Rob Wood

Rob's Sports, Fitness & Science Blog

Entries Tagged as 'Football (Soccer)'

Proposal to change the way of awarding the “FIFA BEST PLAYER OF THE YEAR”

September 2nd, 2020 · No Comments · Football (Soccer)

This is a guest post from Davies Simposya from Zambia, with his comments on the current system for awarding the FIFA best player of the year, and a proposal for changes to the award.

THE “FIFA BEST PLAYER OF THE YEAR” AWARD IN ITS CURRENT FORM

Let me narrow down to the reason for this write-up. I have observed with admiration the changes and reforms that are taking place at FIFA; all of which are aimed at making football more and more all-embracing. This is very commendable. Even on the field of play changes are being introduced to increase fairness and reduce errors. Even when it comes to rewarding players and managers for some outstanding achievements, positive changes are being made.

In the same vein, I am proposing a change to the mode of choosing the “FIFA Best Player of the Year”. In its current form, it is more of a “FIFA Best Offensive Player of the Year Award”.

Why do I say so? It is easier to notice and appreciate the performances of offensive players on the pitch (ie, strikers and offensive midfielders). And their feats are more enduring in the minds of spectators. A striker’s goal will more likely be remembered by the panel of judges than the last-ditch tackle of a defender. When we are watching a game of football, what we expect are goals. When there are no goals, however exciting the football match can be, that match will more likely be said to have “fallen short”. Even the loudest cheer is reserved for goals.

Defensive midfielders, defenders and goalkeepers are disadvantaged under the current system of picking the “FIFA Best Player of the Year”. Their roles on the field of play are less glamorous than those of offensive midfielders and strikers. Therefore their contributions to the overall success of the team are more likely to go unnoticed than those of the forwards.

Let me use this illustration to drive my point home, hypothetical though it is.

Let us take a goalkeeper, a central defender (No. 5) and a forward (No. 9); all playing for the same club and country. During a particular year, the goalkeeper makes a total of 40 spectacular saves for club and country; the No5 makes 45 eye-catching, last-ditch tackles for club and country and the No9 scores a total of 38 goals for club and country. And in that year their club wins 3 major trophies. Their country happens to win the FIFA World Cup that same year. Assuming no other players anywhere have matched or surpassed their achievements for that year and so they are the three finalists in the race for the FIFA Best Player of the Year Award. I am pretty sure the No9 will emerge as the winner of the award. Since we use goals to determine who wins a particular match, we are inclined to appreciate more the goals of the No9 than the spectacular saves of the goalkeeper or the last-ditch tackles of the No5.

Defensive players are disadvantaged under the current mode of picking the best player of the year.

THE PROPOSAL

To level the playing field, I propose a like-against-like system of selecting the FIFA Best Player of The Year. Under this system, players will be segregated according to their primary role on the pitch. This means goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and forwards will compete for the accolade as distinct groups. This, in essence, means the FIFA Best Player of The Year will now have four winners who will be called FIFA Best Goalkeeper of the Year, FIFA Best Defender of The Year, FIFA Best Midfielder of The Year and FIFA Best Striker of The Year. This proposed change will increase competitiveness among players as they will know they have a chance to be awarded for outstanding performance in their PRIMARY ROLE on the field of play. The midfielder will know his or her ball distribution assists and helping out in defence will not be measured against the goals scored by the striker. If along the way he or she even scores a number of goals (which is usually the case), it just adds to their chances of being picked as the best player of the year. Similarly, the goalkeeper will know their spectacular saves, their gravity-defying leaps to punch the ball away from danger will not be measured against the goals of the striker.

I noticed that among the recipients of the FIFA Best Player of The Year there is not a single goalkeeper. And only one defender has ever won it. Does this mean there have been no goalkeepers or defenders who have done exceptionally well to deserve recognition as the world’s best? My answer is a polite but emphatic NO. The sole reason they are not picked is that their achievements are overshadowed by the achievements of their teammates (strikers) whose roles on the pitch are more glamorous and appealing to the panel of adjudicators. I do not mean to take away anything from the recipients of the award so far. They worked hard and merited it. I personally have over the years enjoyed watching them display their skills and goal-scoring capabilities.

Our inclination to value goal-scoring more than other roles on the pitch is reflected in the transfer fees paid for players. The price tag of the most expensive defender ever can go into the price tag of the most expensive forward ever 3-4 times.

CONCLUSION

It is my firm belief that this proposal will add value to the game of football. It will give belief to upcoming players whose primary role on the pitch is not goal-scoring, that they too stand a chance to win the most prestigious individual accolade in football, and therefore will be more motivated. Furthermore, the proposed format will signify that football is a team sport, with players assigned different roles, some glamorous and can be done with flair; and some arduous yet equally important to the success of the team.

