A comparative assessment of elite level football: highlighting final third entries, 50:50 challenges and goalkeeper distributions
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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The purpose of the study was to examine performance variable differences between teams deemed ‘successful’ and ‘unsuccessful’ in matches (n=18) at the 2012 European Football Championships. The areas of performance were: final third entry, 50:50 challenges and goalkeeper distribution. These performance variables were further explored, looking at factors such as locations, types and outcomes. Through the use of StudioCode (Sportstec, Australia), a specific code window was created in order to capture events, post-event onto a timeline for later analysis. Percentage (%) error agreement was conducted to support the reliability of the study, alongside a pilot study. Operational definitions were included to diminish any uncertainty when coding events. With the use of a statistical window, independent and combined variable data was exported to Microsoft Excel and IBM SPSS 20 for further statistical analysis. Non-parametric Mann Whitney-U tests were conducted to compare the mean differences between the two independent mean samples: ‘Successful’ and ‘Unsuccessful’. Successful teams displayed dominance in the majority of the performance variables. In favour of successful teams, significant differences (p<0.05) were found for short goalkeeper releases, 50:50 challenges in the middle third zone of the pitch, positive final third outcomes, and 4-5 or 6 plus passing sequences in the final third. Successful teams also showed statistical differences (p<0.2) in six other performance variables in comparison to unsuccessful teams. Unsuccessful teams only recorded one significant (p<0.05) result in their favour, which was for long goalkeeper releases. The main findings of the study suggest that successful teams consist of individual players with superior skill level, and show great variability when attacking, whilst maintaining a defensive structure that remains compact. Results also suggest a differentiation in playing styles, with successful teams indicative of possession based and slow build-up strategy, whereas unsuccessful teams are considered to have a direct approach to cover as much distance per pass. Limitations arose in the study as teams of various rankings competed against each-other. Future research into these variables could define the sample into those teams in the knock-out stages as average rank will be lower, allowing for a truer reflection of performance.
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