New insight into playing patterns and injury trends at FIFA Women’s World Cup

FIFA has released new statistics that provide a detailed look at physical, tactical and technical aspects of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™, which can be compared with previous editions of the event.

The statistics are drawn from an analysis of injury data by FIFA’s Medical Assessment and Research Centre (F-MARC) as well as a study produced by Prozone Sports GmbH that compares Canada 2015 to Germany 2011 in terms of match analysis data. The results have to be viewed while keeping in mind a range of variables such as environmental influences, the technical and physical development of players, the increased number of teams (16 to 24) and matches (32 to 52) as well as the playing surfaces.

The collection of quantitative and qualitative data is a priority for FIFA after any of its tournaments in order to analyse trends and continually assess if any improvements can be made in the delivery of its events or programmes that provide support to the member associations. This was particularly the case with Canada 2015, given that it was the first FIFA Women’s World Cup™ to be played entirely on football turf. All six venues featured the FIFA RECOMMENDED 2 STAR Football Turf – the highest standard of turf developed specifically for professional football.

Prior to the tournament, FIFA engaged with the qualified teams to address the questions and concerns they raised about the playing surface. An open communication channel has remained, with some team representatives, including staff and players, invited to meet at the Home of FIFA in Zurich this week to exchange information about football turf.

FIFA believes that it has a responsibility to analyse the teams’ feedback and the findings from the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ in greater detail and to incorporate these aspects into future test requirements for football turf pitches. As a first step, FIFA met with industry representatives in October and a new testing manual for football turf pitches was presented.

Additional post-event surveys and studies, including a wide-ranging medical questionnaire, are currently being conducted by FIFA in order to gain a better understanding of the teams’ and players’ experiences.

Trend shows fall in injury rates
A trend has emerged from the F-MARC data that shows a slight decrease in the number of injuries per match over the past three FIFA Women’s World Cups. These results are based on information submitted by team doctors immediately after each match. Further information is available in the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ technical report (p. 95).

The average number of injuries per match at Canada 2015 was 2.12, compared with 2.27 in 2011 and 2.34 in 2007. The average number of time-loss injuries per match was 0.75 in 2015, compared with 1.1 in both 2011 and 2007. There was no difference in the average number of knee injuries per match from 2011 to 2015 (0.3), while there was a slight decrease in the average number of ankle injuries per match, from 0.34 in 2011 to 0.25 in 2015. Bruising injuries were at their highest rate in Canada compared to the previous FIFA Women’s World Cups.

Match analysis data 
The Prozone study provides match analysis data to help show playing patterns from the last two FIFA Women’s World Cups. For some areas, such as the average number of fouls per match, the ratio of successful passes in play and the number of passes into the final third, the difference between the results from 2011 and 2015 was minimal.

Meanwhile, there was a difference in the average number of duels per match (including tackles and aerial challenges), which increased from 155.5 in 2011 to 173.7 in 2015. The percentage of shots on target increased from 33.3% in 2011 to 39.9% in 2015, and the average number of goals per game increased from 2.69 in 2011 to 2.81 in 2015.

The average pass speed in 2015 (37.3km/h) was lower than in 2011 (44.4km/h). At the same time, the average number of short and mid-range passes per game were both higher: short passes (0-17m) increased from 211.5 to 231.7; mid-range passes (17-34m) increased from 101.5 to 110.1. The pace of passes played in the final third of the pitch differed marginally from 43.5km/h in 2011 compared to 42.7km/h in 2015. The total number of passes in play averaged 371.8 per game in 2015, an increase from 341.3 in 2011.

The full Prozone study is available via the link on the right side of the page.