A lesson from the 2018 World Cup

A month of terrific football (soccer) came to an end yesterday in Moscow with the World Cup Final. France lived up to expectations and claimed the title of World Champion by defeating Croatia 4 – 2 in an entertaining game. Félicitations les Bleus!

Throughout the tournament, France showed the depth of its talent, going undefeated in seven games (6 wins, 1 tie). With a host of young, dynamic players on its team, France has the potential to be a football powerhouse for years to come.

But today, I’d like to focus on Croatia. Although undeniably a talented team, they entered the tournament ranked much lower than France. Few picked them to reach the Final. Still, they finished with an impressive record of 6 wins and 1 loss, losing only to France in the last game.

Croatia set a World Cup record by becoming the first team to win three overtime games in a row. They beat Denmark on penalties in the Round of 16; they beat Russia on penalties in the Quarter-finals; they beat England in extra time in the Semi-finals.

In each of those three games, the opposition scored first and Croatia had to rally from behind. They played their Semi-final against England the day after France’s Semi-final which meant they had one less day to recover for the Final. Furthermore, because all three of their games following the Group Round went into extra time, Croatia, in effect, played one full game more than France heading into the Final.

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And yet Croatia showed remarkable resilience, energy and spirit to make the Final a thrilling one. They outplayed France for much of the game and finished with possession 62% of the time versus France’s 38%. Even when behind, even when France scored on a free kick and a penalty, neither of which, in my view, should have been awarded, Croatia never, ever gave up.

Some thoughts on what we can learn from Croatia:

Croatia came to the Final having played more than France and having less time to recover. But they gave 100% for their country and their fans.

  • Sometimes you have to give a presentation in the middle of a busy schedule and you are tired. You still have to deliver for your audience.

Croatia fell behind after 18 minutes as a result of an own goal off a French free kick. Ten minutes later, they tied the game.

  • Sometimes you make a mistake when you are presenting. You have to put it behind you and keep going.
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Around the 35-minute mark, France had a corner kick that deflected off an French player and hit the hand of a Croatian player. After a lengthy review, the referee awarded a penalty kick to France notwithstanding Croatia’s protests. Many analysts felt that the penalty should not have been awarded. France scored on the penalty and it had a profound effect on the tempo of the game. But Croatia continued to play hard.

  • Sometimes things happen that are beyond your control. For example, the organizers might cut your speaking time, or your computer might break meaning you can’t show your slides. You still have to put forward your best effort.
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Although they lost and were clearly disappointed by their loss in the World Cup Final, the Croatians and their President, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, were magnanimous in defeat. 

  • There will be days when things do not go your way. You still have to be professional. Learn what you can from what happened and move forward.
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Croatian Football Team at the 2018 World Cup


About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
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