Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Am I Watching The Match?

Some of my patients asked if I was gonna be watching the UEFA Champions League final tonight? Of course I will be. Have been spoilt for choice over what to watch recently, there's cycling (Giro'd Italia), French Open tennis all live in the evenings, and there's NBA in the mornings (although I haven't been able to watch much because of work of course). And of course tonight's dream final between Barcelona and Manchester United. Two of the most supported teams trying to win the most prestigious club competition at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

With all the attention on soccer the past few days, I happened also to come across an interesting British paper attempting to find key characteristics that distinguish between successful and less successful soccer players and teams (professional footballers from 1973-74 vs 2003-04).

The results are as follows, a significant increase in average height in present day players but no significant changes in body weight, body mass index or BMI and reciprocal ponderal index (RPI). RPI is the cube root of body weight divided by height to determine obesity.

Goalkeepers, central defenders and strikers were taller, heavier and older than players in wider positions. Midfielders and wider players were also found to have lower BMI and RPI than central players. Players from the more successful teams (top 6 in table) were also taller, more muscular and younger. This trend was even more obvious in the most recent season studied (2003-04).

Let's see if we can find any interesting matchups to see where the game will be won in tonight's game. With injuries and suspension affecting the Barcelona defense, 22-year-old Gerard Pique (1.91m, 85kg) will most likely be tasked with keeping 24-year-old Cristian Ronaldo (1.85m, 75kg) quiet. More incentive for Pique is the fact that he will be facing the team he used to play for and he will be out to prove Manchester United was wrong in letting him go.

At the other end it will be Lionel Messi (21 years, 1.70m, 67kg) versus Patrice Evra (28 years, 1.75m, 75kg). Evra will have his hands and legs full to keep Messi in check as Messi can turn the game in a flash if given too much freedom with his superb movement, tricks, pace and vision.

In central midfield Xavi Hernandez (29 years, 1.68m, 66kg) will have a key "head to head" confrontation with Michael Carrick (27 years, 1.83m, 70kg). The tall, athletic Carrick against a diminutive, dynamic Xavi will showcase a clash in styles. Carrick will have additional defensive duties as Darren Fletcher is suspended besides trying split the Barca defence with pinpoint passes or penetrating runs. Xavi's role mirrors that of Carrick as he is just as crucial in attack as defence for Barcelona.

Let the match begin.

Journal of Sports Science 2009 27(5): 419-426

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