Tags:

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.

Tags: ···

Creative World Cup Team Nicknames

May 22nd, 2014 · No Comments · FIFA World Cup, Football (Soccer)

Looking through the list of Team Nicknames of the teams of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, I have to question the imagination of many of the people who have come up with the names. There is a group of teams that basically don’t have a nickname, they just have a variation of the term ‘the national team‘ in their respective language (e.g. Germany, Iran, Switzerland). Equally uninspiring, many nicknames are derived from national colors – such as the Blues (France), the Reds (Chile), Orange (Netherlands) and the Tri-Colors (Ecuador, Mexico). At least some add a bit of spice to the color name game, such as the Red Fury (Spain), Red Devils (Belgium), and the Black Stars (Ghana).

soccer stadium

Not all the names are so bland. If you could create a nickname, wouldn’t you want one that would strike fear in the opposition, like the Dragons from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, and my all-time favorite The Pirate Ship (Greece)? There are also Super Eagles (Nigeria) and Elephants (Ivory Coast) to contend with. But there is nothing as fearful as my team’s nickname – the Socceroos! Unfortunately, a fearsome team nickname does not necessarily equate to success, as the tournament favourites are commonly known as the Little Canaries (Brazil). Whaoo scary!

Tags: ··

More Fallen Heroes

September 8th, 2011 · Comments Off on More Fallen Heroes · Football (Soccer)

A Russian ice hockey team the ‘Lokomotiv Yaroslavl’, one of Russia’s top teams was practically wiped out yesterday in an airplane accident. Thirty-five players and staff of the team and eight members of the crew died in an accident where their aircraft burst into flames after hitting the ground near the airport immediately after take-off. The team had been en route to the Belarusian capital Minsk to play against Dinamo Minsk in the opening game of the season’s Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).  This is not the first time a sporting team has endured such as disaster.

In my page on Fallen Heroes, I have listed some of the similar stories from the past. The most well-known similar accident was the Munich Air Disaster in 1958, in which a plane carrying the Manchester United football team along with a number of supporters and journalists crashed, 23 of the 44 people on board the aircraft died, including eight Manchester United players. More recently, in 1993,  the entire Zambia National Soccer team perished on a flight en route to Senegal for the 1994 USA World Cup Qualifiers. All 30 passengers and crew, including 18 players as well as the coaches and support staff, were lost in the accident. Another such disaster for a football team was in 1949  when a plane carrying almost the entire Torino A.C. football squad crashed into the hill of Superga near Turin killing all 31 aboard including 18 players.

I firstly feel sorrow for the families and friends of each of those killed in the accidents, but the effect on the sporting club is hard to comprehend. It must be so difficult to build up the team to be competitive again, though I can imagine that the support and drive to do so would be overwhelming. I wish them well.

Tags:

Is Basketball the World’s Most Popular Sport?

March 10th, 2011 · Comments Off on Is Basketball the World’s Most Popular Sport? · Basketball, Football (Soccer), Sport

I have seen a lot of articles online trying to determine what are the most popular sports in the world, and almost without exception Soccer (World Football) is listed on top. I came up with the idea of looking at the page view stats on Wikipedia to see what sport pages are the most popular. Surprisingly, the highest ranked Sport page was in fact Basketball. This would partly be due to the high US based traffic to the English version Wikipedia site, but mostly it was because the stats for Soccer is split between Soccer and Association Football pages.

Football Flag Wavers

Fans at a soccer game

When all the stats are combined, soccer (football) regains it title of the most popular sport in the world! See more analysis of the World’s Most Popular Sports According to Wikipedia.

Tags: ··

Bet on the Octopus

July 12th, 2010 · Comments Off on Bet on the Octopus · 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.

Tags: ·····

The World Cup Sends Me To Sleep

June 23rd, 2010 · Comments Off on The World Cup Sends Me To Sleep · 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!

Tags: ···

Should Soccer use a video referee?

June 17th, 2009 · 3 Comments · Football (Soccer), Technology, Umpires & Referees

One sport that has so far resisted the use of high-tech assistance is soccer (football). It is about time they got with the 20th century. They can’t avoid the power of the people and the power of the TV replays to upgrade their sports. There are multiple ways that technology could help the refs. How about replays being used to adjudicate on off-side decisions, whether a ball passes over the goal line, and to clarify penalty decisions. An off-field referee could communicate with the umpires on the field using wireless technology.

Tags:

Zidane, a 21st-Century Portrait

March 12th, 2007 · Comments Off on Zidane, a 21st-Century Portrait · 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

Tags: ··

A-League Grand Final

February 18th, 2007 · Comments Off on A-League Grand Final · 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

Tags: ···

Categories

How to Cite