It was a working day with a difference for a number of leading Turkish sports journalists when Spain played France at Ali Sami Yen Arena in Istanbul on Thursday evening. The reporters took their seats in the press box as usual, but on this occasion, they were invited by FIFA to watch the group stage encounter alongside members of the world governing body’s Technical Study Group (TSG).
The media representatives spent the full 90 minutes observing the specialists at work, exchanging opinions and asking a host of questions of TSG coordinator Tino Brantschen, match analyst Patrick Dippel, and experienced Turkish coach Muhsin Ertugral, a member of the TSG for the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2013 and currently head coach with South African top-flight outfit Ajax Cape Town.
“It was a really interesting opportunity for us to find out what the TSG really does," commented Ahmet Yavuz from monthly magazine FourFourTwo. Kadir Onur Dincer, a reporter for Milliyet, was equally impressed: “It's quite an experience to see for yourself just how much detail goes into the TSG analysis of a match, as they determine new tactical trends, for example."
The experienced writers and journalists were shown the software used during the game to enter a wide range of data, including tactical formations, positions taken up at dead ball situations, players’ choices of runs during build-up play, teamwork when not in possession, and transitions from defence to attack. The accumulated data assists the TSG in a meticulous post-match analysis and in making comparisons with other games. At the end of every FIFA World Cup, the group publishes a comprehensive technical report.
The TSG advised us [a diagonal pass] would be exactly the way to prise open the French defence. I have to say we were astounded when it actually happened shortly afterwards.
Erman Yasar of Eurosport found the experience fascinating, as he told FIFA.com after the final whistle: “The analyses produced by the TSG are very valuable, helping those involved to react and prepare for the latest developments in football. I was positively surprised at how intensively FIFA works on this aspect of the game. Normally, you wouldn't even know it's going on." And one magic moment caused a ripple of excitement for the media men: “About two minutes before Spain's second goal, which came about from a long semi-diagonal pass by the right-back to the centre forward position, the TSG advised us this would be exactly the way to prise open the French defence. I have to say we were astounded when it actually happened shortly afterwards," stated Dincer.
Ertugral, a big and successful name in African coaching with a number of trophies to his name, was equally enthusiastic about the unusual idea of monitoring a game together with journalists. “It was very enjoyable, and a great opportunity to show what the TSG does every day at World Cup tournaments," explained the 53-year-old. For his part, Brantschen declared himself satisfied: “It's been a successful event and totally worthwhile."
The reporters now return to their normal working routines, covering the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2013 through to the final in Istanbul on 13 July. The sports writers were unanimous when asked who they felt would win: “We think Spain have made the strongest impression so far and have a very good chance of being crowned champions," commented Yasar, “but who knows? If Turkey make the next round and improve with every match, they could also go a long way."