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STATSports help Lionesses keep the rhythm to the final

England reached the final of Women’s Euro 2022 naming the same starting 11 for all 5 of their games so far.

Coach Sarina Wiegman named an unchanged side for all three group games despite securing top spot after the second, citing a desire to keep players in “rhythm”.

With the Spain quarter final clash coming nine days after the 8-0 win over Norway that clinched the group, the decision to keep players “topped up” was supported by Barry Watters, head of sport science at STATSports which provides GPS tracking devices to the England team.

Watters told the PA news agency: “When you come to a big tournament like this, they want to be prepared optimally to perform in all the games and then in between games, you’re using our equipment and data to help monitor the volume and intensity of training to prepare for the next game.

“Everyone always thinks about people doing too much but there’s also the point that they could do too little and be undercooked. There’s been some studies around that and players like playing games to get into that rhythm.

“In the build-up, the Lionesses had a number of warm-up games and probably rotated a lot more, obviously (Wiegman) was trying to see all players at that time and give everyone optimum minutes coming into the tournament.

“As they progress through the stages, they’re going to want to keep the players that they want topped up and be ready for the knock out games.”

STATSports has provided tracking devices to the FA for 10 years, across men’s and women’s teams from under-15 to senior level, with the data helping Gareth Southgate and the men’s side as they reached the final of last summer’s European Championship.

The continuing development of women’s football has seen more and more clubs and countries embrace the technology.

STATSports also works with clubs including Manchester City and Manchester United, where a combined 13 of Wiegman’s squad played last season, and America’s NWSL where full-back Rachel Daly plays for the Houston Dash.

Steph Houghton, the former England captain who narrowly missed out on Wiegman’s squad having recovered from injury, and United States star Megan Rapinoe are among footballers to have invested in the company while Northern Ireland, Portugal, Belgium and Switzerland are also using the technology at Euro 2022.

Watters said: “There’s a lot more data being gathered in the women’s game.

“There’s different challenges in the women’s game as well, in terms of injuries and what the game demands are, so it’s important that you’re not just looking at that flatly and comparing it against the men’s game.

“There’s been a lot more research done there now and this data’s helped progress the game – especially for the under-age players who are up and coming.”

Players’ menstrual cycles is one factor that has been discussed during this tournament and Watters added: “That’s a major thing that they have to take into consideration in terms of the training cycles and when they would ramp up, because it does have an effect on performance that doesn’t have to be dealt with in the men’s game.”

Statistics for distance covered by players at Euro 2022 shows one potential benefit of the technology – with Portugal having done the least running of any team, followed by fellow STATSports clients Northern Ireland and then England.

Watters said: “Distance is what’s usually put on TV and sometimes not contextualised as it should be.

“The FA as a whole, and the same with the Lionesses, are really focused on game pace – so more the intensity aspect than the volume.

“So when you are working, you do it at high intensity. When you’re not, you’re in position but you’re not necessarily just gathering distance for the sake of gathering distance.

“Playing style has a lot to do with it as well, how the team wants to play – if they’re playing a high press or if they’re going to sit back. Or if in general you’re the team in control, that means you’re probably running a little bit less than the team who’s trying to chase the ball down.”

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