Skill-related performance in soccer: a systematic review

Open access


The aim of the study was to evaluate and organize systematically the available literature on skill-related performance in young and adult male soccer players in an attempt to identify the most common topics, ascertain the weaknesses, and elucidate the main contributions of the scientific papers on this issue. A systematic review of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) Web of Knowledge database was performed in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. The keywords ‘football’ and ‘soccer’ were used, each associated with the following terms: ‘technical analysis,’ ‘technical performance,’ ‘technical activity,’ ‘technical skill,’ ‘technical demands,’ ‘technical profiles,’ ‘technical characteristics,’ ‘technical actions,’ ‘technical scores,’ ‘technical ability,’ ‘motor skills,’ and ‘skill acquisition’. From the 2830 papers, only 60 were reviewed, of which 75% had been published in years 2011-2015 and 53.3% concerned professional or seniors players (above the U-20 category). Out of the 41 papers that analysed the skill-related performance in the match, 48.8% evaluated the performance in small-sided and conditioned games. Among the 27 papers that used validated instruments, 88.9% assessed technical actions outside the match context (e.g. dribbling, shooting tests). Future research should pay attention to the definition and classification of the skill-related variables under investigation in match context and propose tests for measured skill-related performance in soccer, considering that the representativeness task design allies the players’ possibilities of action to the situation of the match.

1. Carling C, Williams AM, Reilly T. Handbook of soccer match analysis: a systematic approach to improving performance. Abingdon: Routledge; 2005.

2. Brunswik E. Perception and the representative design of psychological experiments, 2nd ed. Berkeley: University of California Press; 1956.

3. Travassos B, Araújo D, Davids K, Vilar L, Esteves PT, Correia V. Informational constraints shape emergent functional behaviors during performance of interceptive actions in team sports. Psychol Sport Exerc. 2012; 13(2):216-223; doi:

4. Gibson JJ. The ecological approach to visual perception. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates; 1979.

5. Oliveira JG, Graça A, Seabra A, Garganta J. Validation of a system for assessing the functional asymmetry of the lower limbs in football (SAFALL-FOOT) [in Portuguese]. RPCD. 2012;12(3):77-97; doi:

6. Mesquita I, Marques A, Maia J. Relationship between efficiency and efficacy in volleyball skills [in Portuguese]. RPCD. 2001;1(3):33-39; doi:

7. Davids K, Araújo D, Vilar L, Renshaw I, Pinder R. An ecological dynamics approach to skill acquisition: implications for development of talent in sport. Talent Dev Exc. 2013;5(1):21-34.

8. Hughes M, Franks IM. Notational analysis - a review of the literature. In: Hughes M, Franks I (eds.). Notational analysis of sports - systems for better coaching and performance in sport. London: Routledge; 2004;59-106.

9. Júlio L, Araújo D. Dynamic approach to tactical action in soccer game [in Portuguese]. In: Araújo, D (ed.), The context of the decision: tactical action in sport [in Portuguese]. Lisboa: Visão e Contexto; 2005; 159-177.

10. Höner O, Votteler A, Schmid M, Schultz F, Roth K. Psychometric properties of the motor diagnostics in the German football talent identification and development programme. J Sports Sci. 2015;33(2):145-159; doi:

11. Russell M, Benton D, Kingsley M. Reliability and construct validity of soccer skills tests that measure passing, shooting, and dribbling. J Sports Sci. 2010;28(13): 1399-1408; doi:

12. Russell M, Benton D, Kingsley M. The effects of fatigue on soccer skills performed during a soccer match simulation. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2011;6(2): 221-233; doi:

13. Vaeyens R, Malina RM, Janssens M, Van Renterghem B, Bourgois J, Vrijens J, et al. A multidisciplinary selection model for youth soccer: the Ghent Youth Soccer Project. Br J Sports Med. 2006;40(11):928-934; doi:

14. Huijgen BC, Elferink-Gemser MT, Post W, Visscher C. Development of dribbling in talented youth soccer players aged 12-19 years: a longitudinal study. J Sports Sci. 2010;28(7):689-698; doi:

15. Huijgen BC, Elferink-Gemser MT, Post WJ, Visscher C. Soccer skill development in professionals. Int J Sports Med. 2009;30(8):585-591; doi:

