Using Bioinformatics algorithms to predict the European Football Championship

25. June 2021

Researchers from the Computational Molecular Evolution (CME) group at HITS have simulated the knock-out phase of the European Football Championship using an algorithm which is normally used for research in the field of bioinformatics. According to their calculations, France and England will most likely face each other in the final of the 2021 European Football Championship, with England having a slightly higher chance of becoming European champions. The prediction was made by Alexandros Stamatakis, research group leader at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) and Professor for High Performance Computing in the life sciences at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), and CME group member Ben Bettisworth.

“Algorithms for calculating tournament winners are similar to algorithms for reconstructing evolutionary relationships between different species in the field of phylogenetics,” explains Stamatakis. “Therefore, tournament outcomes can be calculated by adapting methods for evolutionary tree inference.” Phylogenetics deals with investigating the evolutionary history of currently living organisms. Together with his PhD student Ben Bettisworth at HITS, Alexandros Stamatakis developed the new software tool “Phylourny” to forecast probable winners of knockout tournaments and provided winning probabilities for the teams participating at the 2021 European Football Championship.

“We have adapted an algorithm from bioinformatics for this,” explains Bettisworth. “The key feature of our approach is that we no longer need to simulate the tournament many times to approximate win probabilities but can compute these probabilities exactly and efficiently – given pairwise win probabilities for the individual matches.”

In addition to better and faster predictions, this work could also enable the development of new methods for calculating improved pairwise win probabilities for individual matches. The researchers have made their software available as open-source code.

More Information:

Phylourny: Predicting the Knock-out-phase of Tournaments via Phylogenetic Methods by example of the UEFA EURO 2020. https://cme.h-its.org/exelixis/pubs/phylourny.pdf

Preprint: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.06.24.449715v1

About HITS

The Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) was established in 2010 by the physicist and SAP co-founder Klaus Tschira (1940-2015) and the Klaus Tschira Foundation as a private, non-profit research institute. HITS conducts basic research in the natural sciences, mathematics and computer science, with a focus on the processing, structuring, and analyzing of large amounts of complex data and the development of computational methods and software. The research fields range from molecular biology to astrophysics. The shareholders of HITS are the HITS-Stiftung, which is a subsidiary of the Klaus Tschira Foundation, Heidelberg University and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). HITS also cooperates with other universities and research institutes and with industrial partners. The base funding of HITS is provided by the HITS Stiftung with funds received from the Klaus Tschira Foundation. The primary external funding agencies are the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the German Research Foundation (DFG), and the European Union.

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