Heads you win- Why have so many goals at Euro 2012 been headers?

Taken from the Daily Mirror

Euro 2012 has been embraced as an open and entertaining tournament with 69 goals scored in the opening 28 games, which means that if the remaining matches in the final stages of the competition produce at least 8 more goals then for the third tournament running, at least 77 goals will have been witnessed by football fans.

Those figures are an indication of how open most of the games have been, although England and Italy spoiled the party with a 0-0 draw, but the remarkable fact to take from the goal scoring figures is that 20 of the 69 goals scored have been headers, already 3 more than the previous record set in 2004.

In typically cautious style, Uefa’s technical team say that the sample size of matches is too small to draw any specific conclusions as to why there have been so many headed goals, Michel Platini on the other hand has been keen to credit the extra officials behind the goals as the reason. 

He reasons that with these additional referees there is less grappling and shirt pulling at corners and free-kicks due to the fear of being penalised, which leads to more opportunities to score.

He may well be right to a certain extent but you do also have to bear in mind that Platini is not keen on introducing goalline technology as he still favours the extra referees, so any opportunity to justify their existence will be taken by him.  

To most of us that saw the Ukraine “goal” against England that is  not a strong argument, that debate is for another day, but his observation about shirt pulling being stamped down on also does not sit very easily to the majority of fans watching the wrestling that goes on at every set piece.

Ukraine’s disallowed goal- Reopened the technology debate. (Taken from Total-Sports)

So whilst Platini’s explanation for more headed goals has some substance, it really only tells half the story. Half of the headed goals so far came from set plays so the other half have been scored as a result of a good delivery into the box being met by an equally good header. So is it the ball that is being used that has made the difference?

The ball being used is a Tango 12 and it is considered to be a much better ball than the Jabulani which received so much criticism at the last World Cup. The Jabulani bewildered and confused goalkeepers with its tendency to dip and bend but outfielders also struggled to control it. 

This meant that the standard of shooting and crossing was noticeably poor, so much so that there were in fact no goals scored throughout the whole tournament from direct free-kicks. The great man himself, Lionel Messi said he had no idea how the ball would behave, and that from a player who is sponsored by Adidas talking about a ball made by Adidas!

There was even a conspiracy theory suggested that the football authorities actually wanted a ball that behaved unpredictably in order to confound goalkeepers and produce more goals. That begs the question, why would you gather together the finest players in the world and give them a football to play with that they struggle to control or predict?

Where that choice of ball was a disaster, the use of the Tango 12 has seen players dance to a very different tune this time around, so with the right ball and extra match officials to reduce foul play there have been better deliveries into the box and more headed goals as result of less fouls committed.

From the evidence of this very enjoyable tournament the footballing authorities appear to have seen the error of their ways and helped to deliver a footballing feast and more goals as a reward for good crosses.

Written by Sam Harvey, football writer on behalf of Spin and Win.

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