16. Huijgen BC, Elferink-Gemser MT, Lemmink KA, Visscher C. Multidimensional performance characteristics in selected and deselected talented soccer players. Eur J Sport Sci. 2014;14(1):2-10; doi:

17. Aquino R, Marques RFR, Petiot GH, Gonçalves LGC, Moraes C, Santiago PRP, et al. Relationship between procedural tactical knowledge and specific motor skills in young soccer players. Sports. 2016;4(4):52-61; doi:

18. Vilar L, Araújo D, Davids K, Button C. The role of ecological dynamics in analysing performance in team sports. Sports Med. 2012;42(1):1-10; doi:

19. Ali A. Measuring soccer skill performance: a review. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2011;21(2):170-183; doi:

20. Mackenzie R, Cushion C. Performance analysis in football: a critical review and implications for future research. J Sports Sci. 2013;31(6):639-676; doi:

21. Sarmento H, Marcelino R, Anguera MT, Campaniço J, Matos N, Leitão JC. Match analysis in football: a systematic review. J Sports Sci. 2014;32(20):1831-1843; doi:

22. Clemente FM, Wong DP, Martins FM, Mendes RS. Acute effects of the number of players and scoring method on physiological, physical, and technical performance in small-sided soccer games. Res Sports Med. 2014;22(4):380-397; doi:

23. Guilherme J, Garganta J, Graça A, Seabra A. Influence of non-preferred foot technical training in reducing lower limbs functional asymmetry among young football players. J Sports Sci. 2015;33(7):1790-1798; doi:

24. Almeida CH, Ferreira AP, Volossovitch A. Offensive sequences in youth soccer: effects of experience and small-sided games. J Hum Kinet. 2013;36:97-106; doi:

25. Bullock W, Panchuk D, Broatch J, Christian R, Stepto NK. An integrative test of agility, speed and skill in soccer: effects of exercise. J Sci Med Sport. 2012;15(5):431- 436; doi:

26. Draganidis D, Chatzinikolaou A, Jamurtas AZ, Carlos Barbero J, Tsoukas D, Theodorou AS, et al. The timeframe of acute resistance exercise effects on football skill performance: the impact of exercise intensity. J Sports Sci. 2013;31(7):714-722; doi:

27. Marcelino R, Sampaio J, Mesquita I. Research on the game analysis: from static to dynamic modeling [in Portuguese]. RPCD. 2011;11(1):481-499.

28. Bradley PS, Lago-Peñas C, Rey E, Gomez Diaz A. The effect of high and low percentage ball possession on physical and technical profiles in English FA Premier League soccer matches. J Sports Sci. 2013;31(12):1261- 1270; doi:

29. Carling C, Dupont G. Are declines in physical performance associated with a reduction in skill-related performance during professional soccer match-play? J Sports Sci. 2011;29(1):63-71; doi:

30. Harper LD, West DJ, Stevenson E, Russell M. Technical performance reduces during the extra-time period of professional soccer match-play. PLoS One. 2014;9(10): e110995; doi:

31. Rampinini E, Impellizzeri FM, Castagna C, Coutts AJ, Wisløff U. Technical performance during soccer matches of the Italian Serie A league: effect of fatigue and competitive level. J Sci Med Sport. 2009;12(1):227- 233; doi:

32. Carling C, Le Gall F, McCall A, Nédélec M, Dupont G. Squad management, injury and match performance in a professional soccer team over a championshipwinning season. Eur J Sport Sci. 2015;15(7):573-582; doi:

33. Morgans R, Adams D, Mullen R, McLellan C, Williams MD. Technical and physical performance over an English Championship League season. Int J Sports Sci Coach. 2014;9(5):1033-1042; doi:

34. Aslan A. Cardiovascular responses, perceived exertion and technical actions during small-sided recreational soccer: effects of pitch size and number of players. J Hum Kinet. 2013;38:95-105; doi:

35. Carling C. Influence of opposition team formation on physical and skill-related performance in a professional soccer team. Eur J Sport Sci. 2011;11(3):155-164; doi:

36. Garcia JD, Román IR, Calleja-González J, Dellal A. Quantification and analysis of offensive situations in different formats of sided games in soccer. J Hum Kinet. 2014;44:193-201; doi:

