Thursday, April 2, 2009

World Cup 2010 Qualifying

The WC2010 qualifying rounds came and went by. I was looking at the various results trying to find the stand-out ones. I thought there wasn't any (though Belgium-Bosnia was very close to being the one), and then there it was.....Bolivia 6 Argentina 1. Totally unimaginable!
Playing at high altitude clearly has advantages.
Eurosport has this report...
Oxford University researcher Patrick McSharry trawled through the scores of 1,460 international matches played at different altitudes in 10 countries in South America spanning more than a century. Altitude difference had a major impact on performance, McSharry found. Teams that were used to playing at altitude scored more and conceded fewer goals as the height progressively increased.
Each additional 1,000 metres (3,250 feet) increased the goal difference by half a goal. McSharry found that in the case of two teams from the same altitude, the probability of the home side winning averages 53 percent. But this rose to an astonishing 82 percent for an altitude difference of 3,695 metres (12,008 feet). But it fell to just 21 percent when the altitude difference was minus 3,695 metres (minus 12,000 feet). Coaches can help their side by factoring in a player's individual susceptibility to altitude sickness when making their selection, says McSharry.

Without a doubt, coach Maradona did not think about altitude sickness and acclimatisation before the game. How else do you explain the fact that the Argentines arrive two hours before kick-off???

I searched further for more proof that Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador (all minnows!) fared better when playing at home.
Bolivia won 3 out of 6 at home but none away. Both Peru and Ecuador have only lost once at high altitude. All three teams have scored about four times more goals at home than away. Bolivia has beaten Paraguay and Argentina, two powerhouses of South American football. Ecuador has drawn with Paraguay and Brazil. Similarly Peru has drawn with Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. Clearly this altitude factor is a formidable advantage.
And to think FIFA wants to take this advantage away. I think that this natural Earthly advantage only serves to make South American qualifiers extra interesting. Besides, what's stopping the visiting team from acclimatising 3 days before a match?

Elsewhere, David Beckham came on as a sub to collect his 110th cap as England overcame the Ukraine 2-1. The family was there to watch him contribute to goal no. 2.
image from eurosport

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