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Soccer: Germany's Bierhoff welcomes real-time data for coaches at World Cup

(Reuters) - The first ever use of tablet computers delivering real-time player data to coaches during World Cup matches next month is a useful tool that will make teams more flexible, Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff said on Friday.

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World soccer’s governing body FIFA earlier this month approved the use of two statistic tablets for coaching staff and communicating data directly with the bench at next month’s tournament in Russia.

“I welcome the use of tablets for coaches at the World Cup,” Bierhoff told reporters at the world champions’ training camp in northern Italy.

“There are many more options available such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, things that are not necessarily well heard within football but will be part of the future.”

FIFA’s plan is that each team is offered two devices; one for a team analyst observing the match from the stands and another for the coaching team on the bench.

Cameras then track the positional data of players and the ball and the information can be shared between the analyst and the bench during the game.

“We will test it in the warmup games because we have to see how much information is useful and can actually be processed during a match,” Bierhoff added.

The introduction of tablets at the World Cup comes long after other sports, such as American football and rugby, have allowed the use of technology during coaching as well as direct communication between team officials and analysts in the stands.

Football has long resisted the introduction of technology in matches, such as video replays for referees or goal-line technology, and is only now gradually introducing video assistant referees.

Bierhoff said smaller teams could also benefit from data exchange at the World Cup as it now gave them more options to react during a game and coaches would gradually come to rely more on experts.

“I think the games may become a bit more flexible and a coach of a smaller team at the World Cup can now react based on the data,” the former striker said.

“It may also change roles. You expect a head coach to know everything from fitness to tactics and skills. Nowadays he is more a leader, a coach working with experts.”

The Germans are in World Cup Group F with Sweden, South Korea and Mexico.

Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Christian Radnedge