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.”
China has over 24,000 football-featured schools
BEIJING: As of November 2018, China has over 24,000 primary and secondary schools with football education as their main feature, covering 20 million students, according to a China Education Daily report.
Also, the country has launched pilot programs of school football education in more than 130 county-level regions, the report said.
The report said the building of ranks of football teachers has been strengthened, with over 8,800 teachers and 6,800 headmasters receiving relevant training.
In 2018, a total of 25,000 people took part in national high school football league games, and 37,000 participated in national college league games, it said.
Messi and Bale benched for Copa Clasico at Camp Nou
BARCELONA: Lionel Messi and Gareth Bale were both left on the bench for the Copa del Rey semi-final between Barcelona and Real Madrid on Wednesday.
Messi had felt pain in his thigh during Barca’s draw against Valencia on Sunday and, despite training on Tuesday evening, was not deemed fit enough to start the first leg at the Camp Nou.
Bale is still regaining fitness too following three weeks out with a calf injury although the Welshman might have been more confident of making Madrid’s line-up, having faced Alaves in La Liga on Sunday.
It is the second consecutive Clasico in which Messi has not played from the start, after the Argentinian sat out Barcelona’s 5-1 thrashing of Madrid in October with a broken arm.
Malcom came into the attacking three alongside Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho while for Madrid, Lucas Vazquez was preferred to Bale, joining the in-form Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior up front.
Barca’s slip at home to Valencia ended their eight-match winning run in the league. Madrid have found some form in recent weeks by registering five consecutive victories in all competitions.
Body recovered from wreckage of plane carrying footballer Sala: UK investigator
CARDIFF CITY: A body has been recovered from the wreckage of the plane that was carrying Argentina-born professional soccer player Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) in Britain said late on Wednesday.
The agency did not disclose the identity of the body.
Sala, 28, had been en route from Nantes in western France on Jan. 21 to make his debut for Premier League team Cardiff City when the plane disappeared over the English Channel.
The wreckage was found on Sunday following a privately-funded underwater search. Two seat cushions were discovered on the French coast that likely belonged to the aircraft.
A body was visible inside when the wreckage was on the seabed near Guernsey, air accident investigators had said on Monday.
The body was “successfully recovered” but attempts to recover the aircraft wreckage were unsuccessful, the AAIB said in a statement on Wednesday. The overall operation was brought to an end due to “poor weather conditions,” the agency said.
Sala had agreed to join Welsh club Cardiff for a club-record fee of 15 million pounds ($19.63 million) from French Ligue 1 club Nantes. He and the pilot are believed to have died as the single-engined Piper Malibu aircraft crashed into the sea.
On Saturday at Cardiff’s home Premier League match against Bournemouth, the Cardiff players held up a T-shirt bearing the image of Sala, who never played a game for the club, after the team scored in the fifth minute.
Fans were handed daffodils as they entered the Cardiff City Stadium. In the 28th minute, a round of applause swelled around the stadium as fans sang Sala’s name.
On Jan. 30, Nantes payed tribute to their former player. Referee Frank Schneider stopped play in the Ligue 1 match against St Etienne for a minute of applause during which Nantes coach Vahid Halilhodzic was in tears.