37. Hodgson C, Akenhead R, Thomas K. Time-motion analysis of acceleration demands of 4v4 small-sided soccer games played on different pitch sizes. Hum Mov Sci. 2014;33:25-32; doi:

38. O’Donoghue P. Reliability issues in performance analysis. Int J Perform Anal Sport. 2007;7(1):35-48.

39. Da Silva CD, Impellizzeri FM, Natali AJ, de Lima JR, Bara-Filho MG, Silami-Garçia E, et al. Exercise intensity and technical demands of small-sided games in young Brazilian soccer players: effect of number of players, maturation, and reliability. J Strength Cond Res. 2011;25(10):2746-2751; doi:

40. Katis A, Kellis E. Effects of small-sided games on physical conditioning and performance in young soccer players. J Sports Sci Med. 2009;8(3):374-380.

41. Dellal A, Lago-Peñas C, Wong DP, Chamari K. Effect of the number of ball contacts within bouts of 4 vs. 4 small-sided soccer games. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2011;6(3):322-333.

42. Dellal A, Owen A, Wong DP, Krustrup P, van Exsel M, Mallo J. Technical and physical demands of small vs. large sided games in relation to playing position in elite soccer. Hum Mov Sci. 2012;31(4):957-969; doi:

43. Fanchini M, Azzalin A, Castagna C, Schena F, McCall A, Impellizzeri FM. Effect of bout duration on exercise intensity and technical performance of small-sided games in soccer. J Strength Cond Res. 2011;25(2):453- 458; doi:

44. Kelly DM, Drust B. The effect of pitch dimensions on heart rate responses and technical demands of smallsided soccer games in elite players. J Sci Med Sport. 2009;12(4):475-479; doi:

45. Köklü Y, Alemdaroğlu U, Dellal A, Wong DP. Effect of different recovery durations between bouts in 3-a-side games on youth soccer players’ physiological responses and technical activities. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2015;55(5):430-438.

46. Lizana CJR, Reverdito RS, Brenzikofer R, Macedo DV, Misuta MS, Scaglia AJ. Technical and tactical soccer players’ performance in conceptual small-sided games. Motriz. 2015;21(3):312-320; doi:

47. Halouani J, Chtourou H, Gabbett T, Chaouachi A, Chamari K. Small-sided games in team sports training: a brief review. J Strength Cond Res. 2014;28(12):3594- 3618; doi:

48. Serra-Olivares J, Clemente FM, González-Víllora S. Tactical expertise assessment in youth football using representative tasks. Springerplus. 2016;5(1):1301-1309; doi:

49. Stone KJ, Oliver JL. The effect of 45 minutes of soccerspecific exercise on the performance of soccer skills. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2009;4(2):163-175; doi:

50. Impellizzeri FM, Rampinini E, Maffiuletti NA, Castagna C, Bizzini M, Wisløff U. Effects of aerobic training on the exercise-induced decline in short-passing ability in junior soccer players. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2008;33(6):1192-1198; doi:

51. Miranda REEPC, Antunes HKM, Pauli JR, Puggina EF, da Silva ASR. Effects of 10-week soccer training program on anthropometric, psychological, technical skills and specific performance parameters in youth soccer players. Sci Sports. 2013;28(2):81-87; doi:

52. De Villarreal ES, Suarez-Arrones L, Requena B, Haff GG, Ferrete C. Effects of plyometric and sprint training on physical and technical skill performance in adolescent soccer players. J Strength Cond Res. 2015;29(7):1894- 1903; doi:

53. Radziminski L, Rompa P, Barnat W, Dargiewicz R, Jastrzebski Z. A comparison of the physiological and technical effects of high-intensity running and small-sided games in young soccer players. Int J Sports Sci Coach. 2013;8(3):455-466; doi:

54. Hill-Haas SV, Coutts AJ, Rowsell GJ, Dawson BT. Generic versus small-sided game training in soccer. Int J Sports Med. 2009;30(9):636-642; doi:

55. O’Donoghue PG, Boyd M, Lawlor J, Bleakley EW. Time-motion analysis of elite, semi-professional and amateur soccer competition. J Hum Mov Studies. 2001; 1:1-12.

