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FIFA Soccer World Cup 2018 – Coaching Perspective

The 2018 soccer world cup is over with France as a deserved winner, although Croatia would have been equally deserving. As is common after a major tournament nations review their performance, draw conclusions about what worked and what didn’t and plan a new future. Some with the same coaches and some with new coaches.

Typically the nations who feel successful refer to their national soccer programs as being the right ones and plan to change little, the ones who feel they have failed question and analyze theirs.

Belgium is happy with their program, they are looking to develop the next generation, but the players questioned the coach’s game tactics in some games. France is basking inb their glory. England is celebrating its revival and the success of the youth program, Germany is questioning everything that has made them successful since a major program revamp stating in 2000. Argentina and Portugal are wondering if relying on Messi and Ronaldo was the right strategy and what to do next as they retire.

I find this very knee jerk and to some degree overcomplicating things. I strongly advocate the Four Pillars of Soccer , Technical Skills, Tactics, Physical Fitness, and Mental Preparation. Any program or team that develops these pillars into a strategic plan with specific goals, objectives and action plans will only need to tweak their program based on observation, and not to overhaul it constantly.

Lets look at an example. After disappointing 1994 and 1998 world cups Germany started a new youth development program, built academies, focused on adding skills to the classic discipline and work ethic of German soccer and develop a new tactical format. New players developed, youth teams were successful, and a new generation won the 2014 world cup. 2018 was a disaster with exiting in the first round. Now Germany is considering revamping their entire program again. But do they need to?

In terms of the four pillars of soccer Germany still develops skillful youth players. No need to change anything there. Tactically they actually changed their style in this world cup from quick passing and runs to more of a possession style a la Guardiola. Teams were ready for it and it didn’t work. Just go back to what worked before. Physical fitness – German players are generally fit. In this world cup the coach chose to start players who were coming off injuries and weren’t 100% fit. That was a mistake. Mental preparation was a disaster. The team was not hungry, not ready to fight and had an arrogant attitude that they would be successful, even though warning signs were there in pre tournament warm up games. So tweak the mental preparation. Does Germany need to overhaul everything? Not at all.

Other countries should do the same. Review and plan everything in the context of the four pillars of soccer and performance will be the best it can be. That is true for nations, clubs, and your team.

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