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Diogo Peixoto, Gibson Moreira Praça, Sarah Bredt and Filipe Manuel Clemente

Abstract

Purpose. The study aimed to compare social network analysis (SNA) general measures and centrality levels of successful and unsuccessful offensive sequences performed by elite national teams in 64 matches of the FIFA World Cup 2014 tournament and to compare the level of centrality between playing positions. Methods. Adjacency matrices of passing sequences within an offensive unit were built and treated in a dedicated SNA software. Results. The main results indicated significantly lower values of total links and network density in successful sequences in comparison with unsuccessful ones in the teams that achieved the round of 8, semifinals, and the final. The comparisons between playing positions revealed that forwards showed the highest values of indegree centrality (balls received) and that midfielders presented the highest values of outdegree centrality (ball passed) in both successful and unsuccessful offensive units. Midfielders also exhibited the highest values of betweenness centrality (intermediation between teammates) in unsuccessful sequences and forwards in successful ones. Conclusions. Greater cooperation among teammates may not be determinant for successful sequences. Forwards are the prominent players to receive the ball and intermediate the passing sequence in offenses that end in a goal.