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Soccer: Physicist Stephen Hawking calculates England's odds of winning the World Cup

Published May 28, 2014 1:15 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

London • Physicist Stephen Hawking has turned his brilliant mind toward perhaps his toughest challenge yet — helping England win the World Cup.

Britain's most famous scientist, known for his theories on physics and the universe, has been commissioned by a betting company to analyze data from every World Cup that England qualified for since winning the tournament in 1966 in the hope of coming up with a winning formula.

His conclusion: Roy Hodgson's team has the best chance of winning in Brazil if it avoids high temperatures, adopts an aggressive 4-3-3 formation and wears red.

However, Hawking is not betting on England lifting the trophy. The scientist is backing the host to win the tournament, saying "you would be a fool to overlook Brazil. Hosts have won over 30 percent of the World Cups."

He used science to produce two formulas. The first one, taking into account a host of variables, describes the probability of England winning a match and the other addresses the country's penalty chances.

"Ever since the dawn of civilization, people have not been content to see events as unconnected and inexplicable," Hawking said at a press conference in London, speaking through a voice synthesizer from his wheelchair. "They have craved an understanding of the underlying order in the world. The World Cup is no different."

Hawking, who is almost completely paralyzed by motor neuron disease, said England should use its red uniform in Brazil to boost its chances and play in a 4-3-3 rather than in a 4-4-2.

"Psychologists in Germany found red makes teams feel more confident and can lead them to being perceived as more aggressive and dominant," he said. "Likewise, 4-3-3 is more positive, so the team benefits for similar psychological reasons."

"And our chances of winning improve by a third when kicking off at three o'clock local time," Hawking said.

Turning to penalties, he said the key to success was velocity and that players needed at least a three-step run to the ball. But he added: "Velocity is nothing without placement. If only I had whispered this in Chris Waddle's ear before he sent the ball into orbit in 1990. Use the side foot rather than laces and you are 10 percent more likely to score."

Hawking, who is known for his sense of humor, then said he found it more difficult to make sense of soccer than explain the mysteries of the universe.

"It is hugely complicated," he said. "In fact, compared to football I think quantum physics is relatively straightforward."

 

 


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