Enhanced Football Intelligence trialled at intercontinental play-offs

  • FIFA’s Football Performance Analysis & Insights team has developed new statistical tools enabling real-time match analysis

  • Tools were trialled at the intercontinental play-offs for Qatar 2022

  • Enhanced metrics can be made available 30 seconds after a match event occurs

The intercontinental play-offs for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ kept fans of the teams involved on the edge of their seats and were also followed very closely by FIFA’s Football Performance Analysis & Insights team. A group of football data experts, the team used these high-stakes international matches to trial a raft of new hi-tech match-analysis tools known collectively as Enhanced Football Intelligence (EFI). Under the direction of Ulf Schott, the head of FIFA’s High Performance Programme, and Chris Loxston, Group Leader of FIFA’s Football Performance Analysis & Insights team, a group of technicians have developed a series of metrics that will be used at the world finals at the end of this year. Though respectively beaten in the play-offs by Australia (5-4 on penalties) and Costa Rica (1-0), Peru and New Zealand can at least take some consolation from having played their part in this important technological development.

A 30-second window

The new data, which includes line breaks, the pressure applied to a ball carrier and when a team loses the ball under pressure, will be made available live during matches to all stakeholders – among them broadcasters, fans and app users – and can help explain a team’s style of play and add context to match results. EFI metrics are designed to enhance the flow of live-monitoring and match-event data, which is sent in real time by external providers straight to the FIFA database. The data is then forwarded to models and fed into algorithms that calculate the results. These are sent back to the FIFA data hub, which then distributes the EFI metrics to all stakeholders in the 30 seconds after the event. “The games were a successful proof of concept for our Enhanced Football Intelligence infrastructure,” said football data engineer Sirus Saberi. “The metrics insights processing time i.e. the time from the first reception of a message from the provider feeds, to sending the insight, took under two seconds on average. “The complete process – from the pitch through our external providers, to the screens – takes less than 30 seconds for event-based metrics. This enables us to show relevant insights at the right time, and thereby create a new, enhanced experience for football fans and other stakeholders.”

Enhanced Football Intelligence

Choosing the right moment

While the speed of calculation, analysis and dissemination of the data is a remarkable feat in itself, there is still a need to choose the right time to reveal them during a match. At Qatar 2022, two highly qualified and experienced analysts will have the job of deciding when certain data and metrics should be revealed in accordance with the events taking place on the pitch at any given time. Last week’s two play-off matches at Doha’s Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium enabled real-time testing of the procedure. “The objective of the Data Science group was twofold,” said football data scientist Juan Pablo Busso. “Firstly, to evaluate how the algorithms that run the EFIs worked in a live environment. Secondly, we also rehearsed the interaction between the data scientists and the football analysts, to evaluate and make data-driven assessments of the most relevant EFIs to best demonstrate the performance of the teams during each match.” The tournament’s technical team will receive the metrics live during games, in support of their match analysis. The metrics will also provide additional information to assist with overall analysis of the tournament and the designation of the end-of-tournament awards, such as the adidas Golden, Silver and Bronze Ball, the adidas Golden, Silver and Bronze Boot, the adidas Golden Glove, the FIFA Best Young Player and the FIFA Fair Play Award. Over the next months, FIFA will post videos explaining how these new technologies are used and what they bring to football analysis and the understanding of the game.