Part I: France v Belgium - Part II: Time-Wasting Report Card
France defeated Belgium 1-0 in the first World Cup semifinal on Tuesday, withstanding a few late pushes from The Red Devils with the help of two non-calls outside the box – and a master class in wasting time.
I reviewed the final 26 minutes of the match (70:00 through stoppage time) – during which France's time-wasting seemed to be most pronounced – and tracked starts and stoppages, their causes, and which team controlled each restart. Those final 26 minutes featured only 11 minutes and 52 seconds of action.
You can see the details below. Keep in mind that FIFA considers certain stoppages like throw-ins and goal kicks to be "entirely natural," noting that a time allowance should be made only when delays are excessive. But at what point does "natural" for a goal kick or throw-in end and "unnatural" begin? FIFA separately instructs that injuries, substitutions, time-wasting, and celebrations should be factored into stoppage time.
French Goal Kicks (4) = 2 minutes and 12 seconds (71' on)
French Throw-Ins (3) = 1 minute and 1 second (71' on)
France took four goal kicks during the final 26 minutes and shaved 30 seconds, 30 seconds, 45 seconds, and 27 seconds off the clock. (The third coincided with a French substitution). Their three late-match throw-ins burned 23 seconds, 15 seconds, and 23 seconds. Altogether, 3 minutes and 13 seconds of the final 26 minutes were paused for goal kicks and throw-ins – about one-eighth of the game's home stretch.
French Injuries (3) = 4 minutes and 8 seconds (71' on)
Injuries to France's Samuel Umtiti in the 73rd minute and Blaise Matuidi in the 81st and 85th minutes cost the match 50 seconds, 125 seconds, and 73 seconds, respectively – good for 4 minutes and 8 seconds in all. (Belgium's Eden Hazard was also hurt in the 81st minute, but he was back on his feet in 48 seconds..)
When the whistle blew after Matuidi and Hazard's collision, the clock read 80:57. After play resumed, France milked a 45-second goal kick and substitute, Matuidi went down again, Belgium set up a long free kick, and France took another goal kick. The clock read 88:30. It was damn near the 90th minute, Over seven-and-a-half minutes had melted off the game clock. France and Belgium played for two of them.
French Free Kicks (5) = 3 minutes and 39 seconds (71' on)
Mbappé's Yellow = 31 seconds (92')
France's Corner = 37 seconds (96')
Les Bleus successfully squandered another 3 minutes and 39 seconds after five Belgian fouls (one of which led to a Belgian substitution); Kylian Mbappé took 31 seconds for his yellow-card inducing ball-bobbling antics in the 92nd minute; and France wasted 37 seconds before their 96th-minute corner. Six minutes of stoppage time were added. France and Belgium played for about two-and-a-half of them.
From the 71st minute on (26 minutes and 13 seconds of match time), France and Belgium were paused or delayed for 14 minutes and 21 seconds – 55% of what should have been the most exciting part of the semifinal. France was primarily responsible for 12 minutes and 8 seconds (85%) of that wasted time.
I'm not saying all of that time should have been added back (though FiveThirtyEight found that World Cup stoppage time has been about half as long as it should be, even when you allow for the "natural" slippage associated with throw-ins and goal kicks). I don't even think you can really blame France. The rules are the rules, after all. Everybody wastes time when they're winning. France just did it extremely well today.
But it does kinda feel like FIFA needs to do something more. Howbout if you're down for one or two minutes you have to be substituted? Wouldn't that make these dudes get up? Actual increased stoppage time? Quicker yellows for modest delays? A red for something overt? I'm an American who only obsessively watches every four years, so I hold little authority. But I would love to hear your thoughts ; )
Times presented represent best estimates based on analysis of Fox Sports TV coverage. Three moments are asterisked because the camera cut away from the field. Other reasonable analyses might arrive at slightly different time estimates. Data was compiled and analyzed by ELDORADO. All charts and graphs herein were created by ELDORADO.