LAUSANNE: Passing, running and ball possession were not key in producing victories at the 2018 World Cup, but accurate shooting and clear tactics were, according to a FIFA report released on Tuesday.
It showed that champions France were only 19th among the 32 teams in possession percentage, 16th in a total number of passes completed and 28th in distance covered per game, but were second, behind only hosts Russia, in the percentage of shots that scored.
“France did not win the trophy on the back of one performance: they won it over seven matches,” said the report by FIFA’s seven-man Technical Study Group, including Dutch great Marco van Basten and Brazilian World Cup-winning coach Carlos Alberto Parreira.
“France did not rely on ball possession but rather focused on getting into the opposition’s half as fast as they could. And they had the players to do just that.”
“The successful teams had a distinct way of playing based on their players and coaching philosophy,” Parreira, who led Brazil to victory in the 1994 tournament, said of the four semi-finalists. “They had a game plan
and believed in it.”
The report also said that the World Cup was short of classic playmakers, but the two who caught the eye both reached the final.
“We saw less of the so-called playmakers at this World Cup, perhaps as a result of the way teams played,” the report said. “However, there were still some outstanding individuals in this area, Paul Pogba of France excelled, but Luka Modric stole the show.”
“Playmakers can impose themselves on games, speed up or slow down the tempo, switch play, create and make things happen,” Parreira.
For many teams turning possession or passes into victories was a struggle. “The team with the most average ball possession per match, Spain (69%), failed to progress from the round of 16,” pointed out the report.
Germany, whose title defense ended in the group stage, was second in possession followed by Argentina, eliminated in the last 16, and another team that played only three matches, Saudi Arabia.
Spain also completed the most total passes in the tournament (804) in just four matches, followed by two teams who played only three times: Germany(668) and Saudi Arabia (613). France completed just 460 in their seven games.
Germany (84%) and Spain (81%) were the only two sides to complete better than four-fifths of their passes. France completed 70 percent.
“Serbia was the hardest-running team at the tournament, covering an average of 113 km per game,” said the report. “By contrast, France was 28th in this respect, averaging 101 km per match.”
Russia scored a goal from every 4.5 shots, France was second with a goal from every six attempts followed by Colombia with one from every 6.5. Germany had by far the worst conversion rate, scoring just two goals despite 72 shots.
The report added: “Shooting efficiency from outside the penalty area improved dramatically: the average strike rate was a goal per 29 long-range attempts, compared to one in 42 at Brazil 2014.”
But it also said that the way defenses were organized limited long-range shots and the number from outside the area has dropped 32 percent since the 2010 World Cup. In all, 15 teams did not score from outside the area.
“Teams at this World Cup were more compact in defense,” said the report. “The amount of space available has been dramatically reduced, making it challenging to find openings.”
Yet, Parreira insisted “there was an attacking mentality. The attackers looked very sharp: they created good opportunities and took them! The midfielders got forward in support and chipped in with goals.”
Ronaldo still part of Portugal team!
MILAN: Portugal coach Fernando Santos insisted Saturday that superstar Cristiano Ronaldo remains a key part of his national team despite being left out of his Nations League squad after the European champions became the first team to advance to the semi-finals of the competition.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner spent much of last month vehemently denying allegations of rape and was dropped by Santos for the Nations League internationals amid accusations by former model Kathryn Mayorga that Ronaldo raped her in 2009, just before he joined Real Madrid from Manchester United. “There are no questions to ask. Ronaldo is part of this team, just read the post he wrote today,” said Santos, referring to the message the Juventus player sent to wish his teammates good luck via Twitter. Portugal booked their ticket to the semi-finals next June after holding Italy to a 0-0 draw at the San Siro on Saturday.
They progressed top of Group A3 with one match to play, dashing Italy’s hopes in the process. “The qualification confirms the quality of our football,” said Santos. “I thought it would be a great match and instead especially in the first half, we had a lot of difficulties. “After the break, I explained to them what was happening, and the game became more balanced.” Portugal host relegated Poland in three days in Guimaraes, in a match that has no significance for either side. But Santos insisted: “The final match against Poland will be important because it will be in front of our public, who are always with us. “We have to play well and to win.”
Qatar Football World Cup: FIFA boss says 48 teams ‘feasible’!
KUALA LUMPUR: FIFA president Gianni Infantino said expanding the 2022 World Cup to 48 teams was “feasible” on Wednesday, as hosts Qatar pledged to come to a decision in the early part of next year.
Infantino said “Why not?” bring forward the expansion from 32 teams to 48, which is currently due at the 2026 tournament in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
“We have decided… to increase the number of teams participating in the World Cup final tournaments from 32 to 48,” Infantino told the Asian Football Confederation’s annual congress in Kuala Lumpur.
“It will happen in 2026. Will it happen in 2022? You know me. It is possible. It is possible. Why not?” he added.
Infantino said an expanded tournament would see Asia’s allocation rise from 4.5 places to 8.5, raising cheers from the delegates assembled at a luxury hotel in the Malaysian capital.
“You will have (a bigger) chance. It is possible. It is feasible. We are discussing with our Qatari friends. We are discussing with many other friends in the region. We hope we have it happen. We always have to try,” he said.
Accommodating another 16 teams would vastly complicate Qatar’s task in preparing for the World Cup, which was awarded to the tiny desert state in 2010.
Qatar has also been involved in a stand-off with neighbors Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, who have cut off diplomatic relations and imposed a blockade on the resource-rich country, accusing it of endorsing terror activities.
Hassan al-Thawadi, head of the 2022 organizing body, told AFP that Qatar was studying the 48 teams proposal and would make a decision before qualifying gets underway.
“We are still looking at the feasibility studies and we will be in a better position to provide a feedback in the future,” he said.
“But it will be decided before the qualifications… sometime in the first quarter of next year.”
He added that preparations remained on track despite the blockade and that the budget of $200 billion for the entire infrastructure, including metro and expressway, has not been affected.
“We are very happy and excited with the progress. It is on track. By 2020-2021 all our (eight) stadiums will be ready,” al-Thawadi said.
“This is the first World Cup in the Middle East and is a perfect opportunity to bring people together and contribute to the process of healing,” he added.
Ahead of FIFA’s presidential election next year, Infantino said 180 out of the 211 federations had given him their support.
“You know there is an election coming. I have announced I will be a (presidential) candidate. I have received over 180 letters of support,” he said. “And when it comes to Asia, only a couple are missing.”
Football: Spanish La Liga table
Spanish La Liga table after Sunday’s early match (played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, goals against, points):
Barcelona 10 6 3 1 28 12 21
Atletico Madrid 10 5 4 1 12 5 19
Espanyol 10 5 3 2 14 8 18
Alaves 9 5 2 2 12 8 17
Sevilla 9 5 1 3 20 12 16
Valladolid 10 4 4 2 9 7 16
Levante 10 5 1 4 16 15 16
Getafe 10 4 3 3 10 8 15
Real Madrid 10 4 2 4 14 14 14
Celta Vigo 10 3 4 3 17 13 13
Girona 10 3 4 3 12 14 13
Real Sociedad 10 3 3 4 12 13 12
Real Betis 10 3 3 4 5 9 12
Valencia 10 1 8 1 7 8 11
Eibar 10 3 2 5 10 17 11
Athletic Bilbao 10 1 7 2 11 15 10
Villarreal 9 2 3 4 7 8 9
Leganes 10 2 2 6 8 15 8
Rayo Vallecano 10 1 3 6 10 20 6
Huesca 9 1 2 6 7 20 5