Football! – FIFA 2010 World Cup as Networks


The 2010 football World Cup brings together 736 players from 32 countries. These 736 players come from 315 different clubs. I’m always trying to find the network angle to things and the World Cup is good example of 2-mode network. A 2-mode network (or an affiliation network) consists of two types of actors. In this case the players and their country teams and clubs. So if a two players belong to the same team (country or club), they have a connection. This connection can be formed from a locker room discussion or a shared training session. These multiple connections form a social network:

Player social network

Social networks of FIFA 2010 World Cup players

First thing we notice that almost all players are connected (the New Zealand team is more isolated than the North Korean team). Although all players can only be connected to two teams, some players are more connected than others. The size of the node represents the amount of connections the player has. This is a perfect example of the nature of networks. It’s not direct connections that matter, it’s the connections of those connections that matter. The more connected the club the more connected the player. The top ten connected players are:

John Obi Mikel
Miroslav Stoch
Branislav Ivanovic
Daniel Alves
Yaya Toure
Rafael Marquez
Lionel Messi
Didier Drogba
Salomon Kalou
Florent Malouda

Same data can also be used in finding out the connections between the players’ clubs. If two players from different clubs belong to the same country team they have a connection. This means that the clubs are connected by the country teams and form a network:

Club network

The network of clubs represented in World Cup 2010

The size of the node represent its centrality in the network. The ten most central teams are:

Manchester City

Again we can use the same data to map the connections between country teams. If two players from a different country team share the same club, the two countries have a connection. The more the shared players the stronger the connection:

Country network

World Cup 2010 country team network

The network of clubs represented in World Cup 2010

The size of the node represent its centrality in the network. The ten most central teams are:

Ivory Coast

The question in my mind is that does the centrality of the players or country teams translate to success in the football field. Do the more central players score more goals or do they perform good otherwise? Centrality in organizational social network context has been linked to team and individual performance so it would make sense that the players can transfer knowledge from different clubs to their own country teams. If so, my prediction to the final match in 11th of July will be Brazil vs. Netherlands.


Pictures generated using Gephi. Data from YLE.

2 Responses to “Football! – FIFA 2010 World Cup as Networks”

  1. Mathias Says:

    Cool stuff. I am surprised that Wolfsburg is the most central club. I’ve also done some world cup related Social Network Analysis, but focusing more on the pass-networks.

  2. The Wolfsburg is surprising but it demonstrates vividly the effects of network association: it’s players come from wide variety of country teams.

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