Good news for football fans desperate to rekindle memories from this summer's World Cup - FIFA has published its 2002 FIFA World Cup™ Technical Report. Compiled by an international team of "experts" [sic], including former Scotland boss Andy Roxburgh, the 286-page report has been sent to 204 national football associations, the international football confederations, panel members (not sure what they are, mind) and the media.
If you're not part of the great footballing fraternity, however, you can get your mitts on the report by heading to FIFA's web site (http://www.fifa.com).
The report comprises four sections:
- Overall Analysis
- Technical and Tactical Analysis
- Statistics and Team Analysis
The text is in English
, and German
, and there are lots of lovely colour photos, beautifully used, in the time-honoured technical writer
fashion, to distract the reader from the evident lack of actual, useful content.
The main problem with the report, though, is that it doesn't really tell us anything we didn't already know. In the almost entire absence of insight, FIFA offers the following analytical highlights:
- One fifth of the goals were scored from rapid counter-attacks
- Another fifth came from solo runs
And the buttock-clenching, irony-free:
"tactical flexibility was the decisive factor in several games"
Well I'll go to the foot of our stairs
Luckily, you don't need to read the full report. I've read it, and here compiled the following brief summary:
There are no easy games in international football. FIFA money has funded a new footballing world order. Well done our hospitable hosts, says Sepp Blatter. Lennart Johansson likes ABBA. And teamwork. Well done our hospitable hosts. Brazil won. It was tricky co-hosting, but we did a grand job, say Dr Chung Mong Joon and Shoh Nasu, chairmen, respectively, of the Korean and Japanese organising committees.
- Overall Analysis:
Logistically smooth, with great hotels! Best prepared referees, thanks to daily monitored training sessions, and overall officials were good, although
"Football is a game played by humans"
Assistant referees (for the record, none of them were born in July) made more mistakes. Pesky super-slo-mo replays didn't help.
- 171 injuries in 64 games
- 15% were head injuries, none of these caused by heading the ball
- 37% caused by fouls
- 36% caused by "player-to-player contact that did not violate the Laws of the Game"
- 27% incurred "without any contact with another player"
All 256 blood and urine tests were negative. There was no hooliganism, and "the stadia were full of gen-
uine football fans"¹.
- Technical and Tactical Analysis:
Winning and losing: it's a fine line, influenced by coaches' decisions, individual brilliance, counter-attacks, set-pieces, and mistakes (by players, presumably, although Italian readers may disagree). While many teams counter-attacked:
"Others, and this includes most of the more successful teams, played a balanced game, but used counter-attacking moves as part of their repertoire."
Honurable mentions are given to Roberto Carlos' "ballistic" (sic) free-kick, lack of set-piece invention (due to spying apparently), and high-intensity pressing football from Ireland, USA, and Korea.
- 161 goals scored (171 in France '98)
- 28% of set-pieces were successful
- 11 goals from direct free-kicks
- 18 penalties were awarded, 14 scored
- 37.3% of goals scored between goal area and penalty spot
- 21 goals scored by substitutes
- Hakan Sukur's goal after 11 seconds for Turkey against Korea was the fastest ever in the World Cup Finals
- Playing systems: broke down to variations on 4-4-2 or 3-5-2. Wowee.
- Statistics and Team Analysis:
This section contains results, scorers and substitutions made for the whole tournament, together with match data from qualifying tournaments, and a brief, and often bizarre analysis of each team. Curiously, no comment is given on the most (only) interesting statistic in this "dossier", namely the average amount of actual time the ball is actually in play for each game.
In any game of football, inevitably, the ball isn't in play for all 90 minutes, and unlike some sports the clock is not stopped every time the ball is out of play or when play stops. The average figure for "Actual Time Played" was 54 minutes and 28 seconds. If that seems poor, it's because it is. Normally you'd expect 60-65 minutes actual play from a game. The figure for France '98 was 62:38.
Why the sudden drop, FIFA? And how on earth did Cameroon and Germany manage to play only 43 minutes of genuine football when they met? The answer probably lies in the 14 yellow cards and two sendings off in the game, but still, if I pay to see a 90-minute football match, I wouldn't expect to see less than half of that!
Team Data and Analysis
Quite a lengthy section, so I've packaged each team into succinctness.
- Argentina: Technically able, but lethargic
- Belgium: Well-balanced, vulnerable to counter-attack
- Brazil: Pretty shit-hot all round, but a bit fancy at times, not so good in defence
- Cameroon: Quick, strong, absent-minded
- China PR: Well-organised, but no stars
- Costa Rica: Quick, love playing footie, can't head for toffee, over-excited in front of goal
- Croatia: Good combination play, no imagination
- Denmark: Flexible and organised, rubbish central defenders
- Ecuador: "Lack of purpose"
- England: Top central defence, match-winners in the team, but players unfit, and rubbish without Owen.
- France: sucked, Zidane was injured
- Germany: Psychological strength, creatively barren
- Italy: Rubbish defence, very tight tops
- Japan: Disciplined, but inexperienced. Future looks bright
- Korea Republic: Movement and pace up front, but attacked too much
- Mexico: Didn't concentrate
- Nigeria: See Mexico
- Paraguay: Defence good, attack rubbish
- Poland: Fit, but one-dimensional
- Portugal: Technical genius, but see Mexico
- Republic of Ireland: Big strong athletes, but couldn't dictate tempo
- Russia: Good technicians, not coherent
- Saudia Arabia: See Mexico
- Senegal: Speed, dribbling, but over-elaborate at times
- Slovenia: Petulant, lack of creativity
- South Africa: Balanced, but difficulty with long balls
- Spain: Creative midfield, but too reliant on Raul
- Sweden: Well-drilled, but too reliant on Henrik Larsson
- Tunisia: Agile, but didn't work as a unit
- Turkey: Good skill in attack, tenacious, costly lapses in concentration
- Uruguay: Slow
- USA: Good team spirit hampered by lack of pace at the back
And that's what nearly three months of expert analysis gets you. The news that it was a jolly good world cup, with no fighting (not in Japan or Korea, anyway), technical ability was important, and Brazil won.
If 11 experts produce a technical document 286 pages long in four languages with, say, a fifth of the space occupied by photos or stats, how much do they each, on average, contribute?
Around 1.3 pages by my reckoning. About 800 words. And that's being generous.
Or, assuming they got the typewriter out as soon as the tournament was over, about 10 words a day.
There is an easier way, you know.
1. Meaning: Anyone at the ground was a football fan. There was, however, a big rumpus throughout the competition, caused:
"by a disturbingly large number of journalists failing to show up for matches for which a ticket had been reserved for them."
leading to rows of empty seats on display at many games.
The report is available as a PDF
. You can download the monster 27Mb file, or take it in small, manageable pieces.