Saturday 26 November 2022, 18:00

FIFA TSG provides its first analysis of Qatar 2022

  • FIFA TSG reviewed team performances after first phase of Qatar 2022 group games

  • Three trends emerged after first sixteen matches

  • Faryd Mondragón, Sunday Oliseh and Alberto Zaccheroni shared their analysis

At the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, FIFA’s Technical Study Group (TSG) will provide cutting-edge analysis of all 64 matches. FIFA's Director of Global Football Development Arsène Wenger not only has a more comprehensive set of tools at his disposal than in previous tournaments, he also has a team of world football experts alongside him.

Alberto Zaccheroni, Sunday Oliseh, Faryd Mondragón and Chris Loxston, Head of FIFA's Performance and Trend Analysis Group presented the first trends of the tournament at a media briefing today in Doha. With all 32 teams having completed their first group stage game, the use of long balls to avoid high pressure; counter-pressing with multiple players, and an increase in the number of goals from crosses were among the topics discussed. On the first theme, Mondragón emphasised the importance of the goalkeeper, with teams trying to win the ball back as high up the field as possible. "The goalkeeper has to know how to keep the ball away, to avoid all risks," said the former Colombia goalkeeper, who played in three FIFA World Cups. "If you have good players, you can immediately launch a counter-attack.

"With this trend, we've seen that the goalkeeper is often involved in starting moves, even if we shouldn't forget his main function is to prevent goals. But there is a difference between involving the goalkeeper in building from the back and asking him to initiate play in a situation where the team is facing high pressure. In this case, long balls are necessary. It is up to the goalkeeper to interpret the situation and decide when to play long, or when to build from his defence."

Prior to the tournament, speaking on the FIFA Training Centre Podcast, high pressing was identified as a modern global trend in football. Alberto Zaccheroni is well placed to judge this tactical development, as a Coach who regularly asked his players to apply intense pressing on their opponents.

"The big advantage of getting the ball high up the pitch is that you then have a shorter route to goal," the Italian coach explained, citing Switzerland's goal against Cameroon as an example. "When you are in a defensive phase, you already have to anticipate the offensive phase when you recover. When you are in the attacking phase, you have to plan the next defensive phase when the ball is lost."

FIFA Technical Study Group members Alberto Zaccheroni of Italy (L) and Sunday Oliseh of Nigeria

Sunday Oliseh's club career took in Juventus, Ajax Amsterdam, and Borussia Dortmund among others. At international level he represented Nigeria over 50 times. "We've seen teams that press high, but also other teams that accept pressure, with defensive tactics that allow them to counter it" he said. "What we’ve observed in the first sixteen games, is that the teams that spend more time counter-pressing have a lower ball recovery time. So, the more they counter-press, the quicker they get the ball back, What the data is showing us at the moment, is teams are counter-pressing more. They win the ball back quicker but they’re also having more chances at goal" explained Loxston. "Counter-pressing is very important, even more so today" added Zaccheroni. "While being very taxing, today there are five possible substitutions. So this is a tactic which can be used for the whole 90 minutes. With three substitutions, this wasn’t possible. Today, you can do it continuously, because five changes is half a team. So, this raises the level of quality of the performance."

FIFA Technical Study Group members Alberto Zaccheroni of Italy, Sunday Oliseh of Nigeria and Faryd Mondragon of Colombia

A final data point presented to the media revealed another trend identified by the TSG. In the first sixteen matches of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, fourteen crosses led to goals, whilst 56 crosses led to attempts on goal. In comparison, after the same number of matches at Russia 2018, only three crosses led to goals, with 35 crosses resulting in a shot on target. Using Enner Valencia's goal for Ecuador against Qatar in the tournament opener, Sunday Oliseh enthused: "This is a great example of it. He plays the ball back in and the cross is going to be whipped in...he whips it in towards the second post. In my opinion, [he does] that to avoid the congested middle and [as a result] they got that result (a goal)." "If the cross is perfect, there's not much a goalkeeper can do," Mondragón, confirmed. "It's the quality of the cross that determines whether or not the ‘keeper must come out to intercept the ball. In the case of a perfect cross, it's better to remain on your line and try to react."

Qatar v Ecuador: Group A - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022