World Cup Final analysis and more on cycling performance limits
I have too little energy (and time) for a proper, in-depth post, but as promised, analysis from last night's World Cup final is now done, courtesy Zonal Marking.
It's another great analysis, from a site that has really increased my enjoyment of the tournament, and you can read it here. I wish that all sports would embrace this kind of analysis - can you imagine if the "experts" on television produced such clear and insightful thinking for rugby, football, tennis, cycling, and even athletics?
One or two thoughts on the analysis - I agree that Holland set out with spoiling tactics and wanted to physically disrupt Spain's creativity. Early on in the game, the flurry of fouls predicted that at some point, a red would be issued. It might well have been in the first half, with two horror challenges getting lenient treatment, but it could easily have been 11 against 10 as early as 35 minutes. Spain were involved too, and it's always an interesting dynamic how the entire game degenerates into petulance and over-aggression when one team starts out with that approach. That certainly seemed the case last night.
There has been much criticism of referee Howard Webb, but I feel that his performance was more a reflection of the players' performances rather than a controlling one. He could easily have shown red on two or three occasions before 90 minutes was played. And also, I have to point out, given that we've had so much debate on this site about the cheating and fouling in football - if that was Uruguay or Italy or another South American team, and not Holland, there'd have been an uproar, widespread condemnation for 'typical dirty play'. Spain weren't blameless, no, but for Holland last night, it was a poor showing.
The last 20 minutes of the match and extra-time finally told. Space appeared (which it always does - as we saw with our post on fatigue, players lose about 8 to 10% of their speed by the end, making it much more difficult to press and close space). Spain looked more likely to construct a goal, Holland remained dangerous on the break, but in the end, Spain wrestled control away and for the last 50 minutes of the match, were completely in control. All they lacked was incision and composure in front of goal. David Villa was poor for a second game - he is not suited to that lone central striker role and looked far more threatening when playing wide and coming in. If Spain had him out there and an in-form Torres, they'd have scored twice as many goals this tournament.
Lastly, as Zonal Marking points out, Spain have won the European Championships and the World Cup, playing seven knock-out matches and not conceding a single goal in those games. Attack wins matches, but defence wins tournaments.
Cycling - more on doping and performance limits
We've had some lively debate just recently regarding whether performances, and the physiological basis they require, can be used to flag (not prove, let me emphasize) doping.
And today, the New York Times ran a piece looking at much the same thing. You can read it here.
This is another example of what I consider very interesting, well applied science to the sport. I agree with Aldo Sassi around his limit to performance, I do agree that there is a grey area, and I believe that this grey area exists below 6.2 W/kg. Others disagree, I'm sure. Some have said this is "science at its worst". I couldn't disagree more strongly - it's science at its best, being applied in the pursuit of an answer. The very fact that it is debated makes it worthy of discussion, since there is no answer but a compelling reason to question.
People will always decide, of course, based on what they want to believe. We will see what happens in this year's Tour, but if the top 5 of this year's Tour are climbing at the same power outputs as the Top 30 from Tours in the early part of the century, then either cycling has a vacuum of talent, or we're seeing an indictment of the 2000s, and the cleaning up of the sport now. And physiological demands of the sport will highlight that change.