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A contextual analysis of crossing the ball in soccer

  • Lucas Y. Wu , Aaron J. Danielson , X. Joan Hu and Tim B. Swartz EMAIL logo


The action of crossing the ball in soccer has a long history as an effective tactic for producing goals. Lately, the benefit of crossing the ball has come under question, and alternative strategies have been suggested. This paper utilizes player tracking data to explore crossing at a deeper level. First, we investigate the spatio-temporal conditions that lead to crossing. Then we introduce an intended target model that investigates crossing success. Finally, a contextual analysis is provided that assesses the benefits of crossing in various situations. The analysis is based on causal inference techniques and suggests that crossing remains an effective tactic in particular contexts.

Corresponding author: Tim B. Swartz, Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, V5A1S6, British Columbia, Canada, E-mail:

Funding source: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada


The authors thank Daniel Stenz, Technical Director of Shandong Luneng Taishan FC who provided the data used in this paper.

  1. Author contribution: All the authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this submitted manuscript and approved submission.

  2. Research funding: Hu and Swartz have been partially supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

  3. Conflict of interest statement: The authors declare no conflicts of interest regarding this article.


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Received: 2020-05-17
Accepted: 2020-08-22
Published Online: 2020-09-14
Published in Print: 2021-01-26

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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