Foul play in elite men's soccer
University of Wales Institute Cardiff
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Free kicks and set plays can have a major impact on the result of a soccer match, with this teams have become careful where and how they concede free kicks. There hasn’t been a lot of research into the area of fouling and the effect on possession. A hand notation system was designed and then used to analyse all the matches (N=31) of the European championships which were held in Portugal in 2004. Foul play was examined, this was categorised as bad tackle, hand ball, impediment, unsporting behaviour and obstruction. The consequences of fouling, where and when it happens were also recorded. Intra – operator reliability tests were applied to the system where one match was watched three times. The data was also tested using standard deviation and Chi Square to test for any significance (P<0.05). There were 1199 fouls during the championships with 794 (66%) having a positive reaction on possession and 405 (34%) resulting in the team losing the ball or territory; this showed that the team with the free kick had a good chance of receiving positive possession from the resulting free kick. Seven goals were scored from penalties as a result of a foul being committed in the penalty box and nine goals were scored from areas outside the box, this proved that fouling can have a detrimental influence on the result of a game when a team concedes a free kick on the edge of the area. It was also found that teams that were unsuccessful during the championships, had a higher average foul per game ratio. It was felt that this was due to successful nations applying pressure on their opponents effectively. Russia and Bulgaria averaged 21.3 fouls per game, while Latvia and Switzerland averaged 20.3. Greece, Portugal, and Czech Rep were successful during the tournament and averaged 18.2, 19.3 and 19.2 respectively. A fouling profile was created for each nation, which showed where and how many fouls were committed in certain areas of the pitch. It was found that most of the fouls were committed in midfield, where fouls seemed to be allowed by teams to occur. It was found that fouling was an influential part in a team’s success or failure.
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