In Sunday’s World Cup final, a key match up will be between France’s Paul Pogba or Croatia’s Luka Modric, each team’s most brilliant midfielder. Pogba is 6 ft 3 (191 cm) and Modric is 5 ft 8 (172 cm).
The fact that these men of such different statures will compete against each other is perhaps the most wonderful thing about soccer. Unlike most other sports in the world, to play soccer, one need not be a particular size. The game’s greatest players, like Lionel Messi, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, run the gamut of tallness. This means soccer’s talent pool is particularly deep.
The chart below shows the World Health Organization’s height expectations for healthy grown males globally versus the heights of athletes in different sports competing at the 2012 Summer Olympics (collected by the Guardian). Soccer is easily the closest to “normal.”