The Magic Numbers


Since the World Cup finals in Chile 1962, no winning team has had an average age of more than 28. Brazil had a team with an average age of 30 years, 1 month – which was 17 months older on average than the next oldest squad.

Since then the average age of the winning squads has been: England in 1966 (27 years, 1 month); Brazil in 1970 (25 years, 2 months); Germany in 1974 (27 years, 3 months); Argentina in 1978 (26 years, 3 months); Italy in 1982 (27 years, 4 months); Argentina in 1986 (26 years, 10 months); Germany in 1990 (27 years, 9 months); Brazil in 1994 (27 years, 11 months); France in 1998 (27 years, 4 months); Brazil in 2002 (26 years, 9 months); and Italy in 2006 (28 years, 6 months).

In fact, the average age of every player taking part in the last World Cup finals in Germany was 27 years, five months, and it was on these grounds that Bafana Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira selected a squad with an average age of 24 years, three months for the African Nations Cup finals in Ghana. By 2010, the average age of Parreira’s team will be 27 – just about on par with recent World Cup-winning squads.

“Of course, when you pick a team it’s very important to take age into consideration,” says Parreira’s assistant, Pitso Mosimane.

“This is about preparing for the future and exhausting our resources. We don’t want to get into a situation in 2010 that when our ageing players are injured, we won’t have replacements because our youngsters are inexperienced. We need to prepare now and, come 2010, we will be more than ready. But this doesn’t mean that we are ruling out players who are 30 and older – we are just trying to create options for ourselves.”

In 2001, former Bafana coach Carlos Queiroz drew up a document titled ‘Hands on the present, eyes on the future’, which emphasised the importance of preparing a winning team which will have an average age of 27 by 2010. A few months later Queiroz was fired and the document was left in the old Safa offices, where it collected dust.

Three years later it was Stuart Baxter’s ‘Winning Team 2010’ plan which made waves, but had the same emphasis of getting a team with an average age of 26. Baxter also stressed that “players should have played at least 30 senior and 20 junior international matches”.

As with Queiroz, Baxter also left, meaning Parreira has to make up for lost time ahead of the 2010 World Cup.