This Friday, 10 June, the 2016 UEFA European Championship will kick off in France. Also known as the UEFA Euro 2016 or just Euro 2016, this international men’s football tournament will include 24 teams and wrap up 10 July.
Spain is the current two-time defending champion, so appears to be the team to beat. Or is it? According to Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski, authors of Soccernomics, the landscape of football is changing, with previously held beliefs being challenged and new potential champions on the horizon. The book is written, according to its cover copy, “with an economist’s brain and a sport writer’s skill,” and uses analytical tools to reveal “counterintuitive truths” about the game of football.
Written by a sport writer (Kuper) and economist (Szymanski), Soccernomics examines data in new ways to answers such questions as, “why doesn’t the United States dominate international soccer,” “why does England lose” and “which sport will dominate the Earth?”
In a 2009 review, Jack Bell wrote in the New York Times that Kuper and Szymanski achieved for football what the book Moneyball did for baseball. In a phone interview with the Times, Kuper explained that the book is needed because soccer clubs and the people who run them are out of touch with the changing face of the sport.
“The heart of the matter is that the thinking in soccer is outdated, backward and tradition-based,” the Times quotes Kuper as saying. “It needs a fresh look based on data. There’s a new global map, with countries like the U.S. and Japan already rising. And they will continue to rise at the expense of Europe as knowledge gets disbursed. And it’s happening very quickly.”
Among somewhat surprising findings—Norway is the country with the most passionate football fans; teams who recruit players after a big international tournament tend to overpay for the new talent—the authors also argue that the balance of power in international soccer is about to change because of three factors, according to the New York Times: population, wealth and experience. And that, Kuper says, might make room for new champions coming from the U.S., China or even India.
With Euro 2016 around the corner, international football is changing. But according to Soccernomics, evidence-based predictions can already be made about what lies in store for the football of the future.