The 2022 FIFA World Cup is set to take place in Qatar and is quickly approaching. The eagerly awaited event will mark the first World Cup tournament to be played in the Arab world.
While the World Cup traditionally happens in June and July, the 2022 Qatar World Cup tournament will be held in the winter months of November and December. The 2022 World Cup also marks the last time the tournament will have 32 teams facing off against each other. Starting with the 2026 World Cup tournament, which will take place in the USA, Mexico and Canada, FIFA will expand this number to 48 teams.
In the spirit of this uniqueness, here is an insight into how soccer teams prepare for the World Cup.
Recovery Post Club Season
The World Cup is among the most physically demanding events in the soccer world. Sports analysts and researchers say that the game speed increased by 15% between 1966 and 2010. The ball passing rate increased by a whopping 35% within the same period.
For soccer fans, this increased intensity is what makes the tournament so magical. But for individual players, the energy level required to remain competitive dramatically increases the risk of injuries resulting from high-risk collisions.
For this reason, players need to be in tip-top shape both physically and mentally. Since most elite players are just coming from a long club season, the journey to mental and physical preparation often starts with a recovery period, albeit a short one sometimes.
On the same note, trainers assess players joining the national team after playing or training away to detect issues that may not be easily visible.
Maintaining Endurance Capacity
While the players must recover fully, it’s critical for them to maintain their endurance capacity, too. This is necessary to ensure that they cope with the intense rebuilding period that follows.
Usually, the routine varies between athletes depending on what they have been up to in the recent months or weeks. Some will undergo intense soccer workouts to boost players’ stamina and ensure they are in top-notch condition. But these activities are less intense for an athlete who has just returned from the home team’s training.
This period often starts five weeks before the start of the tournament. But it may start later, depending on when other major leagues end. The 2018 UEFA Champions League ended on 26th May, barely three weeks before Russia’s 2018 FIFA World Cup kicked off.
The rebuilding period mainly involves a series of high-intensity aerobic exercises meant to boost the players’ agility, flexibility, strength and power. These training sessions also include anaerobic training. The latter plays a critical role in improving overall performance by reducing mental and physical fatigue and speeding up recovery.
During the rebuilding period, trainers and coaches employ high-tech equipment to keep a close eye on the players. This may include using GPS to track their movement during training sessions while monitoring their heart rate and changes in acceleration speed. The aim is to train the athletes at a high level while lowering the risk of sports injuries as much as possible.
Individual Player and Team Training
During the final preparatory paces, training is catered to individual players and the team as a whole. Teams usually have three categories of players; those who are guaranteed match time in all games, players who play cameo roles and others who are not guaranteed to play.
Regardless of their categories, trainers keep tabs on the players to ensure that they are match-fit and ready for action whenever required.
Weeks before the World Cup tournament starts, each player is assessed for game-readiness and put through the final paces according to his needs. Athletes expected to play regularly may have reduced fitness training, although frequent aerobic exercises are still necessary. Other players undergo an intense training load to prevent partial detraining and maintain their training adaptations.
Developing Tournament Objective
Another key aspect that trainers consider is the format of the tournament. Unlike in pre-season tournaments where the aim is to prepare the players for the upcoming season, the main objective in a WC is to line up the most in-form players for every match. The only exception is when the team has already qualified for the next round and has just one more game to go.
In this case, the trainer may choose to have his fringe players replace potential starters. Besides allowing all players to shine, fielding fringe players also prepares them for future matches if needed.
Creating Team Spirit and Unity
Any successful team in the world cup requires talented players. But a good team spirit is even more critical. Although team spirit can be a challenge to create in modern soccer, it remains a crucial part of a team’s path to victory.
Team spirit in soccer exhibits enthusiasm, trust, ambition and motivation. The first, enthusiasm, involves funneling individual spirits into a common desire to win as a team. This is important for conquering personal differences and bridging the entire team together.
On the other hand, trust is all about depending on each athlete’s strength and that of the entire team. Where there’s trust, players stop playing solely and start facing opponents as a whole team.
Prepping from One Match to the Other
Preparations for the World Cup don’t stop at the start of the tournament. The team needs to be at 100% from the first to the last game. The intense actions during the match and the travel between the hotel and the stadium take a toll. With only two to three days of rest between matches, trainers have to ensure optimum recovery and continuous prepping from one game to the other.
After each match, the athletes do a short run followed by stretching. Stretching after training is an age-old strategy of reducing the risk of injury in the next training session or game. Next, each player is assessed individually for any injuries.
Back at the hotel, most trainers recommend having meals together as a team. They also ensure that all players get enough sleep. The day after the match is meant for resting. Breakfast is followed by light exercises, including stretching and jogging. A regimen of warm- and cold-water baths at an aqua gym along with massages may also be prescribed to enhance muscle recovery.
After recovery, it’s time to start focusing on the next match. This often begins with a video analysis of the previous match and games of the next opponent to develop strategies.