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, Russia on penalties in the Quarter-finals and 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 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%.

  • 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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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. Many analysts felt it should not have been awarded. France scored and it had a profound effect on 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 clearly disappointed by their loss, the Croatians were magnanimous in defeat. 

  • There will be days when you make mistakes or 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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