Spectacle or boredom, which World Cup to expect on the lawn? “The players arrive at their peak of form”

The particular character of this 2022 World Cup continues to make people talk. In the midst of controversy and debate, let’s now focus on the very essence of football: the pitch. Can the organization of a World Cup in the middle of the season allow for more open matches than usual? Frédéric Renotte, physical trainer at Sporting Charleroi, and Thibaud Leplat, author of numerous books on football, give their point of view on the level of play expected on the pitch.

Fireworks in the fall? The 2022 World Cup is struggling to enthuse the crowds, mainly because of the many controversies surrounding the organization of the tournament, but also because of the time of year. And yet, if the supporter is logically disappointed to experience a World Cup without taking advantage of the barbecues and terraces, the player has something to win from this great first. And the show on the ground could be affected.

Usually, the World Cup takes place in June, after a long season of up to fifty games. This year, the players will therefore have resumed competition only three months ago. “Physiologically, they are reaching their peak of form. November is a fateful period, especially with the European Cups, the players are optimally prepared. It’s the right time”, begins Frédéric Renotte, physical trainer at Sporting Charleroi.

“More intense matches”?

“Sportingly, this will not be the worst World Cup, he continues. I see more intense matches than during a World Cup in June. Nobody knows this situation, but I think the level will not be low. The players will have less in the legs, they will have undergone less stress. Emotionally, the batteries are flat at the end of the season and you have to recharge them quite quickly”.


The weak are no longer so weak, the strong are no longer so strong. This homogenization goes hand in hand with a certain boredom

Thibaud Leplat

For his part, Thibaud Leplat, journalist and philosophy teacher, “does not have the impression that the World Cup will be better or worse” than previous editions. “The fact that it’s in the middle of the season, at the beginning, we found that positive because the players arrive in better shape, but there is an avalanche of injuries because of the pace of the calendar. In the end, it will not change much”.

A uniform level

However, the author is reassured by the fact that the players move quickly between the club championship and the World Cup. “There is continuity with the season, there is an effect of mental freshness, we change the atmosphere, it can have a beneficial effect. There are players who arrive exhausted. They will have rest, but not too much, which allows them to keep a certain rhythm. It’s not good for a footballer to stop for a month, it’s better to play every three days. Usually, the World Cup is preparing for a month. This does not mean that we have a better quality of play. In Russia, it was particularly boring, especially in the first round,” he notes.

Thibaud Leplat observes a “level which is becoming more uniform” internationally. “The weak are no longer so weak, the strong are no longer so strong. This homogenization goes hand in hand with a certain boredom. When the forces are equal, either it creates a kind of dynamic that involves everyone, or everyone looks each other in the eye and tends to watch for the error of others. In my opinion, we are more on this second trend”, he fears.

Any surprises to expect?

Among the direct consequences, surprises are to be expected. “The small federations have qualified coaches, a globalized football, which is homogenized in the way of preparing matches. I’m not surprised to see a team like Canada with an English coach. (…) The small teams will have had time to prepare well for the first three games, unlike the big teams. It will bring surprises. They know very well what they are going to do”, continues Thibaud Leplat.


Climate change may have a role

Frederic Renotte

This World Cup will have this particularity: there will be (almost) no preparation before the competition for most selections. “However, they are used to having the players intermittently, there is less preparation, it is less obvious to constitute a tactic, but there will be an effect of surprise which could be beneficial”, analyzes Thibaud Leplat. “The traditional pre-World Cup training camp was used to calibrate everyone’s state, between those who have played a lot of matches and those who lack playing time. We are thinking of France in 2018. This year, apart from cohesion team, physiologically there is no need for an internship. They are at full speed in the championship,” adds Frédéric Renotte.

Getting acclimatized… when the World Cup has started

On the other hand, “climate change can have a role”, nuances the physical trainer. “The training camp preceding a normal World Cup allowed the players to get used to the climate. While here, players arriving a few days before the first match, the acclimatization time could be longer. Being in air-conditioned stadiums and hotels can also play a role,” he says.

Between this necessary period of adaptation, players returning from injuries, and the fact that the big nations generally gain strength during these major tournaments, we could see a rather calm start to the World Cup. “The only match we have the right to miss at a World Cup is the first. The first is both the most important and the least important”, recalls Thibaud Leplat. Then, two possibilities: either the level will gradually increase, or the fear of being eliminated will take over. Answer in a few days…

Marc Wilmots’ opinion: “Players are not fit, teams are not prepared”

“When the World Cup was awarded to Qatar, there was a debate about the heat in the summer. It was then decided to move the World Cup to November and December. Many people were convinced of the benefits of such a competition in the fall, because the players are not yet physically and mentally exhausted.

This reasoning was logical, except that the Nations League has been added in recent years, with new matches in an already overloaded schedule. Since Euro 2020, which was delayed for a year, the internationals have been playing roughly every three days and in between have hardly had any holidays.

Also, don’t forget that since August, players have played more games than usual in such a short time. The result is that many stars are missing, other players aren’t fully fit and teams start without significant preparation. How dare the international football authorities pretend to worry about the infernal pace imposed on the players?”, he wonders for HLN.

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