Will the World Cup be Decided by Travel?
But according to a report by Kitman Labs, entitled ‘The Impact of Sleep and Travel on Performance during the World Cup’, there won’t be a level playing field at this summer’s festival of football.
Russia spans 11 time zones and accounts for 1/10th of the world’s landmass. Games will be split between 12 venues, across 11 cities, and match schedules will force some teams to travel almost 10,000km and potentially over 14 hours during the group stage alone.
And it could be argued the likes of host nation Russia and two time World Cup winners Argentina will be in pole position based on their required travel.
Egypt’s hopes in the World Cup rest on PFA Player of the Year Mo Salah being fully fit after injuring his shoulder in the UEFA European Champions League final versus Real Madrid.
But his recovery will be hampered by the fact that Egypt will be on the move most.
The Egyptians will clock up nearly 10,000km (and an estimated 14 hours) in return journeys from their Grozny training base to fulfil their Group A fixtures – over SIX times further than Columbia, the nation with the shortest distance to travel (1,442km).
2014 finalists Brazil, the only non-European team to have won the World Cup in Europe, will clock up the eighth highest distance 7,424km while reigning champions Germany will travel 4,130km.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal (travelling 3,752km) and Antoine Griezmann’s France (travelling 4,282km) are facing drastically less time in transit and have the added bonus of competing on their home continent.
Gareth Southgate’s England will face one of the longest journey times. Based in Repino, the Three Lions will clock up a total of 6,556 km to face Tunisia in Volgograd, Panama in Nizhny Novgorod and Belgium in Kaliningrad.
According to Kitman Labs, the award-winning sports science technology company, teams required to travel further will be at a disadvantage as they will need to take extra measures to avoid underperforming, with research studies finding a direct correlation between sleep and travel and the impact on player recovery and performance.
Lack of or disturbed sleep, often a by-product of long journeys, evening games and fixture congestion, can affect the important post-match recovery process ’as well as reduce an individual’s mental capacity’.
Argentina Players Hampered by Home Return
Argentina have one of the shortest distance to travel with just 2,068km to cover during group games but they may have been disadvantaged before the tournament has even started.
A large proportion of Argentina’s players play in Europe but have had to travel to Buenos Aires for their training camp before returning back to Europe for the World Cup kick off.
Australia on the other hand have reduced their long travel pre tournament by hosting the training camp in Turkey since the end of May.
Still Hope for Long Travellers
But there is still hope for the worst-affected teams, according to Pierre Barrieu, a FIFA advisor and LA Galaxy’s Director of Sports Performance.
Competing in the third largest nation on earth, the Galaxy’s travel commitments are not too far removed from those faced at Russia 2018, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s team clocking up almost 48,000 miles during an MLS campaign.
LA Galaxy use Kitman Labs’ cutting-edge Athlete Optimization System™ to monitor players’ sleep quality, duration and general wellbeing after long journeys. Barrieu suggests understanding players’ individual data and taking appropriate measures will be key to keeping them fresh at the World Cup and lessening the advantage of countries with shorter distances to travel.
He also believes teams that arrive early for the tournament, and have the shortest travel distance to Russia, could also gain the upperhand as it will enable them to adjust to their new surroundings, altitudes, climates and time-zones properly before the matches begin.
“[When teams are travelling] the one thing coaches can control is altering training times and being flexible based on what [they] are monitoring from the players,” said Barrieu.
“The greatest challenge to sleep will come from the initial flight to Russia, and teams will want to have sufficient time on site to recover. That is why European teams may have an advantage.”
Kitman Labs’ Athlete Optimization System, named Performance Technology of the Year at the BT Sport Industry Awards 2018, provides the Galaxy’s staff with real-time risk updates on players during rough travel periods, notifying them automatically when a player is at risk of injury or underperformance.
Stephen Smith, Founder and CEO of Kitman Labs, said: “The flexible data collection tools use native mobile apps, making it easier to capture important information on athletes, even whilst teams are in transit.
“Not only can teams monitor this data in real-time, they can use it to make meaningful actions such as training interventions or treatment suggestions for the individual athlete, reducing the likelihood of injury risk.”
Kitman Labs works with sports clubs across the globe to help them understand data and make better decisions to optimise the health and performance of their athletes.
For further information and to read the full report : https://www.kitmanlabs.com/sleep-travel-world-cup/