So if you look at it closely, in all the topics that are currently so hotly debated, probabilities tip the scales, that which is decisive, that which, however, remains unrecognised or at least unarticulated on the other side, and above all, that is how boldly one dares to go out on a limb, that which remains misunderstood by most.
So what are the issues? The Hertha decision in the relegation, the Champions League final between Bayern and Chelsea with the unfortunate outcome for the Bavarians and the upcoming European Championship, where the Germans’ chances of winning the title are also coming more and more into focus.
1) Hertha’s relegation
So what role do probabilities play in this decision? Not that, as is perhaps even possible, the upcoming decision is offered as a bet in its outcome or is to be discussed, no, one hardly understands anything about such chances oneself (I, the author) and would hardly have any clues to go into them (even if an assessment of them flows into the following argumentation).
No, it is rather about the fact that although it is quite clear and actually undisputed that the second leg, which was whistled off at 2:2 after about 150 minutes with playing time, breaks and interruptions, did not end regularly, it is decisive for the judgement of the DFB Sports Court that it is not mentioned that the chances were only irrelevantly influenced by this.
If this remark should initially cause confusion: intuitively, one senses that Hertha was wronged, but that is not the problem. One also knows, with certainty, in official circles that they were robbed of some of their chances to score the 3:2 and thus keep the 1st class. But they have no idea how big this robbed chance is, and they don’t talk about it. Above all, because you have no idea at all and would have none, no approach to it is possible: what chance of staying in the class was taken away from Hertha? What percentage did they have of scoring another goal in the actual minutes to be played, with the game continuing as normal?
Intuitively, one senses that this chance is small. Of course, this is also felt by the judge who had to pronounce the verdict in the first instance – and did so against the Berliners. Only he is already influenced in the decision-making process in the sense that he recognises the request as the straw that it is: a rather thin one (whereby the comparison with the straw was already made in order to express the minimal size of a chance of rescue, i.e. it does not have to be additionally thin). “What do you want? You want to keep the class this way, even though you lost 3:4 in the first and second leg? No, you would have needed one more goal and that doesn’t just fall from the sky and certainly not here from the judges’ table.” These are the unspoken ulterior motives.
So the problem is mainly one of assessing the opportunity. It’s a situation comparable to a penalty that has to be given: the referee is so reluctant to award it mainly because he feels that he’s turning a very small scoring chance into a gigantic huge scoring chance. So if a striker is only slightly pulled at a corner kick and the referee recognises this, he still shies away from awarding this attacker a penalty kick. The main reason: first of all, the player who has just been pulled by the jersey would have to get to the ball at all. If he did get to it, he would have to push it towards the goal with sufficient force. If he succeeded – already a tiny chance – then he would also have to get past the goalkeeper AND the defender who was presumably covering the line. No, it won’t be a goal and wouldn’t be a goal, maybe with a 1 in 100 chance. And now I’m supposed to award a penalty? No, says the referee, any other assessment of this scene would be right and better. Did the man really pull? Didn’t the striker also have his hand on the jersey? Oh well, I’ll give a striker’s foul and be out of everything. So the unspoken thoughts play out a hundred times in your head and become routine: there’s no penalty for that, there’s no penalty for that. Because: I don’t just give a goal that wouldn’t otherwise be a goal.
So the situation of the judges in the case of Hertha is comparable: they actually hardly had a chance. And now they are supposed to get a replay? No, the chance gained from that would be far too great, that would also be unfair.
If you wanted to do it right now, you would actually have to create a comparable situation in which Hertha represent the chance they had in the game when it was abandoned. The simplest way to do this would be to restart the game with maybe 6 minutes remaining, at 2:2. If you think such a request is completely idiotic, unfeasible: there have already been comparable rulings in Spain. Once a match was abandoned because of a bomb threat, about 4 minutes before the end of the game, Real Madrid at home against Real Sociedad, if memory serves. The score was 1-1, 4 minutes plus injury time were added, even the spectators came back (certainly not all of them) and Real won the game 2-1.
So: it is possible. And it would roughly produce the chances that correspond to reality. Because: scheduling a complete replay, possibly on a neutral pitch, which everyone also feels, would ensure a significant increase in Hertha’s chances and would therefore also clearly be perceived as unfair.
2) The missed Champions League title
The case is similar with Bayern and their Champions League final appearance in their own stadium. How were the chances actually assessed before the game? How did both teams behave in terms of those chances? Did the pre-match assessment correspond to the performances on the pitch?
The assessment on the betting market looked something like this: Bayern win in 90 minutes traded at odds of 1.70, Bayern win the Cup was traded at 1.40. Focusing only on the odds for “Cup in hand”, this assessment by inverse, i.e. 1 divided by 1.40, 1/1.40, corresponded to about 71.4% for Bayern, corresponding to 28.6% for the event “Chelsea win the Champions League”.
If you now review the 120 minutes, you have to conclude that this market estimate was very realistic. Bayern played a great game, they were superior the whole time and clearly had the majority of chances. However, Chelsea were by no means completely out of the game and actually delivered a performance in line with their assessment – as the author felt but also confirmed in this or that discussion. They looked very determined in the forward movement at times and quite skilful on the ball, you had the feeling from time to time that it could go very quickly.
You must also never forget that as long as they draw the game as underdogs, they see no obligation to carry the game forward at all costs. They settle into the underdog role, keep their box clean as best they can and let the good Lord help them forward if they manage a counter-attack.
