A comparison of successful teams’ strategies between the group stages and final stages of the FIFA World Cup 2014
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Most previous research considering situational variables within the field of football has only investigated the effects of score line, opposition quality and match location; therefore failing to consider situational variables such as tournament stage (Mackenzie and Cushion, 2013). Subsequently, the aim of the current study was to analyse playing styles of successful teams between the group stages and knockout stages at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Ten matches from the group stages and ten matches from the knockout stages were selected and analysed post-event using the computerised software Studiocode (Sportstec, Australia). Mann-Whitney U tests revealed three significant differences (p<0.05) of value to the study between the stages. The group stages produced greater average total goals scored (groups = 2.7, knockouts = 1.8), more average possessions finished in the defensive third (groups = 3.1%, knockouts = 1.2%), and the first attacking action ‘attacking intent’ was significantly lower in the groups than the knockouts (groups = 36.4%, knockouts = 44%), particularly following possession origin in the midfield third (groups = 37.7%, knockouts = 43.8%). Another valued finding from the study, although not statistically supported was that the most common method of attack altered from the groups being build up play to a direct method of attack in the knockouts. No other significant differences were observed between the two stages (p>0.05), but nonetheless the findings emphasize that variance in playing style is observed. It therefore implies the need for notational analysts and coaches to consider the potential influences that tournament stage has when assessing the strategic components of football performance. Future research should further the current studies investigation and consider the independent and interactive effects of additional situation variables such as opposition quality and score line on strategic performance across tournament stages.
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