Sports Psychology and the Pressure of Knock Out Football


Sports Psychology and the Pressure of Knock Out Football

What is the hallmark of a World Cup champion? What is the difference between champions and their less successful opponents? What do these footballers do that allow them to raise their game when the situation requires it?

Big players play their best in big matches, and the World Cup is arguably the biggest stage for the biggest players. A study highlighting the ‘psychological state underlying clutch performance’ has shown how these world-class players deliver their best when it matters the most. On this instance, it’s the World Cup Finals. Research suggests that there are 10 characteristics of performing brilliantly under pressure:

1) Complete and deliberate focus

Concentrate on the task at hand. When the World Cup is left with the last 16 teams, it enters into its knock out stages and everything gets ramped up. More pressure. More expectation. More everything. The ability to drown this out and focus on what matters is paramount.

2) Intense effort

Be 100% committed and enhance your work rate. In the World Cup, the best players intensify their effort by being committed to their end goal. This can be optimised through training sessions, better sleep, and supporting your team-mates.

3) Heightened Awareness

Be aware of both your surroundings and your own mental state. A great way to achieve this is by keeping a diary. Whilst players are away at the World Cup they have a lot of spare time and can often feel isolated, especially from their family. A diary can be an effective way to cope with these emotions, help raise self-awareness and make you feel in control.

4) Being Up for It Growth-Mindset-10_things-that-will-help-you-oerform-under-pressure-600px-1

Being pumped up for the moment. When you’re in control of your emotions then your performance can be elevated and consistent. Different footballers will have different ways of getting in the zone before big World Cup matches. Here are 10 tips to help you control your emotions in sport.

5) Absence of Negative Thoughts

Are your thoughts helpful or unhelpful? This is a great question that footballers can ask themselves if they’re experiencing negative cognitions. Performance psychology isn’t about replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. It’s about challenging unhelpful beliefs by providing yourself with a different perspective.

6) Fully Absorbed

Immerse yourself in the performance. The best World Cup players absorb themselves in the moment. They make sure that they experience every minute with a sense of concentration and focus that other players struggle to maintain. Here’s some tips on how to improve your concentration when it matters the most.

7) Confidence

If you have trained well and given yourself the best chance of success, the next step is to believe that you can obtain your goals. Footballers with confidence are easily identifiable. Players like Neymar, Ronaldo and Messi all walk onto the pitch knowing that they’re good enough. You can use the past, present and future to improve your confidence.

8) Control

Focus on what you can control (your thoughts, feelings and reactions). The players that will achieve the most in Russia this summer will be the players who control the controllables and understand that they can’t influence everything. Here’s a few great ideas of what you can think about before a match.

9) Increased Motivation

The World Cup brings with it an abundance of different motivations for players. Whether it is a nation's World Cup glory, a golden boot award or a personal mile stone, players have to find their own way to ways to boost their motivation.

10) Enjoyment

Fully embracing the challenge. You’re at World Cup Finals, not many players can say that they have had the chance to represent their country in one of the most watched sporting events on the planet. The players that enjoy their experience will get the most out of it on the pitch.

Final Thought

The knockout stages are an unforgiving aspect of tournament football that separates the champions from the players who didn’t quite make the cut. Players who step up to be counted and handle the pressure of the knockout games can etch themselves into football history. These useful tips offer players the opportunity to give themselves the best chance of success when the pressure is truly on.

For more information about sports psychology for football, head on over to our useful guide!

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