Better Living Through Big Data

This football scout already knows the best players at Euro 2016

Dean Evans Technology Writer Twitter

Euro 2016 kicks off on June 10 and in the month that follows, a total of 24 teams will line up for 51 games played across ten cities. It’s a tournament that will feature a heady blend of superstar footballers — Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski and Zlatan Ibrahimovic amongst them — and emerging talent, such as Dell Alli, Leroy Sane and Renato Sanches.

Clubs around the world will be watching and analysing Euro 2016 in the hope of identifying the next Paul Pogba or Michy Batshuayi. Historically, big international tournaments have often provided a platform for players to grab the world’s attention. Who can forget Roberto Baggio dribbling his way through opposition defences at Italia 90 or Paul Gascoigne bamboozling Colin Hendry at Euro 96?

But for every Roberto Baggio, there’s a Karel Poborsky, a player who wowed at Euro 96 but flopped at Manchester United. How do clubs separate the one-goal wonders from the hidden gems? Simple. The answer lies in the science of data analysis and one scout already has an idea who the best players at Euro 2016 are going to be.

Scout7 player database
A Scout7 map of one player’s passes and average positions from the Italian Serie A during the 2014-15 season.

Intel partner, Scout7, is revolutionising how clubs identify and recruit new players. The British software firm already collects over three million minutes of game footage per year and provides a searchable database of over 150,000 active player records. These include key statistics like a player’s age, height, position, speed, distance travelled, games played, passes made, tackles won, shots on target, goals scored, and so on.

In the right hands, Scout7 is an extraordinarily powerful system. For example, England striker Harry Kane was first flagged up on the Scout7 database when he played and scored three goals in the Swiss club competition, Torneo Bellinzona, as a 15-year-old. He should be one of the best players at Euro 2016.

Premier League champions Leicester City used Scout7 to snap up Le Havre winger Riyad Mahrez for a bargain basement £400,000 in 2014. In their championship winning season, Mahrez scored 17 goals, produced 11 assists and was voted the PFA Players’ Player of the Year. Reports suggest that his estimated transfer value is currently upwards of £25 million.

Scout7 Harry Kane profile
Harry Kane has been tracked by Scout7 ever since he was 15 years of age.

During Euro 2016, a flurry of activity is expected to take place on Scout7 platforms which make data available to customers via its own Intel-powered private clouds.

“We will be collecting approximately 12GB of content for every game during Euro 2016,” explains Bradford Griffiths, Operations Director at Scout7. “[This] includes all the key statistical data such as line-ups, formations, distance travelled, time played, passes, tackles, assists and shots as well as HD footage.”

Games are transcoded using Intel Quick Sync video technology, so they can be made available to Scout7 subscribers an hour or two after the final whistle has been blown.

Scout7 HD match
Scout7 subscribers have access to over three million minutes of HD match footage.

Identifying transfer targets is only one aspect of the system, however. National team coaches are expected to use Scout7’s wealth of statistical information to formulate tactics, with the ultimate aim of bringing home European glory.

“While the concept of video analysis was available during Euro 2012,” says Griffiths, “data analysis and consumption tools are much more advanced today. For example, teams can view how opposing teams attack and defend in specific scenarios — be it corners or free kicks. The strengths and weaknesses of individual players such as a striker can also be analysed by staff and even sent directly to a defender’s smartphone or tablet so they can prepare ahead of a game.”

Looking ahead to future tournaments, data is going to help enhance the sporting experience for fans, broadcasters, athletes and referees. The pin-sized Intel Curie module, for example, has already been used at the X Games to stream real-time skate and bike data, such as the number of in-air rotations, jump height, jump distance, speed and force on landing.

It won’t be long before wearable technology like Curie is deployed in the football world.

“At Euro 2020 we are expecting to see physical data collected directly from players through wearables,” says Bradford Griffiths. “This will provide insight into their skill set and provide tactical information to coaches. We’ll be able to measure agility and speed of players and also track how space is being used.”

In the meantime, watch out for the likes of France winger Kingsley Coman, Swiss striker Breel Embolo, Russia’s Aleksandr Golovin and Germany’s Julian Weigl. Judging by their stats, these could well be the best players at Euro 2016 and perhaps the football superstars of the future.

Main image credit: Shutterstock/Sergey Nivens

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