56. Dellal A, Hill-Haas S, Lago-Peñas C, Chamari K. Small-sided games in soccer: amateur vs. professional players’ physiological responses, physical, and technical activities. J Strength Cond Res. 2011;25(9):2371- 2381; doi:

57. Le Moal E, Rué O, Ajmol A, Abderrahman AB, Hammami MA, Ounis OB, et al. Validation of the Loughborough Soccer Passing Test in young soccer players. J Strength Cond Res. 2014;28(5):1418-1426; doi:

58. Rebelo A, Brito J, Maia J, Coelho-e-Silva MJ, Figueiredo AJ, Bangsbo J, et al. Anthropometric characteristics, physical fitness and technical performance of under-19 soccer players by competitive level and field position. Int J Sports Med. 2013;34(4):312-317; doi:

59. Rostgaard T, Iaia FM, Simonsen DS, Bangsbo J. A test to evaluate the physical impact on technical performance in soccer. J Strength Cond Res. 2008;22(1):283- 292; doi:

60. Reilly T, Williams AM, Nevill A, Franks A. A multidisciplinary approach to talent identification in soccer. J Sports Sci. 2000;18(9):695-702; doi:

61. Ward P, Williams AM. Perceptual and cognitive skill development in soccer: the multidimensional nature of expert performance. J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2003;25(1): 93-111; doi:

62. Bush MD, Archer DT, Hogg R, Bradley PS. Factors influencing physical and technical variability in the English Premier League. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2015;10(7):865-872; doi:

63. Bradley PS, Carling C, Archer D, Roberts J, Dodds A, Di Mascio M, et al. The effect of playing formation on high-intensity running and technical profiles in English FA Premier League soccer matches. J Sports Sci. 2011;29(8):821-830; doi:

64. Lago C. The influence of match location, quality of opposition, and match status on possession strategies in professional association football. J Sports Sci. 2009; 27(13):1463-1469; doi:

65. Taylor JB, Mellalieu SD, James N, Shearer DA. The influence of match location, quality of opposition, and match status on technical performance in professional association football. J Sports Sci. 2008;26(9):885- 895; doi:

66. Taylor JB, Mellalieu SD, James N, Barter P. Situation variable effects and tactical performance in professional association football. Int J Perform Anal Sport. 2010;10(3):255-269.

67. Bradley PS, Lago-Peñas C, Rey E, Sampaio J. The influence of situational variables on ball possession in the English Premier League. J Sports Sci. 2014;32(20): 1867-1873; doi:

68. Lago-Peñas C, Lago-Ballesteros J. Game location and team quality effects on performance profiles in professional soccer. J Sports Sci Med. 2011;10(3):465-471.

69. Glamser FD. Contest location, player misconduct, and race: a case from English soccer. J Sport Behav. 1990;13(1):41-49.

70. Almeida CH, Ferreira AP, Volossovitch A. Effects of match location, match status and quality of opposition on regaining possession in UEFA Champions League. J Hum Kinet. 2014;41(1):203-214; doi:

71. Aquino R, Munhoz GHM, Vieira LHP, Menezes RP. Influence of match location, quality of opponents and match status on movement patterns in Brazilian professional football players. J Strength Cond Res. 2017; 31(8):2155-2161; doi:

72. Gómez MA, Jiménez S, Navarro R, Lago-Peñas C, Sampaio J. Effects of coaches’ timeouts on basketball teams’ offensive and defensive performances according to momentary differences in score and game period. Eur J Sport Sci. 2011;11(5):303-308; doi:

73. Malina RM, Cumming SP, Kontos AP, Eisenmann JC, Ribeiro B, Aroso J. Maturity-associated variation in sport-specific skills of youth soccer players aged 13- 15 years. J Sports Sci. 2005;23(5):515-522; doi:

74. Matta MDO, Figueiredo AJB, Garcia ES, Werneck FZ, Seabra A. Morphological and maturational predictors of technical performance in young soccer players. Motriz. 2014;20(3):280-285; doi:

75. Garganta J. Identification, selection, and promotion of talent in team sports: facts, myths and misunderstandings [in Portuguese]. Proceedings of the II International Congress of Editorial Team Sports and High Performance of Training Center [in Portuguese]; 2009.

76. Howe MJ, Davidson JW, Sloboda JA. Innate talents: reality or myth? Behav Brain Sci. 1998;21(3):399-407; doi:

77. Starkes JL, Ericsson KA. Expert performance in sports: advances in research on sport expertise. Champaign: Human Kinetics; 2003.

