Rob Wood

Rob's Sports, Fitness & Science Blog

Entries Tagged as 'football'

At the FIFA World Cup, Does Size Matter?

July 13th, 2018 · No Comments · FIFA World Cup, Fitness Testing, Football (Soccer), Sports Nutrition

The FIFA Football World Cup in Russia is coming to its conclusion in a couple of days with the final between France and Croatia. Many of the top teams have been surprisingly knocked out early or not even making the tournament. It is challenging predicting which team will be successful, with none of the top three teams who were predicted to win making the final. What makes a team successful? There is no one factor which determines success; factors such as player skill, speed, agility, game experience, teamwork, coaching, fatigue level and mental focus are just some of the elements. Another factor, body size, may have only a minor effect, but an effect nonetheless.

Prior to the tournament, FIFA released the anthropometric data of the 736 players (squads of 23 from the 32 nations), which gave us the opportunity to compare the body size of players from each team and playing position. We found that out of all the teams, the goalkeepers at the 2018 FIFA World Cup stood out – they tended to be older, taller and heavier than the field players. The youngest players were the forwards, the shortest the midfielders, and the leanest based on BMI were the midfielders. Now that the two teams that are to battle out the final on Sunday are known, we have pulled out their team data and had a look at how they match up.

silhouettes of soccer players

Squads Compared

We compared the body size data of the French and Croatian 23-man squads. The Croatians are on average older (27.9 v 26.0 years), a couple of centimetres (an inch) taller (185.3 v 183.3), but of similar average weight (79.3 v 80.0kg). If we just compare the expected starting 11 players (based on their semi-final match), the age difference is even greater (29.5 v 26.2 years). For both teams, the average weight of the players in the starting 11 is lower than the full squad average (Croatia 79.3 to 77.6kg, France 80.0 to 78.9kg), indicating the top players are leaner. The lower weight was not just because they are shorter, as the Body Mass Index was lower too (Croatia 23.1 to 22.8, France 23.8 to 23.5).

Players Compared

The two goalkeepers expected to play in the final are Danijel Subasic of Croatia and Hugo Lloris of France. The Croatian has a couple of years more experience (aged 33.7 versus 31.5 years), and also has an advantage in size: he is taller (191 v 188cm) and heavier (84 v 82 kg).

Of the starting four defenders, the noteworthy difference is their age. The Croatians are on average more than five years older (28.9 v 23.6 years). If this age difference translates to greater maturity and experience on the field, then they have a distinct advantage.

Comparing the midfielders, the French players are on average quite a bit heavier (76.7 v 70.7 kg) despite being of very similar height. At this level, we don’t expect players to be carrying much excess body fat, so the difference in weight would be mostly due to them being more solidly built, having more muscle and therefore being stronger. If this World Cup final becomes a physical encounter, the French midfield players are going to have a big advantage.

The Croatian forwards are also a couple of inches taller than their French counterparts (187.0 v 181.7cm), which may be an advantage around the goals, particularly for corners and other set pieces.

Conclusion

When it comes to the physical attributes of the two teams, in most cases it has been the Croatian team that has the advantage. Of course, body size is not the most important factor for successful performance in football, though, if all other things are equal then it may be the difference that could win a World Cup for Croatia. However, it may just come down to luck, particularly if it finishes with a penalty shootout.

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Bet on the Octopus

July 12th, 2010 · No Comments · FIFA World Cup, Football (Soccer)

Paul the ‘Psychic’ Octopus, also known as the ‘Oracle of Oberhausen’ and ‘Pulpo Paul’, is a resident of the Oberhausen Sea Life aquarium. He became a celebrity after a 100% success rate at predicting the winners of eight World Cup matches – all of Germany’s games and the final between Spain and The Netherlands. I want to go out on a (octopus) limb, and say that it was all due to chance. I know it may sound far-fetched and very unlikely, but maybe he was just lucky and was able to select the winning teams through chance. No psychic abilities, no hand of God, and no conspiracies – just luck. A lot of luck.

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The World Cup Sends Me To Sleep

June 23rd, 2010 · No Comments · FIFA World Cup, Football (Soccer)

With the World’s greatest sporting event currently well on the way in South Africa, it may be surprising that this is my first post about it. It would not be surprising if you knew that I support Australia, and up until today they have not done anything to write home about. After getting up at 2am this morning to watch them play Serbia, I am much happier and very impressed with their performance. Although they won today, they just missed out on progressing to the knockout round. They did us proud, playing great football and giving everything for their country. Missing out of the final 16 is no great disappointment, the Aussies have played above expectations. I cannot say the same about the French team, and cannot imagine the public out cry at their team’s performance. There is always drama at the World Cup, and that is why we are captivated. A few more sleepless nights to come!

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Zidane, a 21st-Century Portrait

March 12th, 2007 · No Comments · Football (Soccer)

Last night I went with a couple of friends who are big soccer fans, to watch a very interesting movie about a match between Real Madrid and Villareal in the Spanish league. It wasn’t the usual match footage, the whole movie was following the French international football player Zinedine Zidane, often up very close and pixilated. It is a mix between a documentary and a sporting match. The game was played on April 23, 2005, with 17 cameras tracking just Zidane in real time. There is no commentary, just the noise of him spitting, shouting to his teammates and muttering the occasional complaint to the referee. In the end it is not a football game you are watching, but a voyeuristic view of a public figure. It is not his best game, but maybe his best view. You see a hardworking player, searching for opportunity. The final score was Real Madrid 2, Villareal 1. But who cares?

more about soccer

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A-League Grand Final

February 18th, 2007 · No Comments · Football (Soccer)

Last night I was privileged to be at the Docklands Telstra Dome to witness the A-League Grand Final, held in front of 55,000 people – the biggest crowd to ever watch a domestic football match. And even better, my team the Melbourne Victory humiliated Adelaide, largely thanks to a remarkable goal scoring effort by Archie Thompson. Such a crowd at a soccer match is rarely seen in Australia. If they can continue to have games and spectacles like that, then the crowds will continue to come. The crowd seemed pretty tame to me, though I later read that ten flares were let off in the stadium and 41 people evicted. Maybe that is pretty tame relative to what goes on in English football stadiums.

more about football / soccer

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