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Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports

An official journal of the American Statistical Association

Editor-in-Chief: Steve Rigdon, PhD

CiteScore 2018: 1.67

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.587
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 1.970

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Volume 10, Issue 4


Volume 1 (2005)

Gasping for air: soccer players’ passing behavior at high-altitude

Jorge Tovar
Published Online: 2014-12-23 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jqas-2014-0035


A number of soccer officials have long debated whether to ban soccer games played at high altitude above sea level. This paper explores soccer player’s passing behavior when playing at high elevations using Copa Libertadores data. For this, I propose a range of direct indicators when playing at high altitude: the number of total passes, the number of passes in the opposition’s half, and the number of successful passes. I also review the effects on the percentage of successful passes and the percentage of successful passes in the opponents’ half of the field. Player’s passing abilities are compared for games played away above 2500 m (8202 feet) vis-à-vis those held below that threshold. The results show that the percentage of successful passes rises by about 5.6 percentage points, mostly driven by each player’s behavior in his own half. Following earlier findings by Romer (2006) and Palacios-Huerta (2014), who state that players behave conservatively under certain circumstances, I argue that players’ have prior believes about the effects of playing at high altitude and consequently their risk aversion to lose the ball increases.

Keywords: high-altitude performance; soccer; soccer players’ passing performance

JEL classification: L83; C21


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About the article

Corresponding author: Jorge Tovar, Universidad de Los Andes-Economics, Bogota, Colombia, e-mail:

Published Online: 2014-12-23

Published in Print: 2014-12-01

Citation Information: Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, Volume 10, Issue 4, Pages 411–420, ISSN (Online) 1559-0410, ISSN (Print) 2194-6388, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jqas-2014-0035.

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