Germany Won the 2014 World Cup thanks to the Big Data Solution delivered by SAP.

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In the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February, the Enterprise systems company SAP was demonstrating how an application called Match Insights could gather data before and during a match and use it to influence the coach’s tactical decisions while the game was on.

Most saw the demo as a marketing exercise. But when Germany won the World Cup, systematically outplaying opponents with superior tactics, the data game became very real.

In fact, when England played in Ecuador and Honduras for “warm weather training” in June ahead of the World Cup, they’d already lost the tournament – they just didn’t know it.


SAP Match Insights

Do the bendy data, SAP

Wayne Rooney and Co took to the field in Florida to adjust to the hot and humid climate they’d face in Brazil and to recalibrate to the tempo of South American players. But unbeknown to them, Germany already had in their possession a weapon that would help them lift the 2014 World-Cup trophy, their first since re-unification in 1990.

This weapon was a piece of specially designed software from SAP running Hana - its in-memory database architecture - to hoover up and crunch vast amounts of data on the performance of the German players and their opponents.

Oliver Bierhoff, manager of the German national team and former striker, was unequivocal on the difference the SAP software had made.

It had “transformed the football experience” for coaches, players, fans and the media, he said.

“Today each sports team is looking for innovative ways to gain competitive edge over its rivals,” he said in tinned quotes provided by SAP.

For Germany, it was the culmination a multi-year campaign to rise above narrowly getting beaten, as they were in the 2006 and 2010 tournaments.

“When Germany lost in South Africa in 2010, there was a certain disappointment. We did post-tournament analysis to figure out what went wrong and how to win the World Cup in 2014,” SAP’s head of football sponsorships Nicolas Jungkind told The Reg.

The software in question was SAP Match Insights, built by SAP alongside the German team. The system is based around a series of key performance indicators (KPIs): how to make the German game faster and get in front of the goal more quickly.

Average ball possession became a critical factor with the need to look at receiving the ball, control, passing and pass completion.

“Every training session was around that KPI - to make the game faster,” Jungkind said.

Crunching the data, the coaching staff could see the German players had been holding onto the ball for too long and the need to speed things up.

By the time of Brazil, average ball possession was down to 1.1 seconds compared to 3.4 seconds at the time of the World Cup in 2010.

Throughout the tournament, the Germans conceded four goals but scored 18 – seven on one particularly unfortunate evening for Brazil.

How did it work?