The FIFA World Cup, which began in 1930, will be played for the 22nd time in 2022. Brazil is the only team to have played in every tournament, and is also the most successful, having won the tournament on five occasions. We are fortunate that the worldfootball.net website has an almost complete dataset of the height of every player who has represented Brazil, which can be used to demonstrate how the size of elite footballers have changed over nearly 100 years of the sport.
Average Player Height Over Time
A study comparing footballers at the World Cup from 2002 to 2018 found that the average player height and weight increased over that time period, while BMI remained steady. Using just the Brazilian team at the World Cup going back to the first world cup in 1930, there is an even clearer demonstration of an increase in the average height of footballers over time.
|Year||no. of players||Min Height||Max Height||Average Height (cm)|
Positional Differences over Time
The data above shows an increase in average player height. As we know the playing positions for each player, we can break it down further and look at the changes in height in relation to each playing position.
There are clear differences in the body size of players depending on the position played on the field. The World Cup goalkeepers stand out - they tend to be older, taller and heavier than the field players. The shortest the midfielders.
A close look at the trend lines, the goalkeepers and forwards account for more of the increase.
- the height data is retrieved from the World Cup player databases on www.worldfootball.net (Nov 2022)
- Soccer Anthropometry
- List of the tallest and shortest international football players
- Fitness testing for football
- Height and weight of Olympic football players
- All about Fitness Testing for Football including anthropometry testing
- Procedure for measuring Height
- Sport Specific Anthropometry - about body size and composition of many sports
- All about anthropometry testing
- Examples of the World's tallest athletes
- Height growth charts — monitoring height changes over time
- Converting cm to ft and in and vice versa.
- About Sport in Brazil