A computer simulation created at TU Wien (Vienna) predicts the results of the group stage of the Euro 2016: France, Slovakia, Poland, Belgium and Austria are predicted to win all three group stage matches, Italy will not make it to the next round.
Usually, Professor Hardy Hanappi works on computer simulations of complicated political or economic processes. But why not apply the same methods to soccer as well? With the help of his students, Hardy Hanappi has now calculated the most likely outcome of the UEFA Euro 2016 group phase. He will follow up these results with a simulation of the knock-out phase later. According to the computer model, most of the favourites will make it to the second phase. Italy is predicted to fail, Germany and England may lose one of their matches.
Thousands of Simulated Games
Hanappi analysed data from all the teams’ matches since 2012 and determined strength parameters of defense, midfield, offense and the goalkeeper. Every match is simulated thousands of times, minute for minute. Just like in a real match, the result is down to chance. “Every simulated game is different. Whether or not a scoring chance comes up is in part modelled by a poisson process. The probability that the chance leads to an actual goal depends on the strength of the offense, the defense of the other team and many other parameters.”
After simulating many games, Hanappi can determine the most likely results. “After the group phase, we will present predictions for the rest of the tournament too”, says Hanappi. “We will, however, improve the quality of our algorithms after the group phase.”
Soccer and Science
Creating soccer simulation algorithms requires not only experience with complex computer models, but also a deep understanding of soccer. It is no coincidence that it was Hardy Hanappi who developed this simulation. His father was the legendary soccer player Gerhard Hanappi, who was considered to be one of the world’s best players in the 1950s. With the Austrian national soccer team, he placed third in the World Championships in Switzerland in 1954.
Just like his father, Hardy Hanappi used to play soccer when he was young, but he decided not to pursue a career in professional soccer – he became a scientist instead. He is doing research in economics and business informatics at TU Wien and he is a Jean Monnet Professor of the EU for Political Economy of European Integration.