Mental and Physical Equilibrium: The Key to Euro 2012 Success
Double M.S. in Sport and Exercise Psychology from Lund University. Sport science specialist, editor, writer, and footballer.
|BettingExpert/Betfair Euro 2012 blog correspondent entry profile|
|Alex Titkov is studying sports and exercise psychology and is currently a consultant for two Swedish football Clubs. He is also the editor/writer for the EMSEP Sport and Exercise Psychology Blog.|
|Twitter : @AlexTitkov|
|Website : EMSEPblog.tumblr.com|
Preparation and readiness for a football team is essential. Within professional football, the emphasis thus far has predominantly been in developing the physical, technical, tactical and even the nutritional. Football clubs, like Everton FC, have also recently looked for improvement via match analysis software to analyse objective on-field measures. Many premier clubs have also tapped into the blossoming field of sport psychology.
On the elite level, the physical and technical skills of players across the board are arguably relatively similar. What separates a good player from a great player is the ability to execute under any circumstance. Bayern Munich’s recent penalty shoot-out victory over Real Madrid is a testament to such mental resilience against the likes of extremely skilled players like Kaka and C. Ronaldo. Mental toughness is but only one psychological aspect we can expect to witness at this year’s Euros. What more can we expect to play upon the minds of Europe’s footballers this summer?
Tried and True Confidence
Confidence comes with years of successful experience on the highest level. The national teams that will surely display this early on, if not all the way, will be from previous winners Germany, The Netherlands, Spain and Italy.
Home Field Advantage: The Eastern Front
Home advantage has been widely acknowledged and accepted but some have stated that within the UEFA European Championships, it has not been significant with only three previous host nations taking the glory. While I agree that hosting a tournament will not guarantee eventual success, being the host nation is undoubtedly a boost in overall performance. If one takes a look at all the previous European Cups, every host nation has reached at least the semi-final stage except for Belgium in 2000 and Austria and Switzerland in 2008.
In the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, a meta-analysis of the benefits of home field advantage by Jeremy Jamieson in 2010 concluded that it attributed to an advantage of 67% to European football clubs playing at home. The benefit of playing at home is assisted by environment/venue familiarity and routine familiarity. Home teams are naturally boosted by this motivation and referee bias can further aid this by the actions of players and fans in favor of the home team. The only critical aspect is if the host nations will be able to deal with this added pressure of performing and especially those with a historically lower pedigree as it did with previous hosts Belgium, Austria and Switzerland. Regardless, this will undoubtedly play the biggest part in the opening group stages for Ukraine, Poland and possibly other Eastern European teams like the Czech Republic, Croatia and Russia.
Ego Management & Motivation
Individual egos can make or break a successful run at the Euros. A couple of prime examples will be from Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal and Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Sweden. Ronaldo’s performance on the national level has been subpar compared to his success for Manchester United and Real Madrid. He had his best season to date with Madrid but will this help or hamper his performance at Euro 2012? Sweden is another interesting example when it comes to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. They maintained a 100% record in qualifiers without Ibrahimovic but that dropped to nearly half with his inclusion. This statistic is well-known to the team and it will be interesting to see if this will linger in their minds.
On the team level, France and England have had mass ego impediments. England has continually come up short at the international level which some attest to intense club rivalries between team-mates while France’s unsavoury mass boycott led to an embarrassing display at World Cup 2012. Furthermore, many argue that many of these players are far more motivated to play for their respective clubs due to more lucrative financial gains and pressures from club requirements. Will this continue to be their undoing or will Roy Hodgson and Laurent Blanc be able to turn around past pitfalls?
As my youth football coach once told me, football is 90% mental. While I’m not certain about the accuracy of the percentage, psychology will unquestionably play a major part at the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine. Walking this physical and mental strength tightrope will be the key for each team competing for this year’s trophy.
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ProZone Sport have also just released an article on home advantage and suggestions to combat it. http://www.prozonesports.com/news-article-analysis-home-advantage.html