In a beyond typical sports drama, we enjoyed great plays, disappointments, tears, rituals, random penalties, the famous GOLAZOS and even a surreal bite. Here’s my recap of management lessons and metaphors from FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
U.S. Team Inventiveness
The U.S. Team over delivered. The hero goalie, Tim Howard, became the inspiration for all to do their utmost. It was not the main players who delivered the goals, but the unencumbered ‘newbies’ who saw opportunity and without hesitation took shots during the Belgium and Germany games. The U.S. Team, regardless of its evolving nature, played as one performing together better than expected and earning a spot among the future best.
Costa Rican Ultimate Defense
They were not supposed to go this far. This under-the-radar team performed better than leaders by leveraging their strength, defense and the quasi impenetrable goalie Keylor Navas. Even when one does not have all the ‘goods’, one can still win focusing on strengths and playing with a heart.
Mexican Legs and Effusiveness
Men in Blazers called the Mexican Coach the happiest and most expressive coach in the league, Miguel Herrera. His passion for the game was contagious. Mexican players were fairly short. Some used the ‘enemy’ to climb to reach the ball. Whatever it took, those 22 legs moved fast, agile without hesitation and left very little opportunity for opponents. The tears at the end of the game of this last-minute qualifier as well as other Latin American teams such as Ecuador and Colombia cannot describe the soul and heart that went on. ‘Dejaron el alma en la cancha’; it sounds so much better in Spanish.
Nigeria and Algeria Fortitude
Nobody told these fellows that they were playing against the best in the world. They displayed confidence, superior athleticism and winning attitude at each turn. As a result, they advanced against the strongest and took lessons for their continued development. The continent new-found optimism and grow expectations for the future was clear in their game.
It could happen to the best. Under pressure as a host country team, with main star player and defender out, Brazil looked like my children 8th graders team. They could not figure out what to do. Surprised when the German team changed strategy with sequential back passes and plays, they looked confused. Horrific attempts at imitating getting attention for faults backfired and the team just lost their soul. Ah, prepare to play against the best. Do not rest in your laurels because you win some (Cameron). This is not enough for leaders.
Even as you learn from new technologies and European disciplined style Brazil, go back to your beautiful game! It is what distinguishes you and what you do best.
First, congratulations! Discipline, patient, control and hard work consistently paid off. Contingency planning worked well as winning goals came from reserved experts in penalty kicks and goals…even with the chest. Nothing work best like planning for a long haul battle and still has reserves.
I was expecting even more, but other teams delivered even less. The Netherlands and Belgian teams were not too shabby either. An overall great win, even if the Brazil game was a bit embarrassing for all, including the winners.
In general, those teams who:
- keep mental toughness in spite of setbacks,
– Clearly understood that when battling against giants there is a little margin for errors,
– played like one with fluid communications and little friction, and
– acted with personal responsibility for winning as a team,
These fared well. It showed. Those were great games regardless of the outcome.
With abundant technology and statistics many would like to extrapolate “Moneyball” techniques to soccer. Some level of analysis for discrete variables is proper, such as, length of time of ball possession, close shots at goal and others. However, soccer as business, is a game of many interactions, some controllable, yet most are random. Pretending that statistics or ‘big data’ in business will solve all the problems and have all the answers is bluntly misguided.
Humans are the players. Humans change, sometimes from one moment to the next or as fast as the ball moves. Changes could be unexplainable. Those who can fast handle a variety of situations, who can expect most of the time and react quickly the rest of the time, will be the strongest players in business, regardless of industry.
And to learn from the Brazilians debacle, do not forget to play and keep ‘your beautiful game’.
P.S. I am on fútbol withdrawal; I’ll wait for the Women’s Soccer World Cup 2015 in Canada. I want to thank Univision Pablo Ramirez and other commentators for your ability and creativity in describing the games. That’s entertainment.