FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ marked a watershed moment for data analysis, with FIFA's Enhanced Football Intelligence framework providing an unprecedented wealth of statistical detail. In this conversation, data specialists Chris Loxston, Elliot Stonell and Harry Lowe look back at the role data analysts have played at the tournament, and ahead towards the next step in football's data revolution.
What does a football analyst do?
The three analysts start their discussion by setting out how and why people become performance analysts, and debating whether you need to have played the game to be a good one. They also explain the fundamental difference between working for a club, where your aim is to give your club a competitive advantage, and working at FIFA, where you are asked to analyse the entire tournament with a view to identifying the latest technical and tactical trends across football as whole.
Analysis at the FIFA World Cup
The conversation then moves on to discuss how analysts actually do their jobs at the FIFA World Cup. They explain the importance of the painstakingly-created FIFA Football Language, as well as what analysts can measure and how analysts operate in stadiums during matches. Lastly, they describe how they liaise with the Technical Study Group to answer specific queries and see whether the data backs up what our experts are observing on the pitch.
Where does the data come from?
In the penultimate part of the video, focus on how FIFA's data centre in Wales collects the data on which our analysis is based. For each match, individual analysts cover one player each, collecting data on a huge number of variables before sending their results to the analysts on-site. The results are then used by FIFA and by the teams competing at the tournament, ensuring they all have access to high-quality, in-depth performance analysis.
Finally, thoughts turn towards the future. The first task after the World Cup will be to conduct full debriefs, after which the analysts will pore over the data to examine key trends before presenting their findings on the FIFA Training Centre and elsewhere. Looking further ahead, our panel expect analysis to become ever more highly specialised in years to come, with increasing numbers of analysts working with (or indeed as) coaches at all levels of the game.