How to guarantee a draw in football

In circumstances where a football team only needs to secure a draw, I’ve often thought about a scenario in which, immediately after the kick-off, the eleven players rush back to their own goal and arrange themselves on the plane of the goalmouth ready to defend the pounding that the opposing team will administer to them for the next 45 minutes. After a brief respite for oranges and to ice the bruising caused by the ball’s (and indeed balls’) battering, they’d be back out for 45 further minutes of the same.

I nervously aired this idea in the office the other day, given the impending such fixture that England faces against Croatia tomorrow. It turns out that a colleague had often shared these very thoughts. He probably hasn’t analysed it to the extend detailed below.

The goalmouth is 7.32m wide and 2.44m high. There would be seven players lined up on the goal line, each responsible for defending a goal width of 1.05 metres. With 42 inch waists, and assuming they’re rotund enough for their depth (fatness) to be equal to their width, then they would be 0.34cm wide, so they’d have to shuffle left and right to defend the ball from going through the gaps in between them. This wouldn’t be as difficult as it might sound, as with the ball being 70cm 22cm wide, the defenders (as this is what they would all be deemed) would only have to shuffle 18cm 41cm either way to close the gap sufficiently to prevent the ball from going through.

Ah, I hear you say, why doesn’t the opposition score by lifting the ball over the seven defenders’ heads? This is where the other four players come in. These four players would lie atop the heads of their seven colleagues, two on the left atop one another and two on the right, again atop one another.

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Like so.

Assuming their seven floor-standing colleagues were 1.85 metres tall (6’1"), then the four airborne players would only need to be 29cm wide, or 36" round to cover the area up to the cross-bar. All of Peter Crouch’s height, there would be a 3.3 metre gap between the heads of the left and right airborne players, which would be defended in each of three ways:

The alternative would be to place the goalkeeper in the middle of the seven, using his height and hands to defend that middle area.

So tomorrow, England will be playing in the 11 formation (as opposed to their regular 4-4-2) to secure the draw they need to qualify for Euro 2008. I’d be surprised if McLaren risked any other strategy.


3 Responses to “How to guarantee a draw in football”

  1. Niknej on November 20th, 2007 16:17

    Since when was the ball 70cm wide?

  2. Dan on November 20th, 2007 16:36

    Good point, well made, Niknej. I read 68–70cm and took this to be the diameter. It’s actually the circumference, making the ball 22cm across. The associated shuffling would need to increase to 41cm to accommodate my poor maths. Post corrected accordingly…

  3. DP on November 22nd, 2007 02:57

    Quite clearly, if McLaren had adopted the 11 formation last night with 20 minutes to go he would still be in a job today. He clearly lacked Dan’s tactical genius and visionary insight into today’s modern game – Dan for new England manager anyone? – anyone?… hello… anyone there??

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