Mathematics is losing popularity

The math side of football

Vienna - Slogans like "If you lead 1-0, you always lose" may be common among footballers. If you do the math and statistics - as "math.space" founder and mathematics professor Rudolf Taschner (Vienna University of Technology) did on the occasion of the upcoming soccer World Cup - such wisdom is often undermined. Today, Wednesday evening, Taschner is giving a lecture on "Mathematics and Football" in Vienna.

Taschner has calculated that there is a whopping 93 percent probability that a team will leave the field as a winner if it has taken a 1-0 lead on its own pitch. After a 2-0 lead, victory for the pitch owners is almost certain, and 98 percent of this team will remain victorious. In the case of the visiting team, the subsequent win rate is not that high. After all, a team wins an away match after a 1-0 lead in 78 percent of the cases. The loser slogan has therefore been refuted.

The scientist also knows to report that - contrary to claims to the contrary - numerous goals are scored on Austria's football pitches. An analysis of the Bundesliga since it was founded in 1974 shows that an average of 2.8 goals per match were scored. The most likely outcome, at 24 percent, was a two-goal outcome. There were three goals in 22 percent, one goal in 17 percent and four goals in 16 percent. The probability of a 0-0 in the history of the Bundesliga was only six percent.

The right number of players

Taschner considers the number of field players of ten to be spot on - also according to the relevant calculations. Ball contact ideally lasts one to three seconds, which results in a sprint speed of five meters per second, an action radius of 15 meters, or around 700 square meters. After the field has around 7,000 square meters, ten players per team are optimally occupied.

Ultimately, however, the outcome of a game always remains open, which, according to Taschner, is not least due to the comparatively low number of goals that are scored during a game. In other words: a single lucky goal can decide a game in football, in handball, for example, that would be unlikely. The mathematician sees this as a possible reason for the popularity of football, based on the motto "anything is possible".

Apart from mathematics, Taschner is personally not a football fan. For a tip regarding the future world champion, he has to fall back on a recommendation from his son: "Argentina". (APA)

Lecture "Mathematics and Football" by Rudolf Taschner, Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 7.00 pm in the "math.space" quartier 21 in Vienna