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How Ronaldo and Neymar carry out in crunch video games – Infosurhoy

The way stress affects footballers and how well they perform can now be measured using artificial intelligence, according to scientists.

Understanding how mental pressure changes a player’s performance could affect how their training should be adapted and impact transfer fees.

The researchers found that while Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero thrive in high-stakes situations, Barcelona’s Neymar Jr and Luis Suarez are more likely to crack under pressure.

Researchers from the Katholieke Universitet Leuven in Belgium worked with data intelligence company SciSports to develop the computer programme.

By working out how important a match – or moment in a game – is, and how the player performs in that moment scientists could establish exactly how stress affects them.

The model analysed 7,000 professional games to break down pressure levels leading up to the match and a minute-by-minute analysis of how players were coping.

It could break down a decision – such as whether a player chose to pass or shoot in the final minute of a game – and decide whether it was a good or bad choice depending on how well it was executed and the effect it had on the game’s outcome.

‘Mental pressure has already been extensively studied in sports such as baseball and basketball but in football this is uncharted territory,’ said Professor Jesse Davis.

‘That’s why we have developed a model that uses machine learning to estimate how much mental pressure is experienced by the player in possession of the ball.

‘The model analyses how this player performs under pressure: which decision does he make, is the chosen action executed well and how much impact does the chosen action have on the outcome of the match?’

During the study they found certain players could rise to save the 89th-minute penalty or score a tie-breaking goal in a cup final.

But others might suffer a crisis of confidence or lose some of their skills in the heat of the moment.

The study also found Chelsea player Eden Hazard struggles to perform under pressure and ends up making worse decisions.

Manchester City midefielder Kevin De Bruyne performs well under pressure, it said, whereas Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembélé makes good decisions but his skills suffer.

England and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder, Dele Alli, was deemed to do particularly badly in the face of stress, with both his decision-making and skills suffering.

‘The most ideal scenario is for professional football players to have a stable performance, regardless of the pressure,’ said SciSports researcher Jan Van Haaren.

‘Our analyses show, for instance, that Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo is oblivious to pressure: his performances are constant.

‘Brazilian player Neymar, on the other hand, seems to choke under stress. He makes poorer decisions when there’s a lot of pressure.’

The scientists who did the research say the findings could be used by coaches and managers to determine how players can best be trained and to consider when deciding how much to buy or sell players for. 

The research will be presented at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston later this week. 

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