Visualizing Euro 2012: Who Are The Players?

Baseball and football, with their large sample sizes of repetitious and sometimes exhilarating events, are tailor-made for statistical analysis. Soccer? It has none of that. One ball, two goals, and 22 players on the field are the only things that are the same from match to match. Sometimes even the field sizes vary. It’s tough to make an interesting graphic out of unrepetitive chaos. So, how to visualize Euro 2012? One solution: look at everything besides the action on the field. Luckily, this year’s edition of the European championship is rife with player-related storylines. There are future “all-time greats” in Cristiano Ronaldo, lovable aging vets Andriy Schevchenko and Giorgos Karagounis (easily the most dramatic, impassioned player at the tournament). There are also young, feisty, and incredibly talented up-and comers (pretty much all of Germany’s team). I really believe this: an essential key to enjoying sports is knowing at least a little bit about the background of the players and teams involved. For a sport like soccer that gets scant coverage in the US, this presents a roadblock. Would you watch the NBA Finals if you had only heard LeBron James’ name maybe once at a party (and, by extension, had no idea who Kevin Durant or any of the other players were)? A lot of this background knowledge is simple things – how old or young a team is, how much playing experience they have going in. That’s what makes up the top half of this graphic. The bottom half is more about the teams. Teams that, thanks to globalization, FIFA’s new eligibility rules, and/or a geo-political theory of your choice, are looking and more and more diverse. I thought it would be interesting to sort the Euro 2012 players not by the country on their shirt, but the country (or countries) in their blood. Turns out that even though it’s called the “European Championship,” a lot of the world is involved. Perhaps that’s why it’s so popular. I manually compiled much of the data from the UEFA web site, and used to research the eligibility background of the tournament’s 368 players. Together, these two sources make a pretty complete database. This graphic contains just a few small subsets of that data. If you like it, share it – and let us know whether you’d like to see more!

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Alexander Abnos is a digital media journalist based in New York City. When he’s not compiling data on soccer players, he’s probably watching soccer players play soccer. Occasionally he plays music, too. Say hi: @anabnos.

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