How big data gave the German football team a leg up

When Germany met Argentina at the 2006 FIFA World Cup quarter-final for a penalty shoot-out, then-goalkeeper, Jens Lehmann, brought with him a crumpled piece of paper onto the pitch. It was a cheat sheet written by his goalkeeping coach and contained tips on how to stop Argentina's likely penalty takers. Germany won the shootout 4-2.

Fast forward a decade and current goalkeeper Manuel Neuer had at his disposal slightly more advanced means of stopping Italian penalty takers in a nail-biting 6-5 penalty shootout that his team won to progress to the semi-finals of the 2016 UEFA European Championship.

The German Football Association (DFB) teamed up with software company SAP to develop two new technologies that tapped into the potential of Big Data analytics to identify strengths and weaknesses of opposing teams ahead of the competition.

The first application, SAP Challenger Insights, provided information on the opposition's characteristics, their offensive and defensive tendencies and their formations.

The second, called Penalty Insights Function, was meant to help goalkeepers and coaches spot patterns around how their opponents take penalty kicks.

Both applications were accessed by players and coaches inside the locker room using iPad Pros and were powered by the SAP HANA Cloud Platform.

"They can see in real time how the lineup [of their opponents] look like ... and helps players to really focus," Stefan Wagner, global general manager for Sports & Entertainment at SAP, told CNBC in a phone interview.

For example, Wagner explained, if player Mario Götze wanted to look up an opponent inside the Challenger Insights application, he would find the player's personal data, his strengths, weaknesses and up to six video clips demonstrating his abilities on the pitch.