This is the abstract of a paper published in the International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport (Vol.15, No.1). In the paper we analyzed the network characteristics of successful and unsuccessful national teams that participated in FIFA World Cup 2014.
The relationship between the variables of overall team performance and the network characteristics measured on the basis of the passes between teammates was also investigated. A dataset of 37,864 passes between teammates in 64 soccer matches enabled the study on network structure and team performance of 32 national soccer teams.
Our results showed significant differences in the dependent variables of network density (F4,123 = 2.72; p = 0.03; η_p^2 = 0.04; Power = 0.49; small effect size) and total links (F4,123 = 2.73; p = 0.03; η_p^2 = 0.04; Power = 0.49; small effect size) between the teams that reached the later stages of the tournament.
Goals scored presented a small positive correlation with total links (r = 0.24; p = 0.001), network density (r = 0.24; p = 0.001), and clustering coefficient (r = 0.17; p ˃ 0.050). High levels of goals scored were associated with high levels of total links, network density, and clustering coefficient.
This study showed that successful teams have a high level of network density, total links, and clustering coefficient. Thus, large values of connectivity between teammates are associated with better overall team performance.