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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 June 2006, 23:47 GMT 00:47 UK
Australia's socceroos' technical edge
David Reid
By David Reid
Reporter, BBC Click

This is the first time in more than 30 years that Australia have qualified for the World Cup finals.

The socceroos
Will a computer programme improve the Socceroos' game?

Apart from generating a resurgence of football fever down-under, in a competition that can always throw up surprises some are saying the green and golds are the team to watch.

The Socceroos are benefiting from blossoming emerging talent, a new manager and, as with an increasing number of teams, they have not been shy to turn to technology to give them the edge.

Time was when a stop-watch and whistle was about as technological as football got. Now things have moved on a bit.

The Socceroos' technical coach, Ron Smith has to scout and size up the opposition, and he does it with some pretty advanced kit.

Computer analysis

Sportscode is software that allows coaches to analyse football video by breaking the play down into its component parts.

"Some people prefer to look at individual players, I actually code games to look at what the team does with the ball," explained Mr Smith.

Brett Emerton, Blackburn Rovers and Australia
In my time at Blackburn we've incorporated a lot of video technology into our training and into our games as well
Brett Emerton, Blackburn Rovers and Australia
"Where do they win it back? Where do they regain possession? How far do they progress with it?

"Because that sort of information gives you an indication of how effective your tactics are."

For this World Cup, Mr Smith's job is to analyse the recent games of the teams that Australia will play.

Each passage of play is logged according to who won possession and what they did with it.

A play-list allows you to take each part of your opponent's game, for example corners, and play them together.

"My function with the national team is to provide information to the coaches," he said.

"To be able to break a game down into pieces and to say if you want to quickly look at all of the possession that a team has, then you can.

"One thing that I found from looking at isolated parts of the game is that you can see patterns emerge very, very quickly, because it is happening more frequently than in watching a normal game over a 90 minute period."

Strategy

Although technology cannot replace the hard hours spent on the training pitch, it can make that time more effective, especially when it comes to strategy.

And for that all eyes are on Australian coach Guus Hiddink. The animated Dutchman takes the information gleaned from video analysis and puts it to practical effect.

Different coaches like different systems. With camera tracking, for example, it is now possible to study how much work players are putting in on the pitch.

"In my time at Blackburn we've incorporated a lot of video technology into our training and into our games as well," said Brett Emerton of Blackburn Rovers and Australia

"It is something I've found useful in recent years. The technology we use, we can look at different teams' fitness levels and the amount of passes they have in a game and the amount of crosses.

"So that's something we look at and that can tell you a lot about the way a team plays and their strengths, whether they like to play down the middle or out wide, so that's something we do look at a lot."

One of the reasons football has caught on internationally is that all you need to play it is a patch of ground and something that approximates to a ball.

Technology is unlikely to completely take over from traditional training, however it could give coaches some new and interesting angles on the beautiful game.



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