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J Sports Sci. 2016 Jul;34(14):1346-54. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2016.1143111. Epub 2016 Feb 29.

Effects of emphasising opposition and cooperation on collective movement behaviour during football small-sided games.

Author information

a Research Center in Sports Sciences, Health Sciences and Human Development, CIDESD , CreativeLab Research Community , Vila Real , Portugal.
b Sport Sciences Department, Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro , Vila Real , Portugal.
c National Institute of Physical Education of Catalonia (INEFC) , University of Lleida , Lleida , Spain.
d Department of Health and Kinesiology , Exercise and Sport Nutrition Lab, Texas A&M University , College Station , TX , USA.


Optimizing collective behaviour helps to increase performance in mutual tasks. In team sports settings, the small-sided games (SSG) have been used as key context tools to stress out the players' awareness about their in-game required behaviours. Research has mostly described these behaviours when confronting teams have the same number of players, disregarding the frequent situations of low and high inequality. This study compared the players' positioning dynamics when manipulating the number of opponents and teammates during professional and amateur football SSG. The participants played 4v3, 4v5 and 4v7 games, where one team was confronted with low-superiority, low- and high-inferiority situations, and their opponents with low-, medium- and high-cooperation situations. Positional data were used to calculate effective playing space and distances from each player to team centroid, opponent team centroid and nearest opponent. Outcomes suggested that increasing the number of opponents in professional teams resulted in moderate/large decrease in approximate entropy (ApEn) values to both distance to team and opponent team centroid (i.e., the variables present higher regularity/predictability pattern). In low-cooperation game scenarios, the ApEn in amateurs' tactical variables presented a moderate/large increase. The professional teams presented an increase in the distance to nearest opponent with the increase of the cooperation level. Increasing the number of opponents was effective to overemphasise the need to use local information in the positioning decision-making process from professionals. Conversely, amateur still rely on external informational feedback. Increasing the cooperation promoted more regularity in spatial organisation in amateurs and emphasise their players' local perceptions.


Behavioural dynamics; inequality games; playing positioning

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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