How to be Successful in Football: A Systematic Review

Hannes Lepschy*, Hagen Wäsche, Alexander Woll
Department of Sports and Sport Sciences, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany

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© 2018 Lepschy et al

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Sports and Sports Science, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Engler-Bunte-Ring 15, 76131 Karlsruhe, Germany; Tel: 0018433435477; E-mail:



Despite the popularity of football, the analysis of success factors in football remains a challenge. While reviews on performance indicators in football are available, none focuses solely on the identification of success factors and addresses the large and growing body of recent research up until 2016.


To find out what determines success in football and to organize the body of literature, a systematic literature review analyzing existing studies with regard to success factors in football was undertaken.


The studies included in this review had to deal with performance indicators related to success in football. The studies were published in 2016 or before. The initial search revealed 19,161 articles. Finally, sixty-eight articles were included in this review. The studies were clustered with regard to comparative analyses, predictive analyses and analyses of home advantage.


In total, 76 different variables were investigated in the reviewed papers. It appeared that the most significant variables are efficiency (number of goals divided by the number of shots), shots on goal, ball possession, pass accuracy/successful passes as well as the quality of opponent and match location. Moreover, new statistical methods were used to reveal interactions among these variables such as discriminant analysis, factor analysis and regression analysis. The studies showed methodological deficits such as clear operational definitions of investigated variables and small sample sizes.


The review allows a comprehensive identification of critical success factors in football and sheds light on utilized methodological approaches. Future research should consider precise operational definitions of the investigated variables, adequate sample sizes and the involvement of situational variables as well as their interaction.

Keywords: Match analysis, Soccer, Success, Performance, Indicator, Football.