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Research proves World Cup quality footballers are on the ball

With the World Cup in full swing, it helps to explain how some international stars appear to be able to read the game better than others.

By working with the Football Association and professional players, Brunel researchers have discovered that top international sportsmen can anticipate an opponent’s actions as much as 80 milliseconds before they move.

It’s not down to chance. The top players can do it 70% of the time – while less able rivals only have an anticipation success rate of 52%.

Brunel’s Professor Mark Williams, who is behind the Anticipation Training research, said: “The smallest margins can make the difference between winning and losing. As a result of extensive training and experience on the pitch, the top players have developed high-refined perceptual and cognitive skills that enable them to anticipate exactly what an opponent will do ahead of the act itself.”

Prof Williams said the research explains how international goalkeepers such as England’s Joe Hart can anticipate where a penalty taker will place the ball before he completes his run-up.

Gillette has been working with Prof Williams to highlight the importance of precision in delivering the best results on the pitch. Prof Williams said the research explains how international goalkeepers such as England’s Joe Hart, an ambassador for Gillette, can anticipate where a penalty taker will place the ball before he completes his run-up.

Skilled goalkeepers spent more time fixating the face of the penalty taker and, milliseconds before the foot kicks the ball, it is these top keepers who fixate on the kicking leg, non-kicking leg and ball, whereas the less skilled focus on less important information.

Prof Williams added: “Joe’s visual system is finely attuned to picking up information from the bodily movements of an opponent as well as the penalty taker’s preferred tendencies for kick placement.

“This research shows that those players who practice their art and train hardest have the best chance of success.”