Another summer of sport is now in full swing, 2022 is proving to be just as exciting as the rest! After two years of Covid delays and empty stadiums, football fans across the country are packing into pubs once again with the Women’s UEFA Euros in July and the Fifa World Cup kicking off in the autumn. If you’re not the biggest football fan but find yourself surrounded by friends who can’t talk about anything else, then fear not - there’s plenty of maths to look out for too. 

From scheduling optimisation to real time statistics and betting during games, here are 3 places you can find maths in a major football tournament!

1. The spin of the ball

Think the classic David Beckham free kick. A football is struck so perfectly that it swerves and spins around a defender, almost defying the path it should logically take. 

The mathematics behind the curved flight of this spinning ball has a textbook answer: the Magnus Effect. This phenomenon was first described by Isaac Newton, who noticed that in tennis, topspin causes a ball to dip, while backspin flattens out its trajectory. 

In football the same rules apply, a player would kick the ball, trying to add spin during contact, this rotation makes the ball curve. However the Magnus effect has limitations, and this trajectory can differ, even inverse depending on how smooth the ball is, so it’s worth practising a couple of times before.

2. Player Statistics

The demand for data in football is huge. Every detail of every pass, tackle, shot and run from every player in every minute of every game is recorded, processed and used. Whether to improve performance for a team or for the bookies to determine their odds on the most obscure bets (yes you can put a tenner on there being exactly 15 throw-ins in the second half of Germany vs Finland..), all this data is collected, stored and analysed - impossible without a few experienced statisticians. 

3. Penalties

Something all football fans dread... Except the Germans maybe. After 120 minutes of intense football the last thing any spectator wants to see is a World Cup final decided on 5 spot kicks for each team. However, it is a regular occurrence and so it’s important to be prepared, which is where maths comes into play. In a game where penalties are an option it is a team's analyst's job to know everything. They’ll study every penalty every player in the opposition has ever taken then use probability to determine the most likely place they’ll shoot for. This is communicated to the goalkeeper before the game and they’ll know exactly where to dive to give themselves the best chance of that match winning save! 

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