So if the 1:0 had come earlier, we might have seen a very different performance over a longer period of time, which would have provided even more justification for the assessment. With Bayern not scoring the opening goal until the 85th minute, there was little opportunity to see Chelsea trailing. However, they did score the goal directly in the one attack (after a corner), which required coincidence and in any case also the necessary luck, but in no way argues against the fact that they still had something in their quiver.
So: the market’s assessment was right, as best as one can judge. Both teams put in a performance commensurate with their playing strength (factoring in home advantage). The referee was benevolent to the extent that he awarded the better team a penalty when he had the chance, which is by no means always given, at least in comparable situations. Bayern did not take advantage of this even greater chance, but Chelsea would still have had a good 25 minutes left to score another goal even after the score had gone 1-2, which they did not desperately need now that the score remained 1-1 (so by no means should it be assumed that 2-1 would have meant the title; but the chances would have been greater than before the game after a 2-1, there is no question about that).
The penalty shoot-out, which actually and objectively has no favourite, then went to Chelsea. Now, however, there is almost talk of a tragedy from Bayern’s point of view. With a reasonable assessment of the chances, one cannot understand this at all and would like to make it clear to the players and those responsible.
The fact that in Germany people always open the champagne when it comes to the penalty shoot-out is one of the minor problems that have led to such a shifted perception. In England, the press headlined immediately after the triumph that this day urgently needed to be written into the history books, even marked in red: an English team won against a German team in a penalty shoot-out.
Well, the English have every reason to be humble, since they have so often lost these penalty shootouts by the dozen for no reason in their view and only thanks to a whim of Lady Luck. In Germany, this humility would first have to be learned. The way to get there: as many penalty shootout defeats as possible. Only then would one realise that God is by no means a German and that such victories are by no means as sleepwalkingly certain as one is inclined to feel as a German.
This champagne now had to be put back, only to find that later, having already been opened, it tasted decidedly bland….
No, the Bavarians did nothing wrong. They did not use their good 70%, for which, however, they did everything in their power. The opponent was lucky on this day to realise his just under 30%. That is anything but a miracle and, if you turn it around, anything but a tragedy. In the Bundesliga it happens on average something like twice PER SINGLE GAME DAY that the underdog wins a game, often an even bigger one than Chelsea did. We take it for granted and even rejoice in the fact that the Bundesliga is not so predictable and that there are always small to big surprises. How can you talk about a “tragedy” that has had a huge impact on the…
3) The European Championship
the European Championship? No, that is not comprehensible. Bayern only second in all competitions! Oh, how others would dream of coming third in just one of these competitions! And how nice it would have to be if, instead of reaching the final, they had instead, after two brilliant performances, been unhappily eliminated in a penalty shoot-out against Real Madrid, had finished third in the Bundesliga and had also lost the penalty shoot-out against Gladbach in the semi-finals of the DFB Cup? Because then no one would have thought of portraying them as failures… Three times well sold, three times fully involved, three times stopped short of the title. No problem. But like this…?
The media are now full of how bad that defeat against Chelsea was. You couldn’t win a European Championship with these frustrated Bavarians, could you?
Well, before the last European Championship, you (as an author) had the chance to present your own software with the results at a live appearance with Gerd Delling, in “Delling’s Week”. At that time, the computer had calculated a chance of 21.6% for Germany, which meant that they had the best chances of all the other candidates. Germany was the favourite. This result was beamed onto the screen, after a few explanatory words, and just as it was to be explained why the chances were so high, the broadcast time was over.
The reason was this: Germany had the easiest preliminary round group and thus, not for the first time, had the luck of the draw on its side. This is also an aspect of increasing the chances, something that is hardly or only very reluctantly perceived in this country. With Poland, Austria and Croatia, they had at least the number 15 (Poland) and the number 16 (Austria) of 16 in their group. That increases the chances immensely, as was clearly shown by the numbers for getting through the preliminary round.
So Germany was not the best team, but rather the luckiest, because of the draw. In the final, which they reached, as they almost always do, via the lots Portugal, quarter-final, and Turkey, semi-final, each with 3:2 victories, while the real competitors eliminated each other partly in groups of death (Holland, Italy, France, Romania), partly in the knock-out matches (Spain – Italy), they then had to bow only to Spain, so that the assessment was quite well confirmed: they had the easier group and even the easier path. When the competition was partly mocked before the final (“Yes, where is everyone? We are in the final again anyway.”), one could observe further proof of the lack of objectivity here due to permanent successes.
Well, it was 21.6% before the final tournament in 2008. Of course, hardly anyone here knows that, except those who seriously study the betting market and consider it more than just pure gimmickry, but 21.6%, even if it were true and the highest value of all teams, is still far from declaring the popular opinion “Of course we’ll win the title” even remotely adequate. It is, even if the biggest, still only a very remote chance and even well below that given to Chelsea FC before the CL final.
For 2012, the computer calculated a 16.10% chance of the German team winning the title. This year they have not had the usual luck of the draw and have a competitor in the tournament, Spain, who are recognised as clear favourites this year after winning the World Cup in 2010 and therefore, despite the better German team compared to 2008, promise slightly smaller chances.
These values are more or less confirmed by the betting market, so there is little doubt about the correctness of the assessment. The fact that the lost Champions League final should now make them smaller could, if it is possible, only be the fault of the media, which would like to blame Bayern for the failure and thus undermine self-confidence. But presumably this would also happen unintentionally and carelessly…
What do you know about “probabilities”?