Anatomy of a goal

One way of trying to improve sports models is to adapt them to include extra information. In football, for example, rather than just using goals from past fixtures, you might try to include more detailed information about how those fixtures played out.

It’s a little old now – 2013 – but I recently came across the video below. As you probably know, OPTA is the leading provider of in-match sports data, giving detailed quantitative measures of every event and every player in a match, not just in football, but for many other sports as well.

In this video, Sam from OPTA is discussing the data derived from a single event in a football match: Iniesta’s winner in the 2010 world cup final. I think it’s interesting because we tend to treat the data as our raw ingredients, but there is a process by which the action in a game is converted into data, and this video gives insights into that actual process.

In future posts we might look at how some of the data collected this way is used in models.

Incidentally, this video was produced by numberphile, a group of nerds maths enthusiasts who make fun (well, you know, “fun”)  YouTube videos on all aspects of maths and numbers, including, occasionally, statistics. Chances are I’ll be digging through their archives to see if there’s anything else I can steal borrow for the blog.


Question: if you watch the video carefully, you will see at some point (2:12, precisely) that event type number 31 is “Picked an orange”. What is that about? Is “picked an orange” a colloquialism for something? Forgive my ignorance, but I have simply no idea, and would be really happy if someone could explain.

Update: Here are 2 plausible explanations from Ian.Rutherford@smartbapps.co.uk

  1. The keeper catches a cross
  2. Yellow card given, but could’ve been red

If anyone knows the answer or has alternative suggestions I’ll include them here, thanks.

Actually, could it be this? When a match is played in snowy conditions, an orange ball is used to make it more visible. Maybe “picking an orange” refers to the decision to switch to such a ball by the referee.

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