Discipline + Defence + Red Shirts: A Winning Formula at the 2010 FIFA World Cup?

The 2010 FIFA World Cup web site has some fascinating information about Spain’s performance at the tournament. In this post I want to draw attention to Spain’s:

  • Discipline
  • Defence

as characteristics of a winning team. There is something about their kit I would like to share too.

I believe their discipline and defence were exceptional. What is important to note is that Spain started the tournament with a defeat to a lower FIFA ranked team.

As background information here are some details about the sixteen teams who appeared in the Knockout Stages of the tournament:

Country Games Goals

For

Goals

Against

Goal Difference Yellow

Cards

Second

Yellow

Red

Cards

Spain 7 8 2 +6 8 0 0
Netherlands 7 12 6 +6 21 1 1
Germany 7 16 5 +11 11 0 0
Uruguay 7 11 8 +3 9 0 1
Paraguay 5 3 2 +1 9 0 0
Brazil 5 9 4 +5 7 0 1
Argentina 5 10 6 +4 7 0 0
Ghana 5 5 4 +1 11 0 0
Portugal 4 7 1 +6 8 0 1
Slovakia 4 5 7 -2 11 0 0
England 4 3 5 -2 6 0 0
Korea 4 6 8 -2 6 0 0
Chile 4 3 5 -2 13 0 0
Mexico 4 4 5 -1 9 0 0
Japan 4 4 2 +2 7 0 0
USA 4 5 5 0 9 0 0

Discipline

Spain had a very small number of yellow cards given to them throughout the tournament. Five of their eight cards were in the Final. Compared to their opponents they had fewer yellow cards and conceded fewer fouls. They received no yellow cards in four of their games.  The game against the Netherlands was the first game of the tournament where Spain were given a yellow card in the first half of a game.

Opponent Fouls  Conceded
Spain Opponent
Switzerland 8 21
Honduras 9 19
Chile 13 21
Portugal 13 18
Paraguay 12 25
Germany 7 9
Netherlands 19 28

Here are the patterns of their games:

Game 1

Game 2

Game 3

Game 4

Game 5

Game 6

Game 7

Spain had an admirable discipline and defence record in the 2010 World Cup. After their first game defeat to Switzerland they conceded only one more goal (Chile in the qualifying group). Spain did not concede a goal in the Knockout Stages of the tournament.

Defence

Spain’s defence was more disciplined than their opponents throughout the tournament in terms of the fouls conceded and in limiting shots at goal. Their performance exemplified the suggestion that attacks win games, defences win championships. The final Group Game (Game 3) was the only occasion when an opponent equalled the number of shots Spain made.

Opponent

Shots

Spain

Opponent

Switzerland

24 8

Honduras

22 9

Chile

9 9

Portugal

19 9

Paraguay

16 9

Germany

13 5

Netherlands

18 13

Red Shirts

Spain is referred to as La Furia Roja. Martin Atrill and his colleagues reported in 2008 that:

Since 1947, English football teams wearing red shirts have been champions more often than expected on the basis of the proportion of clubs playing in red. To investigate whether this indicates an enhancement of long-term performance in red-wearing teams, we analysed the relative league positions of teams wearing different hues. Across all league divisions, red teams had the best home record, with significant differences in both percentage of maximum points achieved and mean position in the home league table. The effects were not due simply to a difference between teams playing in a colour and those playing in a predominantly white uniform, as the latter performed better than teams in yellow hues. No significant differences were found for performance in matches away from home, when teams commonly do not wear their “home” colours. A matched-pairs analysis of red and non-red wearing teams in eight English cities shows significantly better performance of red teams over a 55-year period. These effects on long-term success have consequences for colour selection in team sports, confirm that wearing red enhances performance in a variety of competitive contexts, and provide further impetus for studies of the mechanisms underlying these effects.

Spain played four of their games in the World Cup in red shirts and three in their away, blue, strip. They lost their first and only game of the tournament whilst wearing red shirts. They received the World Cup trophy in their red shirts despite playing the game in their blue shirts.

A Winning Team

The combination of discipline and defence marked Spain out as a distinctive team at this World Cup. In the semi-final against Germany no yellow cards were given to either team. Both teams in that game conceded fewer than ten free kicks each (Spain 7 and Germany 9). Spain’s defence was so effective that they did not concede a goal in the Knockout Stages of the tournament.

Photo Credit

Old and Wise

FIFA World Cup Final in Toronto

One thought on “Discipline + Defence + Red Shirts: A Winning Formula at the 2010 FIFA World Cup?”

  1. A most interesting comparison!

    I was a die hard fan for the Netherlands until De Jong’s boot landed a bit high on Alonso’s chest and he “earned” only a yellow card.

    A sharp blow to the chest like that can stop a heart, kill a person, and I felt the player was very wrong to do it (it appeared deliberate to me), and the referee a twit to give only a yellow card. It certainly went doiwnhill from there.

    Before the game, I became a hybrid “Netherlands fan for Spain”.

    This team, the Netherlands team, had a heros welcome home on the canals of Amsterdam, but they should have skulked in the shadows, pondering the basics of good sportsmanship. I hope the 2014 Netherlands team gets that part of the game right!

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