we are harder for the national coach than for an unsuccessful general. After two lost games or even due to a wrong change, the national coach has to pack all his bags. According to the psychology of CORFing and BIRGing, changeable supporters are quite normal. Everyone wants to identify with a winner, but no one wants to identify with a loser. In the article about the psychology of supporters, this is fully explained and in ‘World Cup Hooligans’ we tell about the norms and values of the unhinged stand.

During matches of the Dutch national team, emotions will probably run high. This emotional excitement makes the commercials less well remembered at rest. Moreover, if the Netherlands stands in front, the advertisements are poorly appreciated. From a psychological point of view, advertising at halftime is not such a good idea.

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Chance of winning

Will it be win or lose? No one can say for sure how far the Orange team will get in the tournament, but sports economist Ruud Koning took a chance during the 2006 World Cup. With a statistical model of the teams and matches, he tried to map out the chances of the Orange. During the 2006 World Cup, Koning continuously improved his prediction by incorporating the latest results. Read more in the article about King’s opportunity model.

But football is more than comparing the statistical power of teams. Very simple things like the points system for lost, won, and drawn matches, or when a country has to play against which opponents have an enormous influence on who passes and who loses. A bit of game theory, a bit of decision theory, a bit of football: in ‘May the best win’ we tell how the tournament format helps determine the world champion. And finally, let’s not forget the weather: what influence does the South African climate have on the performance of our Dutch boys?

In the end, it is the players who decide orange’s future: everything revolves around ball control and outsmarting the opponent. From the psychological tricks that theoretically allow unsustainable penalties to fly over without a chance to the effect of balls curling around opponents, every second of the match is full of science. Theoretical physicist and football geek Ken Bray wrote the book ‘The art of scoring’. On Kennislink a small look into Bray’s kitchen, but also articles about the secret of the throw-in and the unstoppable penalty kick.

The ball is round

To stay in football terms: the ball is round, rounder than ever. Adidas and Bayer presented the new World Cup ball in 2006, not made up of 32 pentagons and hexagons but of 14 propeller-shaped strips that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. The goal of the new construction: a ball with as few deviations as possible from the perfectly round shape. In the article World Cup ball rounder than ever everything about the new ball.

Just like a tennis ball, the new World Cup ball is made up of ‘propeller strips’ that reduce the number of seams compared to the classic ball with pentagons and hexagons.

During the break, you will of course peek at Kennislink for even more science behind football. At the very least, this provides useful facts to spice up the commentary from the couch. Happy World Cup!