How Analytics Will Make Germany Even Better At Penalties At Euro 2016

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SAP gives Germany even more tools to boost on pitch performance at Euro 2016, but would help England too if the FA makes the call

It’s a development that will strike fear into the hearts of every English football fans, but the Germans are using big data analytics to get better at penalties in their quest to become European Champions for the fourth time.

SAP, which has a long standing partnership with the German football association (DFB), has added a penalty insights function into its commercially available SAP Sports One software, which will help German goalkeepers and coaches predict how opponents will take penalties at Euro 2016.

The idea was partly sparked by the story of former national tam goalkeeper Jens Lehmann losing his penalty notes at the 2006 World Cup and a decade later was entertained by coaching staff, including Andreas Koepke, who has expressed frustration at obtaining the best data for penalty shoot outs.

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Sports analytics

German football team SAPThe function is built on SAP’s HANA in-memory analytics platform and analyses data in real time, allowing coaches to show players before and during matches on a mobile device.

A demo of France’s Antoine Griezmann’s penalty record showed the most likely part of the goal he would aim for, along with other details such as run up style – reducing the likelihood of German goalkeepers being tricked by stuttered approaches. This data is supported by video clips provided by third party providers.

Oliver Bierhoff, a former German international and now manager of the national team (Joachim Loew is coach), spoke more enthusiastically about big data analytics than other sports figures wheeled out by technology partners.

“Big data is a big factor in sport,” he said at the team’s base for the next month in Evian-les-Bains, which overlooks Lake Geneva “There is unbelievable potential.”

He rejected suggestions that penalty data would interfere with the natural intuition of Manuel Neuer, widely regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world, noting how well SAP’s analytics had served the team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil – a tournament in which they emerged as World Champions.

German partnership

SAP has worked with the DFB for more than a decade, mainly for back office operations, but attention has recently turned towards using software to improve team performance. The World Cup project kicked off just 14 weeks before the start of the competition and was a prototype application that formed the basis of SAP Sports One.

“We are the experts in developing software and they are the experts in football,” SAP’s Fadi Noum told TechWeekEurope. “Based on the results, they were impressed and said this was a good start – but only the beginning.”

The Match Insights app used two years ago has been overhauled with a new UI, is integrated with SAP Sports One, and provides access to a central cloud media library. The SAP Team One app allows players and coaches to shre videos images and messages within individual groups – such as a back four defensive line – and ‘Challenger Insights’ is a completely new addition for 2016.

This feature provides information about opponent’s formations, offensive and defensive character traits and is updated in real time. This allows coaches to adjust tactics in real time and create a pre- match plan in training.

Could England benefit?

German football team SAP 2The theory is that by having more time to work with the SAP software in France than in Brazil, the insights gained from analytics will be more effective, especially since the DFB and SAP have been working closely together.

SAP is of course a German company, and there is a certain amount of prestige and pride for it to be associated with Die Mannschaft. But business is business and sport is an area that SAP sees significant growth prospects for.

So what if Roy Hodgson and England, as famous for their poor penalty record as Germany are for their excellent history at spot kicks, wanted to use SAP Sports One to change their fortunes?

“The solution itself is agnostic. It’s about the content and the people that use it,” Stefan Wagner, global general manager for sports and entertainment told TechWeekEurope.

“You could give me the number of the head coach of England tomorrow and I would sell!”

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