SAP HANA and German Soccer: from Champion of 2014 to Loser at World Cup 2018

“It was our Big Data software wot won it for Germany”, SAP said proudly after Germany won World Cup 2014. However, 4 years later, after Germany’s 1-0 defeat at the hands of Mexico, “can Big Data Analytics Save Germany’s Tournament?”, asked Forbes. And we all know the answer. NO. The defending champion was knocked out of World Cup 2018 at group stage after beaten by South Korea.

Don’t misunderstand me. The software SAP developed was very powerful and useful. Big Data analytics was widely integrated into sports industry nowadays. SAP Match Insights developed by SAP HANA simply “transformed the football experience”, according to Oliver Bierhoff, German national team manager and former legend. It captured 5,000 data points per second and employed eight high-definition panoramic cameras to evaluate its players and opponents, which provides very useful information for the coach to make a decision. SAP HANA should never be responsible for Germany’s failure at World Cup 2018.

Go back to the history of World Cup you will find a shocking fact. Defending champion of World Cup usually went home very early. France was knocked out group match in 2002 after it won World Cup 1998, Italy won World Cup 2006 and was eliminated from Group Stage in World Cup 2010, and Spain followed Italy’s step in 2014 after they won World Cup 2010.

I testified Spain’s success in 2010 - a sleepless night with a tight schedule of development tasks. My wife and son slept already and I almost shouted out after Iniesta scored at 116th minute. As a result, I was terribly shocked to see Spain was beaten by Netherland like a fool after 4 years.

This is something that why I love soccer so much. Past experience and honor is just nothing. Talk is cheap, show me the goals - TODAY! David might be transformed into a new Goliath after he kills the giant, and what waits for him will be the same death. It’s easy for defending champions to resist change and rely on their past experiences, but all other teams might have kept researching them for 4 years and sharpened their swords already.

How difficult would it be for a champion to stay foolish and stay hungry?

Very difficult. After Brazil was defeated by France the second time at World Cup 2006, Parreira just sighed, “what can I do if my boys just lost hunger and thirsty?”.

But you have to, just as Steve Jobs said, “Stay Foolish. Stay Hungry.”