Almost every human being in the world is acutely aware and keenly focused on the 2014 FIFA World Cup, well everyone outside of the United States. The 31-day, 32 team soccer tournament, this time hosted in Brazil, is the largest sporting event on the planet.
Coming into the competition returning 2010 Champions Spain was ranked #1 in the world. The Spain squad has been on a terror of winning the past several years raking up an impression collection of championships.
An overflowing trophy case, pre-tournament hype and vast amount of talent on the field are great, but it still comes down to wins and losses, and with 2 of 3 matches already in the books, Spain has been eliminated after two straight tournament loses. The first lose was suffered at the hands of the Dutch (5-1) a repeat match of the 2010 championship game. If this wasn’t bad enough, Spain tuned around and was dealt a devastating blow, losing 2-0 to Chile in a David-vs-Goliath type effort.
No one can deny the greatness of the Spanish squad over the past five years, but great lessons can be drawn from their abrupt and fatal demise.
Some pressure is good… some.
Other than possibly the host country Brazil, no one came into the World Cup with as much pressure to win as Spain. Pressure to succeed is good when it fuels passion and creates focused energy. Teams can become galvanized create a strong bond, extreme pressure and scrutiny can quickly cause a team to buckle under the pressure. Spain collapsed.
Hard Work still matters
Chile is not the most talented squad in the World Cup. The Chilean team came into the tournament generously ranked 14th in the world, a far cry from Spain’s #1 ranking. Chile’s 2-0 win over Spain was the result of 90 grueling minutes of hard work. Every Chilean player ran harder, fought more and out worked their Spanish counter parts. What they lacked in skill and talent they made up for in effort.
Sweat the Little Stuff
Soccer is a series of small seemingly insignificant actions that eventually can lead to a big play. A thrown-in, a pass, a deflection, a sprint forward, a quick cut back. Each single movement or act appears trivial. However, the collection of these actions equates to an entire game and when executed expertly creates a fluid, free flowing game – “jogo bonito”. Spain was constantly looking for the big play, but struggled with basic game dynamics; their passes were off, players weren’t getting back defensively, communication amongst players seemed to be nonexistent. A complete game was not able to be accomplished due to the lack of focus on the small stuff.
Fight for the Big Play
No one enjoys watching a zero to zero game. (And in the business world a tie equals a loss). The purpose of the small stuff is to lead up to something huge, an awe inspiring moment. When all the minor components come together you should find yourself in that unique position to make a spectacular big play. Against Spain the Netherlands did so 5 times; Chile did it too, scoring twice. In contrast powerhouse Brazil controlled much of the game against Mexico, but couldn’t finish the big play, ending their match with a 0 – 0 draw. All the hard work and little stuff will only be worth it if you take the risk and make the big play happen. Sure it’s about the journey, but the finish is crucial.
“Great moments are born from great opportunities” – Herb Brooks
That’s Why You Play the Game
Switching sports, what if the Soviet Union had continued their dominance beating the US and winning the 1980 Olympic gold medal for hockey at Lake Placid? What if the New Zealand All Blacks had throttled the South African rugby team again in the 1995 Rugby World Championship match?
No one would have made a movie about that.
The script for life is also being written on a minute by minute, and day by day basis. Life is an adventure, a game waiting to be play and an outcome waiting discovered. Spain’s outcome for the 2014 World Cup was far different than the expected, while Chile’s possibly far better than they could have hoped.