By David Butler
Although I'm not as familiar as I once was with the faces of the international footballers that lined out in Brazil I can still usually hazard a guess as to a player’s general position before kick-off. I'm sure every football fan is familiar with the sequence of a camera moving by a starting eleven as a country's national anthem rings out, during which we get a glimpse of a player’s stature, something which usually hints to a players position.
My hunch is that the variability in height is least within goalkeepers and then central defenders. Here, I collect the data on central defenders as I thought there would be 100+ World Cup observations.
In the 2014 World Cup finals 105 footballers played in the central defender role for some length of time. This was either part of a 2 or 3 player partnership depending on the formation adopted. Not all of these players are considered central defenders by trade and some would have a default position in central midfield or as full-back. At 198cm, the tallest centre half in the competition was Germany’s Per Mertesacker. He was the 5th tallest player in the competition (behind 4 goal keepers - Forster, Begovic, Fejzic and Courtois) and was the tallest outfield player.To put this height in perspective, at 198cm Mr Mertesacker shares a stature with sports stars such as Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Wladimir Klitschko and Juan Martín del Potro.
The average height of the 105 central defenders at the 2014 World Cup was 186.5cm (SD = 4.45), that’s just over 6’1. The smallest player at the competition was Edgar Salli (163cm) of Cameroon and with regard to central defenders, the 4 players that played in central defence for Chile are in the bottom 5 places for height.
On average the German (191.50cm), Belgian (191.33cm) and Croatian (190cm) central defensive partnerships came in as the tallest in the competition respectively. The Japanese and Chileans were the smallest. In fact, Chile were the only team at the competition to have an average central defesive partnership height that was under the 6 foot benchmark. 11 of the 13 European teams in the competition are in the top 14 also.
By the looks of the data, I would tentatively induce something that's not exactly shocking news - if your an aspiring Irish central defender your probably going to have to be very close to 6’1 on the lower bound to make it in the position at an international level...or else you may need to find a Chilean granny!
By David Butler
This website was jointly founded in July 2013 by David Butler, Robbie Butler, John Considine and Declan Jordan. All four founders are Lecturers in Economics at University College Cork, Ireland.