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May 28, 2014

Hawking presents World Cup formula

Professor Stephen Hawking unveils his new scientific formula to predict the chances of England succeeding in the World Cup.
Professor Stephen Hawking unveils his new scientific formula to predict the chances of England succeeding in the World Cup.

Professor Stephen Hawking joked that England need a European referee to cope with "ballerinas" like Luis Suarez as he presented a light-hearted analysis of how Roy Hodgson's men can prosper at this summer's World Cup.

- Macintosh: England's hopes
- Cross: Sturridge's confidence

The world-renowned physicist, whose book "A Brief History Of Time" was a best-seller, analysed data from every tournament since England last won the tournament 1966 in a study commissioned by bookmakers Paddy Power.

Hawking said the heat, altitude and distance from home could all scupper England's chances but thinks European officials would assist them as they seek to progress from a group containing Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica.

Setting out his analysis, Prof Hawking said: "Ever since the dawn of civilisation, people have not been content to see events as unconnected and inexplicable. They have craved an understanding of the underlying order in the world. The World Cup is no different."

He added that England's chances of success could be worked out by examining "environmental, physiological, psychological, political and tactical variables."

"Statistically England's red kit is more successful and we should play 4-3-3 rather than 4-4-2," he said. "Psychologists in Germany found red makes teams feel more confident and can lead them to being perceived as more aggressive and dominant. Likewise, 4-3-3 is more positive so the team benefits for similar psychological reasons.

"The data shows we also need to hope for a European referee. European referees are more sympathetic to the English game and less sympathetic to ballerinas like Suarez.

"Like all animals, the England team are creatures of habit. Being closer to home reduces the negative impact of cultural differences and jetlag. We do better in temperate climates, at low altitudes with kick-off as close to the normal three o'clock as possible.

"The impact of environmental factors alone is quite staggering. A 5 degrees C rise in temperature reduces our chances of winning by 59 percent. We are twice as likely to win when playing below 500 metres above sea level. And our chances of winning improve by a third when kicking off at three o'clock local time."

England exited the World Cups in 1990, 1998 and 2006 -- as well as Euro 96, Euro 2004 and Euro 2012 -- after losing penalty shootouts, but Prof Hawking has also come up with "a formula for the perfect penalty," adding: "As we say in science, England couldn't hit a cow's arse with a banjo."

He said the key to success was a run-up of more than three steps and giving the ball "some welly," although he stressed that "velocity is nothing without placement."

He said: "If only I had whispered this in Chris Waddle's ear before he sent the ball into orbit in 1990. Use the side foot rather than laces and you are 10 percent more likely to score.

"The statistics confirm the obvious. Place the ball in the top left or right hand corner for the best chance of success -- 84 percent of penalties in those areas score. The ability of strikers to place the ball results in them being more likely to score than midfielders and defenders.

"There is no evidence that it's advantageous to be left- or right-footed but bald players and fair-haired players are more likely to score. The reason for this is unclear. This will remain one of science's great mysteries."

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