Surely if the world-renowned theoretical physicist Professor Stephen Hawking tells you that England can win the World Cup, then it must be a possibility? On Wednesday morning, at an exclusive press conference at the Savoy Hotel in London, and after months of research, Prof. Hawking revealed the secret formula that would bring the World Cup back to England after almost half a century of heartbreak. That’s the good news; he also revealed that the chances of England winning in Brazil this summer were slim.
Examining records from 1966 up until the last World Cup in South Africa, Prof. Hawking unsurprisingly explained that the humid conditions and high altitude in Brazil would dampen England’s chances. Instead, the great theorist has logically tipped Brazil to have great success as the host nation. In fact, the closer the football squad is geographically to their home country the better chance they have of success, which doesn’t bode well for England.
At first, the morphing of this inspirational quantum physicist into a World Cup football pundit seemed to be an unusual case of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Prof. Hawking told us several times that he was “not a football fan”; curiosity fuelled his motivation for the project and not his fee, which will be donated to the Motor Neurone Disease Association and to the Save the Children’s campaign in Syria. But with the continuing obsession, of sporting fans and the media alike, with documenting the statistics in every aspect of sport, this unique collaboration, commissioned by Paddy Power, posed plenty of questions.
His formula and the statistics made logical sense, but the secret to winning a football match is what makes the beautiful game a global obsession for fans. In other words, if England win against Italy in Manaus and Daniel Sturridge scores a hat-trick, who will remember the exact levels of humidity on the day? Unless they lose of course…
If anything, Prof. Hawking’s research included all of the factors that will be spoken about repeatedly before the start of the tournament in around two weeks time: the weather, penalties and team formations. So, if this research is sent off to Roy Hodgson, he may be interested to know that a playing with a confident 4-3-3 has a success rate of 58%, 10% more than a 4-4-2.
Prof. Hawking may not religiously tune into football but he’s an astute observer. During his talk, he mischievously told us that Luis Suarez was a ‘ballerina’ footballer, WAGs are irrelevant to the results of football matches and that he wished to transport himself back to 1990, so that he could advise Chris Waddle that placement is better than power. His research regarding successful penalties was also jovial, citing bald players as remarkably successful from the spot – they have had a 71% success rate since penalties were introduced at the World Cup finals in 1978.
After the conference, I spoke with Paddy Power who admitted to being ‘overawed’ by Prof. Hawking but admired the theorist’s application of ‘cold, hard science’ to the project. He was amazed at the statistic that players who take a run up of less than three steps only have a 57% probability of scoring a penalty. Paddy’s tip for the tournament, Argentina, fitted in to much of the psychological and physical criteria of Hawking’s research, but as a neutral he said that an England vs Brazil would be a perfect final.
If England do progress, then Prof. Hawking’s formulas will turn out to be superfluous. After all, in just over 6 weeks time Prof. Hawking may have to leave his punditry behind and return to his well-known realm of scientific analysis. In the meantime, Play with Flair’s team to watch is Belgium, they may not win the tournament but have an abundance of talent on show.
Will England win the World Cup 2014?