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.”
Ahead of women’s World Cup, female fans struggle in Middle East
DUBAI: Two weeks ahead of a potentially game-changing women’s World Cup, football remains completely male-dominated in large parts of the Middle East and North Africa, where female fans are still battling for a level playing field.
Women fans face obstacles in many parts of the region where rival powers Iran and Saudi Arabia have traditionally enforced rules banning women from entering stadiums.
No countries from the region will be among the 24 teams taking part in the tournament in France from June 7, but at least there are signs of flexibility in the region toward a sport igniting more and more female interest across the globe.
In Iran, rules have been relaxed since the 1979 Islamic revolution and women are selectively allowed to attend some matches.
But the fact that a ban has yet to be officially lifted indicates there is still disagreement over the issue among senior figures in the Islamic republic.
Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia allowed women into a football stadium for the first time in January 2018 for a regular domestic football league match.
The move was part of reforms introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that included allowing women to drive and take part in other sporting and artistic events.
Zidane the boss as Bale set for final game at Real Madrid
MADRID: Zinedine Zidane hinted on Saturday that Gareth Bale could make his last appearance for Real Madrid on Sunday after saying he would make changes this summer ahead of the final match of their miserable La Liga season.
Bale fell out with Zidane towards the end of the Frenchman’s first spell in charge and their relationship has quickly soured again, with the Wales attacker starting just five times since the coach’s return in March and left out completely for Real’s last two matches against Villarreal and Real Sociedad.
Zidane said Bale would be in the squad against Real Betis on Sunday but, asked by reporters if it would be his last game for Madrid, he said: “I don’t know, I can’t tell you. It’s the season finale and next year there are going to be changes. But I don’t know what is going to happen.”
Madrid face Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu in their final match of a campaign that will see them finish third, behind both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, and trophyless after being knocked out of the Copa Del Rey by Barca and the Champions League by Ajax.
Zidane has pledged to make changes once the campaign is over, with several players including Bale expected to be sold, and defended his right to make the big calls.
“It’s my decision,” Zidane told reporters. “That is clear as water. I’m the coach and I will always do what I want to do. If not, I’ll leave.
“For signings and those sorts of things we have people who work on them but we work together.”
Zidane took charge with Madrid’s season all-but over and their performances have fizzled out in recent weeks.
Their defeat by Real Sociedad last weekend means they have lost two of their last three matches and won only three of their last eight.
“The message is clear, it is the last game and we want to say goodbye to the fans with a good game and a victory,” said Zidane.
“It has been a complicated year and I want to convey that we are looking ahead to next season and to show the fans that we will return with enthusiasm to make them proud of the team again.”
History made as women to referee men’s AFC Cup clash
KUALA LUMPUR: The Asian Football Confederation announced Tuesday that for the first time an all-female referee team will take charge of a men’s continental club cup clash.
Japanese referee Yoshimi Yamashita and assistants Makoto Bozono and Naomi Teshirogi will officiate the AFC Cup match between Myanmar’s Yangon United and Cambodia’s Naga World at the Thuwunna Stadium on Wednesday.
“This will be the first time three female referees preside in the Asian Football Confederation’s club competitions, marking a new milestone in Asian refereeing,” the AFC said in a statement.
The AFC Cup is the second-string Asian club competition, a rung below the AFC Champions League.
Women officials have only previously been employed as assistant referees in AFC Cup matches, with Australians Sarah Ho and Alysson Flynn becoming the first in 2014.
“This is one of my dreams,” said the experienced Yamashita, who officiated in the 2016 and 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup and 2018 Women’s Asian Cup.
“We’ve worked very hard and this is the result.”
Assistant referee Teshirogi said her appointment will inspire female referees in Asia while Bozono said the experience will help in her preparations for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in June, where the trio will be among 12 officials from the AFC.
“It is exciting to work with Yoshimi and Naomi. They are very experienced and have been very supportive. I will learn a lot from them,” Bozono said.