Further to previous reports of the TSG about the beautiful game’s world show, this statistics supplied in the South Africa 2010 FIFA World Cup Technical Report are of a general nature for a technical report. For starters, it does not detail the condition and composition of teams that scored in the first and last 5 minutes of each half. The scoring data has been classified in 15 minute blocks which are less relevant to technical people like myself. General observation overtime proved that technically gifted and tactically sound teams scored in the first 3rd of the matches, while physically conditions sides with higher technical ability took control of the matches in the middle 3rd of any match. The last 30 minutes of matches are usually controlled by psychologically strong and mature teams than the physically strong.
The TSG came with data to tell us how it all went. They said that there 35 from set pieces. Overall, in the 64 matches played, 145 goals were scored compared to the 147 scored in the Germany 2006 FIFA World Cup. This is a result of bad decisions by referees, who denied several legitimate efforts including the famous Frank Lampard ‘no goal’. 110 of these were from open play, while combination play produced 29, the same as wing play with 15 coming from the left. Defence splitting passes into the penalty area produced 6 goals compared to solo effort that had 7. According to these guys, 4 were a result of defensive errors, and personally, I think that is relative.
This information can be interpreted in various ways. What is of interest for me, is that teams are still generally impenetrable in the middle. The spine of the teams remained a fortified guard that must be circumvented by use of wingers to turn defenders to face their goalkeeper. It also proves that the goalkeepers get pressurised in the confusion of making snappy decisions as to whether to wait for the defenders get rid of the ball or them coming out to cut out the crosses. This further requires risk assessment in a split second so as to avoid collision with the attacking player as well as the defending team-mate.
Of interest though, 15 goals were a result of rebounds. There were just 2 own goals recorded. Set pieces produced 35 goals of which 10 were scored after corner-kicks, 7 of those from the right. Direct kicks resulted in 5 goals. Penalties were not recorded as direct kicks as 9 were a separate count, but please note that they are actually direct free-kicks. They report a goal that was a result of a throw in. If you remember this one, please let me know. Generally, the TSG has classified 108 goals as scored from shots and 26 as headers. Strikers, midfielders and defenders netted 77, 50 and 16 goals respectively. It has been a while since we had goalkeepers scoring in the World Cups. The last I remember was Jose Chilavert, who was a dead ball specialist.
Shooting remains key in football. Lack of courage in taking shots becomes the weakness of tactically aware teams who will continue to pass the ball around, hence over elaborating their attacks and allowing the opposition to take good defensive positions to neutralise the attacks. The 26 headed goals proves that this technique remains a big challenge even for high level professionals. O further interest in goal distribution by departments, is the fact that teams played 1-4-2-3-1 formation variables, meaning a solo striker or in some cases, 2 strikers playing in tandem, ie one in front of another. With these solo strikers, 4 defenders were assigned to deal with their threats, yet they had a combined goal tally of 77. Of course the midfielders beefed up attacks at every opportunity, coming up with the 50 goals. Defenders usually got their goals from set-pieces, usually headers as they have the courage to jump and head, which is a common job description to deal with the aerial prowess of players like Peter Crouch and Fernando Torres.
Between kick-off and the 15th minute, the goalkeeper were beaten 14 times, and 23 times in the next quarter of an hour. These statistics are some of the more useful in coaching. It is essential to know the probability of conceding in the 31st – 45th minutes, as 22 goals were netted. The 46 to 60 minute mark produced 22 goals and the next 15 minutes saw 27 being scored compared to an even bigger figure of 35 scored in the 76th – 90th minute range. Each half of extra time produced a single goal. You will remember that psychologically stronger teams perform better for longer, you will see how mind power is more relevant than previously thought. Personally, I think this is the weakest point of African teams. For example, South Africa conceded the silliest 2 goals in the last 5 minutes against Uruguay. These made the difference between 2nd round and early elimination for the hosts. Ghana missed a crucial penalty with virtually the last kick of the match against, again, Uruguay.
The obvious case here is the figures after half-time. It shows how football education is essential because a good coach must be able to read the game, exploit the weakness of the opposition. The importance of impact players cannot be over emphasised. A lot of coaches introduced substitutes in the last 30 minutes and most of them changed the complexion of the matches positively, as proven by the 64 (27 + 35 + 2) compared to 81 goals scored in the first 60 minutes. The other way to look at it is the way teams were over-cautious at the beginning and then throwing everything into attack either after conceding or racing against time.
Additional time of the first half saw a single goal while there were 6 goals after the 90th minute additional time. There were 31 goals that were scored from inside the goal area, 79 inside penalty area and 26 from outside the penalty area. We already mentioned 9 from the spot. As I mentioned earlier, I was hoping to see the effect that the loss of concentration in the first 5 minutes compares to the last 5 of the same half, and then how the first 5 minutes of the second half differs from that of the first, and so on. This data is not available.
When I looked at match attendance list, the lowest figures were 27967 for the Denmark vs Japan first round match. It is a figure bigger than any ordinary match that does not feature Bloemfontein Celtic, Kaizer Chiefs or Orlando Pirates in South Africa. In most matches like this one, locals would still be looking for tickets while international associations were hording the quota they did not sell. It was easier for vuvuzela haters to turn around and point at the empty stadia, while records proved these games were the top 5 attended in the history of the tournament, despite the anti-Africa propaganda in the world media.
What football data would you call useful and why? Please check out for more and detailed list of data on www.fifa.com