Physicist Stephen Hawking has temporarily set aside his work on black holes and existential threats in favor of something far more elusive: Trying to figure out the conditions under which the English soccer squad could actually win a World Cup — something they haven't done since 1966.
In an exclusive report for Paddy Power, Hawking was asked to answer two questions currently tormenting English soccer fans: "What are the optimal conditions for England success?" and "How do you score in a penalty shootout?" And in true scientific form, he analyzed soccer data dating back to 1966 to figure it all out. Here's what he concluded:
- England should use the more offensive minded 4-3-3 soccer formation rather than 4-4-2 (defenders-midfielders-attackers)
- They should wear red; sports psychologists say red makes teams feel more confident and can lead them to being perceived as more aggressive and dominant
- England needs to have a European referee; stats show that 63% of games are won with an European ref compared to 38% when he's from elsewhere
- Being closer to home reduces the negative impact of cultural differences and jetlag
- Kick off should be as close to 3:00 PM as possible
In addition, Hawking says environmental factors are "staggering." A 5⁰C rise in temperature reduces England's chances of winning by 59% and they're twice as likely to win when playing below 500m above sea level.
All mathematics, science and rational thought go out the window when England are on. I am an Englishman and will be cheering our boys all the way to the final in Rio …
But my money is on Brazil
You would be a fool to overlook Brazil. Hosts have won over 30% of the World Cups. As we know from the study, there are significant environmental and psychological benefits of being close to home. It doesn't look like a vintage Brazil team to me but I'm sure they have enough quality to lift the World Cup for the sixth time.
Read the rest at Paddy Power, including Hawking's take on how to take the perfect penalty.