AI is the D FIFA World Cup Final 2018

What is D?

The penalty arc (colloquially “the D”) is marked from the outside edge of the penalty area, 9.15 meters from the penalty mark; this, along with the penalty area, marks an exclusion zone for all players other than the penalty kicker and defending goalkeeper during a penalty kick. It de-clutters the penalty area from players when a penalty is taken. De-clutter is the key that ensures a high rate of shot conversion to goals compared to free kicks. Here AI will be the D.


Will this help in prediction?

Nah, a prediction is futile. AI here will de-clutter (D) all the information out there and give a snapshot of the journey of the 2 teams till the big day.


Can’t I just read? Why AI?

You could read. Just that each authoritative source will have 1000s of articles and you wouldn’t still know what happened in a match if you haven't seen the match unless you read through the live textual commentaries. AI will crunch this “intelligently” and provide you with a snapshot in the next few minutes as you read below. Incredible time & effort saved and guaranteed absence of human bias in the snapshot. Below picture illustrates what AI will do. For more details and examples on de-cluttering life see my previous blog (AI to de-clutter life)




Why would it work? There are a lot of articles written on each match in the World Cup. In addition, there are live textual commentary streams that give minute by minute description of how a match was played. These are written by experienced commentators and football greats. There are a lot of insights in 1000s of these textual documents that can be mined. Think of it as “crowd wisdom” at work but provided by AI.

Hmm, excite me?

Ok. Below is a piece of art.



Just kidding. This is the typical flow of a football match in this World Cup. The “De-clutter Life” AI engine crunched 3000+ commentary snippets and identified what are the major events in a particular time slot in a 90 min match (+30 for extra time). You can clearly see there is a kick-off with some goal chances in first 15 mins. More shots and free kicks in the next 15 mins. Possibly some goals follow and certainly fouls start leading to yellow cards. The first half ends at 45 mins and AI identifies that while more shots happen there is also discussion around extra time if any. When the second half starts sometimes a player is surprisingly substituted in the dressing room itself which AI highlights. Most occasions the team remains unchanged as the AI figures. As match picks up pace post 60 mins one can see more shots getting highlighted. Coaches try to control the match via substitutions that pick up post 60 min mark and goes till 90 min. This World Cup had a lot of late goals which is reflected in the 75–90 min window.


Here is another representation of the key actions by the machine. One can see the pace of match increasing post 60 mins.



Very few matches (4) went to extra time as they are primarily in knockout stages and hence the sparse data post 90 mins. Discussions around penalty shootout increases and a player Subasic is identified. He happens to be the goalkeeper of Croatia with an outstanding record in penalties. Croatia featured in 50% of the matches that went to extra time.

AI looked at plain English text and laid out the complete flow of a football match by learning on its own without human supervision. Got you interested?

Ya, Tell me about the two finalists?

Let’s start with France first. Below you find the topic flow of content in articles that covered France in World Cup 2018. Each ‘topic’ is identified in an unsupervised learning algorithm and its explanation comes from the documents behind that topic.



France 2018 World Cup Topic Flow


Phew, what does it say?

Here is the snapshot of France journey into the finals as seen by AI.

  1. ‘france world team deschamps mbapp’ — Deschamps is the manager of the France World Cup team and Mbappe their key star player

  2. ‘var penalty referee van technology’ — Video Assisted Referee (VAR) was first ever used in a World Cup in the France-Australia match

  3. ‘socceroos technology arena kazan used’ — VAR made a lot of buzz as evident from multiple topic threads being identified. France was the first beneficiary and gave them a victory over Australia (socceroos)

  4. ‘end progressed encounter scintillating benjamin’ — Scintillating round of 16 match with Argentina where Benjamin Pavard (a defender) scored one of the best goals of the World Cup. Scintillating match as France beat Argentina 4–3

  5. ‘ronaldo 16 portugal americans messi’ — South American team Uruguay knocked out Ronaldo led Portugal and setup Quarterfinal clash with France. Ronaldo and Messi eliminated on the same day

  6. ‘book semi finals raphal varane’ — It was Raphal Varane’s glancing header that set up France for a quarterfinal victory and enter the semi-final

  7. ‘croatia england final buildup 2006’ — Media coverage of England was significantly higher in English language media. The buildup to England Croatia match was enormous to decide who will take on France in finals. France was in the finals for the first time after 2006.


