Friday, July 16, 2010

Distance Covered (Miles Per 90 Min)

I've always been interested in how much distance a player covers in the course of a match.  You can really tell how hard he's playing by how much he is willing to run.  Sometimes, when a player isn't scoring or his touch is off, he can still make a huge contribution by his work rate.  So, I was very interested to see FIFA's stats on distance covered.

FIFA only listed TOTAL distances run by players in the entire tournament.  This is not helpful.  A player who played 7 games, like Xavi, obviously covered more ground than say, Michael Bradley, who was eliminated in the 2nd round.  Average distances covered per game obviously makes more sense, but it is not an accurate measure either since some players played in OT, while others did not.

So, I am introducing my own measure of distance covered.  I converted FIFA's stats into my own stat: miles covered per 90 minute match.  There were two minimum requirements: at least 270 minutes played, and those 270 min had to be covered in 3 matches, which means full game starters only.  This way, 2nd half subs don't count as a full game played which would badly skew the results.  Also, minimum 3 matches is a fair measure since it is a full tournament for many teams.  I took total distance covered, divided by total minutes, then multiplied by 90.  It isn't perfect, since I didn't take the time to account for penalty time or stoppages in play for injury, etc. But, whatever.

These are the top 15 players who covered the most ground in miles, per 90 min match in the 2010 WC:

An Yong Hak (North Korea, 3 matches) 7.50
Michael Bradley (USA, 4 matches) 7.41
Gerardo Torrado (Mexico, 4 matches) 7.36
Jason Culina (Australia, 3 matches) 7.26
Sami Khedira (Germany, 7 matches) 7.23
Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany, 7 matches) 7.19
Christian Poulsen (Denmark, 3 matches) 7.14
Xabi Alonso (Spain, 7 matches) 7.05
Xavi Hernandez (Spain, 7 matches) 7.05
Raul Meireles (Portugal, 4 matches) 7.05
Marek Hamsek (Slovakia, 4 matches) 6.97
Landon Donovan (USA, 4 matches) 6.95
Carlos Salcido (Mexico, 4 matches) 6.93
Gokhan Inler (Switzerland, 3 matches) 6.89
Robert Koren (Slovenia, 3 matches) 6.88

Random Observations:

- I have even more respect for Michael Bradley after realizing that he runs more per game than anyone in the tournament, save 1.  The North Korean ran a ridiculous 7.5 miles per game but he did it out of fear (probably trying to avoid labor camps).  (Hopefully An didn't get publicly humiliated by that joke of a demi-god as much as the others).  Bradley ran because he wanted to.  It certainly paid off with that 80th minute goal vs Slovenia.

- Spanish midfield duo, Xavi and Alonso both ran 7.05 all 7 matches, proving that their victory was not just a result of superior technical skill, but desire as well.  The Dutch had zero players on this list.

- German midfield duo, Schweinsteiger and Khedira finished 5th and 6th overall.  Everyone knew Bastian was good, but Khedira parlayed his breakout tournament into a transfer to Real Madrid.

- Donovan finished 12th overall showing that superior fitness is also part of his arsenal.

- The two Mexicans on the list both finished 1 spot below an American ( Bradley over Torrado, Donovan over Salcido).

- 14 of the 15 players are midfielders.  The lone exception is Salcido, a fullback who essentially plays like a wing.

- 10 of the 15 players made it out of the group stage - harder workers make it farther, perhaps?

- Interestingly, none of the 15 players played exactly 5 matches.  Obviously, anyone who made it to the 6th game (semi final), also played a 7th (third place match).  (The teams eliminated in the quarters - the 5th game - were Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Ghana.)

- This list includes 1 Asian, 1 Australian, 4 North Americans and 9 Europeans.  No South Americans or Africans appear on the list.

- 4 countries had 2 players each - USA, Germany, Spain, Mexico.

- Did I mention that Michael Bradley finished #2 overall of all players in the entire World Cup?

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