The “Norwegian Soccer Wonder”: A Game Theoretic Approach

by Kjetil K. Haugen

Vol. 1 2010, pages 1–16
Published March 31, 2010


This paper proposes a simple game theoretic framework for analyzing strategic choices in soccer matches. This framework is applied in order to explain the rise an fall of soccer nations like Norway, who reach international competitive performance by introducing specialized strategies. Additionally, it is shown that the best choice for such teams may – at certain time points in their “life cycle” – not be to improve their preferred strategy further. It is actually possible to show that such a strategic choice may be disadvantageous. Finally, certain cases are shown to have characteristics such that it is “optimal”, in a game theoretic perspective, to actually decrease playing strength in order to “flip” the Nash equilibrium to a more suitable one. As such, “unexpected” behavior of very good teams choosing to loose against very bad teams may be explained.

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About the Author

KJETIL K. HAUGEN is Professor of Logistics at Molde University College, in Norway. His sport studies interest includes the economics of association football.