Inside El Clásico
400 million watched, but only for 90 minutes. Even with the excessive coverage from the Spanish press, so much is lost in the build-up to one of the biggest spectacles in world football. With access a reporter could only dream of, FC Barcelona released a video of the scenes before and after the big match at the Camp Nou. The nerves, the fans, the hundreds of cameras, they’re all captured. Watch the full feature here. [Posted by Eric]
What do those statistics really mean, anyway?
"Within a single match a 92% pass accuracy stat looks great, but it needs context. As in: how many passes did the player attempt? Where on the pitch did the player attempt their passes? How was the opposition set up, and were they inferior? Superior? Equal? Perhaps a player’s pass completion rate was impressive because they weren’t properly marked, or because the opposition allowed them more space on a particular area of the pitch."
Pass completion percentages, possession statistics or conversion rates, it can be difficult to find game recaps that don’t make definitive statements that rely on one or many of the new soccer statistics that have been making the rounds lately. While analytics certainly adds a new dimension to the sport, and is sure to prove valuable for clubs and fans in judging performances in the future, in our current environment, it sometimes seems that amateur statisticians are creating new performance statistics without any sense of what those numbers actually mean in the first place.
Over at the Counter Attack blog, Richard Whittall recently posted a beginner’s guide for fans, bloggers and statisticians alike, to clarify a few of those nagging question. Be sure to have a look, because the analytics train doesn’t show any signs of slowing. [Posted by Maxi]
The FC Barcelona Island
Real Madrid may be building an actual island, but it can’t be better than the imagined land of FC Barcelona. Piqué welcomes you in. Puyol keeps you safe from danger. Iniesta paints murals by kicking a ball against a wall. And Neymar just goes around winking at people. Those football-loving billionaires in the Middle East must be tempted to make this a reality. Never mind the fact that Barcelona is already close to a paradise for fans and players. Watch the full spot here.
Italy: The team that was lost and then found
There was Leonardo Bonucci, sitting down on the ground, hands over his knees, wondering. It was his ball that didn’t go in, and only his. His teammates didn’t yell at him. No one really could. After Bonucci booted the ball into the sky from the penalty spot, where this semi-final of the Confederations Cup was decided, Jesus Navas scored the one that won the game for Spain.
Before Bonucci, 12 players came and scored their penalties, all taken well, low and high. It’s not the he cracked under the pressure – after all, Bonucci once punched a petty thief at gunpoint – but that he was the only one who wasn’t perfect. So his teammates tried to console the inconsolable. They gave him a hand and rubbed his head and tried to get him up. “But there are no words that can make a difference in these moments,” Giorgio Chiellini, a teammate and friend, told Rai Sport.
Andres Iniesta: “You learn fast that possesion is king. And that never changes.”
Many began their development on the streets or in a playground, a stage which would then take plenty of aspiring footballers to the next level, the 5-aside arena, where futsal is played. A style of football religiously practised throughout South America and Spain, where illustrious names such as Redondo, Ronaldinho and Iniesta mastered the art of this game that revolves around fast touches and controlling the ball in small confined areas. It became a key influence behind their technical abilities and the widely praised ‘tiki-taka’ performed by Iniesta on a weekly basis. And as he points out, possession is key.
To celebrate Iniesta’s style of play and the launch of the new mint green Elastico Finale II shoe, Nike took Iniesta back to his roots, to Fuentealbilla, his hometown and to his ground. Where a much younger talented kid mastered the game of futsal, before jumping into the Albacete youth set-up and then joining Barcelona at the age of 12.
Although the game changed from 5 men to 11 as Iniesta grew up, his style and ability hasn’t, they remain loyal to futsal, which clearly shaped him into the world class player he is today. This is my ground. [Posted by Dom]
The comeback / La remontada
The Copa del Rey was lost. Doubt was rising throughout Europe, but Barça showed us that nothing has changed. Before the match, Piqué said, “Any fan who doesn’t think we can turn it round against Milan should give his ticket for the game to someone who does.” The Camp Nou crowd supported their side all night long. This one was for Tito, and it was a performance for the ages.
Daydreaming with Iniesta
"I realised how much I admire Iniesta as a player and a person after reading Graham Hunter’s BARCA book. I love his style of play. He is the epitome of skill, but what hits home is his personality. The guy seems to be so humble and appreciative of his position in life. With him being so down to earth, I wanted to show him in an everyday situation while simultaneously reminding us that everything starts as a dream.” - Dan Leydon