Date
12 December 2017
More used to unlocking the mysteries of the universe, cosmologist Stephen Hawking calculates winning World Cup conditions for England. Photo: AFP
More used to unlocking the mysteries of the universe, cosmologist Stephen Hawking calculates winning World Cup conditions for England. Photo: AFP

Hawking peers into the black hole of England World Cup success

Sure, he holds the universe in his head but what can cosmologist Stephen Hawking tell us about the divine, ie. football?

For a lay person, it’s hard to say from a glance at two mathematical formulas the Cambridge professor and his students put together for Irish bookmaker Paddy Power. 

The bookmaker commissioned Hawking to determine the conditions that would suit England in a World Cup as well as how to take a perfect penalty in a World Cup penalty shootout.

To get the answer to the first question, the academics crunched the numbers from the 45 World Cup matches that England have played since 1966, the last time the team won the premier football event. For the second, they also looked at the 204 penalties taken in the 22 World Cup final penalty shootouts.

The results are two equations designed to distill the influence of factors as critical as shirt color, hair type, stadium altitude and distance from London.

So what did the research say?

Higher temperatures, the researchers found, shrunk England’s chances of winning significantly; England have been twice as likely to claim victory in lower altitude stadiums; and England don’t get it together in the evening as well as they do in the early or late afternoon.

Hawking expanded the data set to really nail down the shirt colour issue and concluded that England would be better off wearing red or blue uniforms rather than the traditional whites.

On the penalty problem, there was good news for players with receding hairlines and fairer complexions. “The fair-haired cohort consists of both blonde and ginger players and they have enjoyed a success rate of 84 percent. Bald players have scored 71 percent of their attempts and the remaining players scored 69 percent of their attempts.”

Add it all up though and it feels like Hawking’s formula is an answer to a question we all already knew – red shirts or white, England’s chances of winning the World Cup in Brazil are about as high as Paul the octopus coming back from the dead. 

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