What about Croatia?

Below is the topic flow of Croatia’s journey to the World Cup finals



Croatia 2018 World Cup Topic Flow


  1. ‘etebo kaliningrad penalty half modric’ — An Oghenekaro Etebo own goal and a second-half Luka Modric penalty in their first match at Kaliningrad was key for Croatia to go top of their Group and that put them in a draw that was on the other side of France, Uruguay, Belgium, Portugal, Argentina & Brazil. An own goal made all the difference in their journey!!

  2. ‘messi sampaoli argentina lionel brink’ — a match to remember. One of the favorites to win the World Cup, Argentina’s second match. Croatia was rampant and swept aside them, putting Argentina, Lionel Messi and the coach Sampaoli on the brink of elimination. Croatia got noticed. Argentina never recovered

  3. ‘sampaolis failure jorge brink action’ — Multiple topic threads indicating that the result was enormous and led to allegations of a team split within Argentina and coach being a failure. Croatia had created a major uproar in the world of football

  4. ‘uruguay brazil belgium france sweden’ — Some of Croatia’s colleagues in the quarterfinals

  5. ‘2018 looks really coming home’ — England got gripped in “It’s coming home” chant alluding to the World Cup going to England. The semi-final with Croatia saw a lot of chanting

  6. ‘tickets ticket 000 fans prices’ — Russia’s elimination led to a tranche of tickets getting released by the home crowd and 10000+ England fans lapped it up to see them in action against Croatia

  7. ‘croatia england team said modric’ — Modric the Croatia captain hailed their team’s determined victory over England

  8. ‘reaction fan final semi croatia’ — Croatian supporters had wild celebrations in Zagreb for reaching the finals

  9. ‘booked goal scoring danny dier’ — Post England defeat there was a lot of discussion around the timing of the substitutions. Both Danny Rose and Eric Dier came on as substitutes. The winning goal for Croatia came after that


Is there a way to get more?


Going backward in the topic flow timeline provides some more sub-topics around France & Croatia. Here are a few trivia


  • ‘kalinic-dalic-striker-play-refused’ — Mario Mandzukic the Croatian striker scored the winning goal in the semi-final. Did you know that Croatia has a striker from AC Milan Nikola Kalinic who was sent home after refusing to come on against Nigeria as coach Zlato Dalic got fed up with his attitude? Croatia is in the finals without the AC Milan striker

  • ‘united-anthony-manchester-leave-months’ — French coach Deschamps based his selection not just on talent but on how France would function as a team. This meant a lot of top talent has not been seen in Russia. Deschamps did not rely on past glories while turning out for Les Bleus (Mamadou Sakho from Crystal Palace), his own past loyalties (Moussa Sissoko from Tottenham Hotspur) or the fact that a player is at a major club (Anthony Martial from Manchester United and Alexandre Lacazette from Arsenal)


Where do we go from here?


As you sit down to watch the final remember the two coaches have led from the front and embraced the new. You did too. AI.


Medium says this is a 7 min read article. You just read 1000+ articles and crunched 3220 commentary bits from 62 matches in that time. Thanks to Artificial Intelligence.


AI can help “de-clutter life”. Just imagine across walks of life 47 Zeta Bytes of information is expected to be generated by 2020. AI can help de-clutter restaurant reviews, to news articles, to movie comments to technology trends.


Data holds the truth. Code+AI can unlock it.


In the world of AI… data matters, intelligence matters.


Note: Companies interested in implementing the above IP in their organization/ offerings can contact via Linkedin



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