#Research brief

"Good, better, creative": The influence of creativity on goal scoring in elite soccer

Prof Daniel Memmert, 19 Oct 2023


In this Research Brief, Professor Daniel Memmert presents a study that analysed 311 goals to determine the importance of creativity in goalscoring at the elite level.

The researchers compiled data from several international tournaments to investigate creativity in the build up to scoring a goal in top-level football.  Prof Daniel Memmert and Dr Matthias Kempe quantified the eight actions proceeding a goal to explain how creativity in those eight actions is important, and that teams with a high creativity score in one or more of these eight actions progressed to the latter stages of tournaments more often.

Key take-aways

  • In 86% of goals scored in the three top-level tournaments, there was at least one action with a creativity score of 7 or 8.

  • Teams that progressed to the knockout stages of an international tournament typically scored higher on a creativity scale in the penultimate action before a goal.  

  • Training should follow the model of 7 Ds for fostering tactical creativity.

Watch brief

Part 1: Background
Part 2: Findings
Part 3: Results
Part 4: Applications

Read summary

Part 1: Background
Prof Memmert presents a framework that shows how people find solutions from situations they encounter. This involves a step-by-step process involving anticipation, perception, attention, creativity, and intelligence. Each of these stages are embedded in memory and unconsciously guide a person to their decision. Regarding decision making, there are two different processes, Prof Memmert says. These are tactical intelligence (convergent thinking) and tactical creativity (divergent thinking). The researchers looked at the last eight actions before a goal was scored to determine the level of creativity involved in the play.

Part 2: Findings 
The researchers studied 311 goals from open play across 166 matches in the FIFA World Cup 2010 and 2014 tournaments, as well as the UEFA Euros 2016. Each goal was assessed for its importance, and each of the eight touches before the goal was given a 'creativity score' of 1 to 10. A 'creative goal' was defined as one with a creativity score of 8 or higher. Prof Memmert shows an example of a creative solution in the build-up to a goal.

Part 3: Results
Prof Memmert explains how the closer actions were to the goal, the more creative they were. The results also showed that 86% of goals had at least one action with a creativity score of 7 or 8, while 44% had an action with a creativity score of 9 or 10 (very highly creative). Teams making it through to the knockout stages of a tournament scored higher for creativity in the penultimate pass before a goal.  

Part 4: Applications
Creativity is related to the outcome of the match and success, Prof Memmert notes.  For this reason, he says there are different approaches to training that can boost technical creativity.  One of these, which Prof Memmert stresses the importance of, is attention. He also introduces the model of the 7 Ds of tactical creativity: Deliberate Play; 1-Dimension Games; Diversification; Deliberate Memory; Deliberate Coaching; Deliberate Motivation; and Deliberate Practice.

Paper citation and link

Kempe, M., and Memmert, D., 2018. "Good, better, creative": the influence of creativity on goal scoring in elite soccer. Journal of Sports Sciences, vol. 36, no. 21, pp. 2419-2423.

Read the full paper here.

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