The Psychology of Normal Time

On his recent fact-finding mission to Brazil, we were treated to swathes of imagery of an England manager buckling down to business as Roy Hodgson gets ready for the tournament. However, his most recent admissions to the press are already unsettling some fans a full six months before the World Cup even starts. Are England’s players in need of psychological help?

The Psychology of Normal Time

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February 25th, 2014

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Like a baseball pitcher during a game where he’s given up no hits or a master poker player remaining silent for entire games, the best thing to do is not to speak at all, lest you ‘jinx’ it. We all know that the penalty shootout has proved to be England’s undoing in most major football tournaments – apart from the ones where they’re simply outplayed over 90 minutes – just as we recognise the famous misses by Waddle, Ince and Batty more than we recognise their non-spot-kick contributions throughout the matches.

Hodgson’s announcement that he’ll consider using a ‘penalty psychologist’ during the World Cup is a clear indication that Hodgson has identified and intends to overcome the single largest obstacle facing an English side.

Except that, well, it isn’t the single largest obstacle is it? What concerns me personally a little bit more than those enduring images of Waddle’s penalty spot clearance and Southgate’s lame side-footer is the fact that, while spot-kicks have ended our interest in six of the last ten tournaments we even qualified for, the other four were settled pretty comprehensively by a side who simply wanted it more. Think back if you dare to South Africa or to 2002 when, trailing 2-1 to a Brazil side that was down to 10 men for the last half-hour of the match, England simply ran out of steam. In fact, to go back as far as Euro 2000, they didn’t even make it out of the group.

So before the manager gets all hyper-focused on winning, let’s face it, what is an absolute coin-toss of penalties after 120 minutes of football, let’s gently remind him that the game is there to be won for a full two hours before the typical England nightmare can even get going.

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