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Advice is wide of mark.

DATA from the World Cup can help us shed light on a couple of interesting theories - whether a player should shoot from outside the area, and whether getting the ball wide and putting in crosses is an effective strategy.

The Jabulani ball could have influenced both sets of statistics. It is worth observing, however, that the proportion of goals scored from outside the area was higher in South Africa than it is normally in the Premier League.

At the World Cup, three per cent of attempts from outside the area produced a goal and 15 per cent of attempts from inside the area produced a goal.

Imagine that instead of shooting from outside the box a player tries to pass the ball to a colleague who is inside the box. The prospects of the team scoring are the prospects of getting the ball to someone inside the box multiplied by the prospects of that person then scoring.

If the percentage chance of getting the ball to a colleague inside the area is better than 20 per cent, the player outside the area would be best advised not to shoot - 20 per cent multiplied by 15 per cent is three per cent. We can say that a player should not shoot from outside the area if the possibility of getting the ball to a colleague inside the area is better than about one in five.

Television analysts often encourage a team to get the ball wide and put in crosses. However, defenders are told that if they cannot force an opponent back or sideways they should usher him wide. Somebody has got it wrong.

At the World Cup, 25 per cent of crosses reached a member of the attacking team. Assume that the recipient is always in the area and always manages an attempt on goal. The second part of the assumption, at least, is over-optimistic but, hey, let's be generous.

We have already learned that 15 per cent of attempts from within the area produce a goal. The chance of a team scoring from a cross is no better than 25 per cent multiplied by 15 per cent, which is less than four per cent.

Let's put this another way: on average, it takes more than 25 crosses - probably considerably more - to score a goal. And that sounds like a lot.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Aug 9, 2010
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