Technical and Physical Match Performance of Teams in the 2018 FIFA World Cup: Effects of Two Different Playing Styles

Yi Q., Gómez M.A., Wang L., Huang G., Zhang H., Liu H.

In order to investigate the effect of playing styles on the match performance of football teams, data were analyzed on 18 technical performance-related variables and 8 physical performance-related variables from 59 matches in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. A k-means cluster analysis was conducted to classify all match observations into two clusters of tactical approach in order to identify the playing styles of teams (characterized as direct-play, possession-play, and mixed-play). Separate Poisson regression models were run in the generalized mixed linear modeling to examine the differences in technical and physical performance between teams classified as using different playing styles when facing different opponents.

Results showed that possession-play characterized teams achieved higher values in all the variables related to goal scoring, attacking, and passing (effect sizes: 0.32 ~ 1.27) and covered more distance in sprints and high-intensity running (effect sizes: 0.33 ~ 0.47) than direct-play characterized teams. Both possession- and direct-play characterized teams achieved higher values in passing, pass accuracy, and delivery into the attacking third playing against direct-play characterized teams than playing against possession-play characterized sides (effect sizes: 0.22 ~ 0.98).

These findings may provide insights into the establishment of performance profiles of teams with different tactical styles and the development of specific training drills to optimize playing style.

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