Lisa Fallon: Going to Arab Cup matches reveals different tactics but the passion remains

It’s interesting to see how countries develop their players and modernise their game

As the 90th minute approaches in the second semi-final of the Fifa Arab Cup, the score is Qatar 0, Algeria 1.

The Al Thumama Stadium in Doha is at full capacity of 42,000, with a significant portion of Algerian support in attendance, while the rest are very noisy locals. The atmosphere is electric. I know this because I am sitting among them.

What happens next ranks up alongside any game I have ever witnessed at close quarters.

Qatar have been camped around the Algerian box, sending in cross after cross to try to find Muntari, their tall centre-forward who is being marshalled brilliantly by the opposing Tahrat, a traditional, no-nonsense centre-back.


The Mexican wave has already done more than a few rounds of the bowl and, as the clock nears the 90-minute mark, the fourth official’s board goes up to signal nine minutes of additional time. There weren’t any prolonged stoppages for injuries; instead, the referee had been meticulously stopping his watch when he felt players were time-wasting.

The nine-minute board sparks huge protests from the Algerian bench, shock from the players and their equally astounded fans. Qatar cannot wait to get the ball back in play.

Algeria need to settle their minds and see out the game. Qatar must find a way to unlock a steadfast defence. Into the seventh minute of injury time, the goal comes from a great ball in from the right; there was a tussle at the front post, two players went down and Muntari climbed highest to direct a stunning header in off the post.


Mayhem ensues. The Qataris celebrate wildly, as the Algerian players make their case to the referee. The atmosphere is awesome as the referee presses the earpiece in his right ear before starting to jog over halfway.

"VAR check – possible red card", our screen informs us. You could not write it. It looked like there may have been a foul by the Qatari attacker in that tussle at the front post and a check was requested. No foul, the goal stood and again the eruption of noise from both sets of supporters – for polarised reasons – is deafening.

Game on – one minute to go.

But it took a few minutes to get the game going again. Algeria are feeling a huge sense of injustice so they need some convincing to tip off. The game restarts with some heated challenges but it looks as if both teams are content to go to extra time.

Everyone in the stadium awaits the whistle. Until the break is on for Algeria. They push up the pitch, with Yacine Brahimi getting to a through ball and driving into the box. Abdulaziz got caught wrong side, Brahimi went down, the whistle blows . . .

The referee points to the spot. Penalty to Algeria! The clock reads 90+17.

Belaïli steps up to take it. A great save by the goalkeeper, but the rebound falls kindly for Belaïli to side-foot a tap-in . . . goal. Algeria are 2-1 up, the full house is polarised again, the mix of emotions incredible to behold.

Wednesday was one of those moments that football is uniquely placed to create. Elation to despair to elation for one team. Despair to elation to despair for the other. It had been an enthralling game, tactically and technically, and boiling over with passion.

It sets up what should be a fascinating final between Algeria and Tunisia on Saturday in the Al Bayt Stadium.

New role

Attending some of the games at this competition, in my new role with Fifa, has been so interesting. It’s the first time I’ve really seen matches live on another continent between nations that I don’t normally get to see.

It was interesting to watch countries that are developing football-wise and are working towards modernising their game, developing their players and coaches, each one of those nations with their own unique challenges.

As part of Fifa’s new Training Centre website, huge work is being done to analyse each game technically, tactically and physically with the intention of breaking down current and future trends.

This information is being released globally on the Training Centre platform for managers and coaches to access in order to help develop the highest standards of the game across the world.

It’s an incredible resource that shows what happens in the games at the highest level, what trends emerge in the tournaments, and then breaks it all down by showing not only what is happening, but also how to coach it.

The level of analytics being used in this process is at a new level and will certainly shine a particular lens on aspects of the game that have never been forensically analysed before. Like, for example, how often players offer to receive the ball and how teams break lines.

The information will enhance coach and fan engagement across the world. The opportunity to work at this tournament was part of the remit for Fifa’s Technical Study Group to see how football in this region is developing technically, physically and tactically.

There have been some great games, with some incredible moments, but the passion that football brings out of all its stakeholders is such a constant, no matter where you go. Tomorrow’s final should be worth a watch.