78. Rampinini E, Impellizzeri FM, Castagna C, Azzallin A, Bravo DF, Wisløff U. Effect of match-related fatigueon short-passing ability in young soccer players. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008;40(5):934-942; doi:

79. Scarantino A. Affordances explained. Philos Sci. 2003; 70(5):949-961; doi:

80. Araújo D, Davids K, Passos P. Ecological validity, representative design, and correspondence between experimental task constraints and behavioral setting: comment on Rogers, Kadar, and Costall (2005). Ecol Psychol. 2007;19(1):69-78; doi:

81. Dicks M, Davids K, Araújo D. Ecological psychology and task representativeness: implications for the design of perceptual-motor training programmes in sport. In: Hong Y, Bartlett R (eds.), Routledge handbook of biomechanics and human movement science. London: Routledge; 2008; 129-139.

82. Pinder RA, Davids K, Renshaw I, Araújo D. Representative learning design and functionality of research and practice in sport. J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2011;33(1): 146-155; doi:

83. Borrie A, Jonsson GK, Magnusson MS. Temporal pattern analysis and its applicability in sport: an explanation and exemplar data. J Sports Sci. 2002;20(10):845- 852; doi:

84. Hayes M. Notational analysis - the right of reply. BASES Newsletter. 1997;7(8):4-5.

85. Bradley PS, Carling C, Diaz AG, Hood P, Barnes C, Ade J, et al. Match performance and physical capacity of players in the top three competitive standards of English professional soccer. Hum Mov Sci. 2013;32(4): 808-821; doi:

86. Bush M, Barnes C, Archer DT, Hogg B, Bradley PS. Evolution of match performance parameters for various playing positions in the English Premier League. Hum Mov Sci. 2015;39:1-11; doi:

87. Dellal A, Wong DP, Moalla W, Chamari K. Physical and technical activity of soccer players in the French First League - with special reference to their playing position. Int SportMed J. 2010;11(2):278-290.

88. Dellal A, Chamari K, Wong DP, Ahmaidi S, Keller D, Barros R, et al. Comparison of physical and technical performance in European soccer match-play: FA Premier League and La Liga. Eur J Sport Sci. 2011;11(1):51- 59; doi:

89. Fernandez-Gonzalo R, De Souza-Teixeira F, Bresciani G, García-López D, Hernández-Murúa JA, Jiménez-Jiménez R, et al. Comparison of technical and physiological characteristics of prepubescent soccer players of different ages. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24(7):1790- 1798; doi:

90. Juárez D, Mallo J, De Subijana C, Navarro E. Kinematic analysis of kicking in young top-class soccer players. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2011;51(3):366-373.

91. Nassis GP, Brito J, Dvorak J, Chalabi H, Racinais S. The association of environmental heat stress with performance: analysis of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. Br J Sports Med. 2015;49(9):609-613; doi:

92. Owen AL, Wong DP, McKenna M, Dellal A. Heart rate responses and technical comparison between small- vs. large-sided games in elite professional soccer. J Strength Cond Res. 2011;25(8):2104-2110; doi:

93. Sinclair J, Fewtrell D, Taylor PJ, Bottoms L, Atkins S, Hobbs SJ. Three-dimensional kinematic correlates of ball velocity during maximal instep soccer kicking in males. Eur J Sport Sci. 2014;14(8):799-805; doi:

94. Tessitore A, Perroni F, Meeusen R, Cortis C, Lupo C, Capranica L. Heart rate responses and technical-tactical aspects of official 5-a-side youth soccer matches played on clay and artificial turf. J Strength Cond Res. 2012;26(1):106-112; doi:

95. Vilar L, Duarte R, Silva P, Chow JY, Davids K. The influence of pitch dimensions on performance during small-sided and conditioned soccer games. J Sports Sci. 2014;32(19):1751-1759; doi:

96. Vilar L, Esteves PT, Travassos B, Passos P, Lago-Peñas C, Davids K. Varying numbers of players in smallsided soccer games modifies action opportunities during training. Int J Sports Sci Coach. 2014;9(5):1007-1018; doi:

Human Movement

The Journal of University School of Physical Education, Wroclaw

Journal Information

CiteScore 2016: 0.41

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2016: 0.208
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2016: 0.230


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 906 880 59
PDF Downloads 498 492 45