An analysis of ball possession and unbalanced number in small-sided games: a comparative study with Chinese and foreign soccer players

Nuno André Nunes, Diogo Coutinho, Vitor Gouveia, Rory Magrath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study analysed the performance of Chinese Under-23 soccer players during ball possession Small-Sided Games (SSGs), compared to foreign players. Unbalanced number formats (4v2, 4v4 and 4v6) were performed on a 30 × 25 m playing area, 4 sets of 4 min each with 4 min of active recovery between bouts, under opposition- and cooperation-based perspectives. Data were collected on External Workload (Walking, Running, Sprinting, Max speed and Sprint number), Internal Load of Perceptions (Rating of Perceived Exertion, RPE) and Tactical Individual Actions (Max passing speed, Passing number and with Dominant and Non-dominant foot). An Independent Samples T-Test and Cohen’s d Effect Sizes were conducted to compare both groups. A higher number of differences were observed on the cooperation-based perspective. Generally, foreign players performed more tactical individual actions and intensive external workload. In contrast, Chinese players walked more and scored higher RPE. On this basis, it appears that foreign players have a better team-play experience and ability to adapt to game constraints more easily. This investigation provides insight information about players’ development and to understand the evolution of Chinese soccer that coaches should consider before working on this specific environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-355
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2023

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