South America’s quartet of automatic qualifiers for this year's World Cup comprises three giants of the competition - plus Ecuador.
Brazil, who topped qualifying, are five-time winners of football’s most prestigious international tournament. Runners-up Argentina have lifted the coveted trophy twice, as have third-placed Uruguay. Ecuador’s strong form also aligns well with their longer-term goal of hosting the 2024 Copa America.
Ecuador are a smaller team than the aforementioned World Cup winners of South America, but they are on the improve in the recent history of the game. 2022 will be La Tricolor’s fourth finals appearance in the last 20 years. Outside of the past 20 years, Ecuador have never qualified for the World Cup Finals.
However, they have able to compete with the best when it comes to data and analysis. The man who led Ecuador through qualifying is the Argentine Gustavo Alfaro, a 59-year-old in his 17th job as a manager. By his side is compatriot Alejandro Manograsso, who has been his performance analyst since 2005, when the duo started working together at San Lorenzo in Buenos Aires.
The art of analysis has changed significantly during that time, as Manograsso explained.
“It (analysis) started out as a particular task for one person within the technical staff,” he said. “Today we could say that everyone who makes up the technical staff analyses and uses technology to drive decision-making, which is ultimately what we use it for.”
Hudl had been his trusted companion throughout.
“Hudl has been by my side all these years and honestly I am really really happy with all these innovations and everything it has contributed to my career,” he said.
“I have always considered Hudl and Sportscode to be my companions - actually my best companions - and it was always the leader for me in terms of of the part related to analysis.”
Like the discipline of analysis itself, Hudl had evolved hugely during Manograsso’s time working in professional football.
The introduction of telestration with Studio into the Hudl Pro Suite represented “the tool I was waiting for” and is “excellent in every aspect”, he said.
“There was always this question about the graphics part and about the missing part for doing the drawing,” Manograsso explained.
“The graphics part is essential within video analysis because it’s our way of talking, the way that we as analysts are able to talk to the coach or to the players and make them (the video clips) more interactive.
“Therefore it has really helped me and I’ve exploited it tremendously. So, honestly, congratulations to all of the developers with the implementation of Studio.”
This integration has improved his workflows significantly.
“The previous method for working was doing all of the analysis via Sportscode, then moving it over to Organizer,” he explained.
“Once the video finished, I exported it to another program for linear editing and made the cuts at the moments when I considered it necessary to add a graphics part.
“I would move it to another graphics editing program, add the situations, download it onto the desktop and then incorporate it again to iMovie.
“Once I had finished everything I would export the final video. In other words, it was a long work process!
“The incorporation of the video to Studio by means of direct importation from Organizer really speeds up the times - and that’s not even mentioning the range of features that Studio has for me to elaborate as best as possible.
“It has given an important boost in quality to my work. That makes this combination of Studio and Sportscode something that can solve things in a way that’s very, very fast. It’s an excellent solution.”
"The introduction of telestration with Studio into the Hudl Pro Suite represented “the tool I was waiting for”.Alejandro Manograsso - Analyst, Ecuador National Team.
The manager and players - who are closely involved in the analysis process now too - have been impressed as well.
“Gustavo thinks it is a very, very important tool for us today, helping with things such as the measurements on the field,” Manograsso said.
“Being able to note distances between players between lines helps with the follow-up with players. Gustavo has been rally surprised and very pleased with this.
“The players are also surprised when viewing these videos, since they’re so similar to what they see during analysis on TV. Having these tools available so that they can view them in analysis or during a technical chat has been a pleasant surprise for them and they have embraced it with open arms.”
The integration of the Wyscout API within the Pro Suite has been a powerful benefit too.
“This integration with the Wyscout API makes the identification of players much faster with the way you can insert text over each one of them and everything within a single frame and under one design,” Manograsso said.
“Having it inside of Sportscode and not having to do it maybe inside the Wyscout platform… because many times we work in planes, or on buses, and have no connection to the Internet.
“Before, maybe we would make some specific drawing, to talk about some point such as a stopped ball, and would have to give a name for each players at the start and end of that action. Having them inside Studio and being able to do it offline has aided us incredibly.”
Being able to integrate XML data and video is extremely powerful, saving time and adding extra depth to analysis.
“They’ve broadened the chance of visualising different actions that previously we had to create by hand with Sportscode and today have available in XML,” Manograsso explained.
“To be able to find those cuts helps us to do our job faster and in a more agile manner. Like we always say, we never have enough time, we’re always running after time, and all these innovations and differences and improvements when it comes to the XML have given us the possibility to seek those specific cuts that we often need as analysts or as technical staff.
“Between one game and the next we need to have that follow-up with each one of the players and these new XMLs have helped us to finish the cuts needed. The technical staff need to see specific actions from each one of the players and this has helped us greatly.
“These days we are more focused on player follow-up. We download more things that have to do with a player’s specific XMLs and individual actions.”
Having all of these tools together in one place is enabling Ecuador to compete with countries with much richer histories and resources when it comes to analysis. And they are going to need all these advantages, because a crucial couple of years are coming up.
At the turn of the year comes the Qatar World Cup, of course. Ecuador confirmed their qualification with a game to go back in March and there were raucous scenes when they faced Argentina in their final game, drawing 1-1 in Guayaquil.
Then, in 2024, they host the Copa America, aiming to better their best previous best finish of fourth, achieved in both 1959 and 1993. Manograsso hopes to be there throughout, with his ‘best companion’ Hudl.
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