This interesting article provides and analysis of the 2012 FIFA World Cup in relation to altitude effects on performance of the players.

ABSTRACT:

Laboratory studies show that altitude ascent impairs endurance performance. Limited data exist on football, and information from official matches are very scarce even for other team sports. The aim of this study was to examine the effect of altitude on football performance during the 2010 World Cup. It was hypothesized that: a) total distance covered, an index of endurance, would be reduced above the altitude of 580 m, and b) technical skills would be affected since altitude alters ball flight characteristics. Physical performance, goals scored and goal keepers’ errors that resulted in goals conceded were recorded from the official game statistics of FIFA during the South Africa 2010 World Cup. Matches were played at: sea level (altitude: 0 m), 660 m, 1200-1400 m and 1401-1753 m. After testing for data normality, mean differences were checked with a one-way ANOVA. Results show a 3.1% lower total distance was covered by the teams during the matches played at 1200-1400 m and 1401-1753 m (p< 0.05) compared to sea level. Indices of technical skills including number of goals scored per game and errors made by the goal keepers that resulted in goals conceded, did not differ with altitude. It is concluded that playing football above 1200 m had negative effects on endurance but not technical skills during World Cup 2010 matches. It seems that teams should follow several days of acclimatization before playing at altitude as low as 1200 m, to ameliorate the negative effects of altitude on physical performance.

Unfortunately you need to have access to read the full article but the abstract provides and interesting overview of findings. If you have similar articles please post the links in the comment box below.

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