Football: Science makes it an even better art

Football: Science makes it an even better art
Germany's striker Miroslav Klose gestures during a training session of the German national football team in San Martino in Passiria, Italy, on May 30, 2014. Germany's squad prepares for the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil at a training camp in South Tyrol until May 31, 2014.

How big is the database of footballers from which Germany national coach Joachim Loew chose his eventual 23 for his country's World Cup challenge?

Try a staggering 10,000 players.

With the click of a mouse, Loew can pick up player records from as far as five years back, with all the data having been streamed and studied by enterprise software giant SAP.

Besides the accuracy of passes and shots, advanced metrics such as how long a player holds the ball before releasing it, or his favourite positions on the field to initiate a dribble, are also tallied.

SAP - an official partner of Die Mannschaft - will also analyse any top-flight match of Loew's choosing, highlighting areas such as how quickly a backline expands and contracts without possession, or whether a striker is pressing opponents at the correct angles to cut off passing lanes.

With such comprehensive data, sound reasoning - rather than perceived bias - could perhaps explain Loew's much-debated selection of 35-year-old Miroslav Klose as Germany's only recognised striker heading to Brazil.

"Loew knows exactly what he's doing - he's obsessed about statistics, demanding to know not just everything about his players but about his opponents as well," said SAP scientific adviser Michael Steinbrecher, who works closely with Loew and his staff, during the company's Sapphire Now conference at the Orange County Convention Center yesterday.

Blessed with top deep-lying forwards like Mario Goetze, Marco Reus and Thomas Mueller, the Germans have recently plumped for possession-based football without a target man, where the forwards often make late diagonal runs into space behind opponents' defence.

Besides detailed dossiers on Group G opponents Portugal, Ghana and the United States, the German squad will also receive personalised reports on their iPads after each match.

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