Day: July 21, 2010

World Cup Technical Ecstasy

Now that you know what Martin Samuel and Alan Shearer think, you might not be interested in any more expert views on the recently-finished World Cup. But amid the small print on the “past World Cups” page of FIFA’s website is a link to a series of documents which provide a more fascinating insight into past tournaments than the title “Technical Study Group Report” suggests. These reports were first commissioned after the 1966 finals in England, when national team coaches from the 16 finalists were interviewed to gauge their views on competition preparation and tactics.  Ever since, the reports have provided fascinating insights into the thought processes of World Cup coaches and, increasingly down the years, insights into FIFA’s own priorities, good and bad (or bad and ugly, depending on your view). From a stand-alone 40-page document in 1966, the report trebled in size over the next two tournaments, not entirely due to the exponential improvement in the quality, scope and size of the photographs. Since 1974, however (and the date has significance), the Group’s reports have been subsumed into FIFA’s general tournament reports. These have covered not only the matches but security, media, sponsorship, money and more money. And genuine tactical analyses, as opposed to general overviews of the team’s performances, have become, like so many of the teams’ defences down the years, more “compact.”  The clearest trend...

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The Horlicks That Is The Current Offside Law

It’s a couple of months old now, but my attention was recently directed to *this article* by The Guardian’s Jonathan Wilson, eulogising the current offside law, or more to the point the current interpretation of it. Before I get down to the serious business of slagging it off let me acknowledge: it’s an interesting article, and most of Wilson’s historical analysis is probably fair. In particular, I agree with him on the benefit of the changes in the mid-90s when the interpretation of “interfering with play” was relaxed. These changes addressed that part of the issue to most peoples’ satisfaction, as well as stressing that benefit of the doubt should go to attackers, but still failed to relieve all the frustration that all football fans have with offside decisions much of the time. Wilson is right in noting that something further was required, but goes badly wrong in his analysis of what the actual problem was and thus ends up applauding a cackhanded solution.

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