Experience at the World Cup

5 Jun

It’s an oft-used cliché that experience is necessary in order to win the greatest football competition in the world. In fact, only the other day I saw Steve Hodge being interviewed on Sky Sports News talking about this very subject. I think he was trying to tout his Maradona ’86 World Cup shirt again but was nonetheless happy enough to offer his wisdom to Sky Sports’ rolling news feed. He made the point that the sides who won the World Cup normally had an average age of around 28/29. He’s got a point, the average age of the World Cup winning Italian squad of four years ago was 28 years and 8 months.

After hearing Hodge’s sage words I felt it worthwhile to take a look at the age of the squads taking part in South Africa and it is Brazil who possess the eldest squad with an average of around 29 years and 2 months. England are close behind the Brazilians with an average of 28 years and 10 months. Whether this is a good thing or not is left to the discretion of the reader, Twinty Tin is not in the business of telling the learned reader what to think. The table below shows the countries sorted by their squad’s average age – I’ve thrown in average number of caps as well as a bonus. All figures shown here use the squads as they were earlier today. After all, this humble website cannot be held responsible for Ivorians breaking their elbows or lumbering centre forwards crocking their team-mates..

Country Av. Age Av. Caps
Brazil 29.16 37.13
Australia 28.99 32.17
England 28.93 35.65
Paraguay 28.74 33.48
Italy 28.73 34.83
Honduras 28.47 44.96
Denmark 28.30 35.09
Japan 28.25 47.74
Portugal 28.16 28.48
Greece 28.13 29.30
Netherlands 28.10 35.87
France 28.05 30.22
New Zealand 27.87 20.91
Argentina 27.62 23.48
South Korea 27.58 44.70
Mexico 27.57 43.48
South Africaa 27.31 30.52
USA 27.27 33.43
Slovenia 27.19 21.83
Switzerland 27.15 25.87
Uruguay 27.13 22.30
Ivory Coast 27.07 33.39
Algeria 26.75 20.04
Slovakia 26.53 22.74
Serbia 26.43 22.09
Chile 26.36 24.65
Spain 26.35 37.57
Nigeria 26.34 26.91
Cameroon 25.59 29.61
North Korea 25.38 23.74
Germany 25.35 25.17
Ghana 24.69 24.04
     

In my view there are a few notable things in the above table. Firstly, the west-African nations Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria seem to feature a remarkable amount of younger players. Is this evidence of birth certificate tampering perhaps? Or is it merely a strong belief in their younger players? Again, Twinty Tin would certainly never tell you what to think or how to interpret this information. Secondly, the position of Germany as one of the youngest World Cup squads in South Africa is interesting. The German youth sides have performed very well of late and are current UEFA U21 Champions, so it’s perhaps no surprise to see them with such a young squad but when I think of Germany I always picture grizzled, experienced veterans forged in the heat of knockout competition battle rather than green, inexperienced youths thrown into the lion’s den of World Cup competition.

For the record the average age of a player at this World Cup is around 27 years old, and the average cap haul is around 30. This makes Danish midfielder Thomas Kahlenberg the most average player at this year’s tournament, the 27-year-old gained his 31st cap against Australia this week. At this point it’s perhaps useful to compare the ages of the squads for the 2006 World Cup with the 2010 edition. So here’s a table illustrating the change in average age of some of the “top” World Cup sides.

Country 2010 2006 Diff Age
England 28.93 25.78 3.15
Netherlands 28.10 27.00 1.11
Argentina 27.62 26.59 1.03
Brazil 29.16 28.75 0.41
Spain 26.35 26.16 0.19
Italy 28.73 28.72 0.02
France 28.05 29.14 -1.09
Germany 25.35 26.84 -1.49
       

As you can see the England squad has aged markedly more than most other nations. Whether this means that the Golden Generation have grown up together over the last four years gaining experience together ready for a final crack at winning football’s greatest prize or whether it’s an ageing group of players on the wane remains to be seen. It won’t be long before we find out…

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One Response to “Experience at the World Cup”

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  1. Twinty Tin this summer « Mirko Bolesan - June 6, 2010

    […] Experience at the World Cup […]

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