From the South Pole to outer-space, the 2014 FIFA World Cup has captured the attention of the entire planet. Thirty-two nations battled from a field of 200 to quality for this years spectacle, all eyes converging on Brazil.
The crowds roar, adorning the colors of their beloved team; an overwhelming sense of pride fills the heart of every single person. With the trademark goooaaalll! echoing, players turn into heroes. As the final whistle blows, the field is filled with tears. But it’s one form of tears desperately sought after—the tears of victory.
However, the tears of defeat are just as rich, loss can be the greatest of teachers. The drama and pursuit of success on the field are valuable lessons off the field. Pelé, the Brazilian soccer legend, says it perfectly, “Everything on earth is a game.”
Here are 12 things the World Cup losing teams teach you about success:
1. Costa Rica: Work Smart. And Hard.
In spectacular fashion, Costa Rica advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time in their history. Notching a comeback win over Uruguay, a 1-0 win over Italy, and a 0-0 tie with England—three former World Cup champion teams. Marked to finish last in their group, they were barely knocked out by the Dutch in a penalty shootout.
Against star-studded oppositions, Costa Rica really had to employ strategy. They adopted a 5-4-1 formation, heavy on defence to counter the flamboyant attackers.
Success is not only about working hard, but also working smart. Applying your brains as well as your braun. It’s about assessing your opposition and obstacles and devising a plan to counteract.
2. Colombia: New Kids On The Block
The first World Cup appearance in 16 years for Colombia started off with a bang, Pablo Armero scoring the first goal in just the fifth minute. There was certainly no rust with the majority of the team made up of debutants.
Colombia made history topping their group, with an impressive win over powerhouse Uruguay. Their most successful World Cup campaign ended in the quarter finals with a narrow 2-1 loss to Brazil.
They say familiarity breeds contempt, for the Colombians, it seems being fresh and green after a 16-year hiatus was key for their success. When stepping up against some of the World Cup giants, it was a respect combined with the blasé attitude of a ‘new kid on the block.’
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by a new endeavor and undermine your abilities. Colombia could have done that after being out of the World Cup for so long. But they leveraged their ‘ignorance’ and simply charged forward.
3. Brazil: Can’t Stop The Music
It’s the fairy tale for every host nation, to be the star of their own party. But despite the horrific end to their campaign—the 7-1 thumping from Germany, followed by a 3-0 loss to the Netherlands, the party must still go on.
With plans for an earth-shaking closing ceremony, it’s not like the Brazilians can just tell everyone to leave.
We’ve all had crappy days like that—just want to clock-off and call it a day. But perhaps the best thing for sanity, is to join the celebration; as bad as your day may be, turn up the music. Have a glass of wine and some chocolate, or some brigadeiros and cachaça!
4. Spain: All That Glitters Ain’t Gold
When it comes to big disappointments of the 2014 World Cup, the defending champions find themselves on that list. Winners of Euro 2008 and 2012, as well as the 2010 World Champions, Spain were big favorites to win. But they were eliminated with a 2-0 loss to Chile, and a 5-1 loss against the Netherlands.
With nearly the same star-studded team that won the Cup in 2010, you realize what appears on paper doesn’t always transfer in reality. Perhaps the Spaniards got a little caught up in all the hype.
It’s a good reminder not to bank on fancy talk if it’s empty of a decent walk. The punters definitely got shafted on that bet.
5. USA: The Ripple Effect
The USA’s heroic on-field performance against Belgium, losing in extra-time, drew quite an impressive off-field response—a personal phone call from President Obama, “To see the way you guys captured the hearts and the imaginations of the whole country is unbelievable.”
That’s significant because the States have never been a nation interested in soccer. No doubt the last thing they were expecting as they were out there on the field. But that’s the ripple effect of one heroic performance.
Whatever you’re engaged in, success can be set off by a single spark. You may only be one day away from changing the trajectory of your future.
6. Cameroon & Ghana: Drama In The Background
Not to be left out, Cameroon and Ghana also experienced Presidential involvement. But for all the wrong reasons. Both Presidents called for investigations as to why neither team advanced past group stages. Of course, it was the drama off-field that crippled them on-field.
For Cameroon, the trouble began when players refused to board their plane until a dispute over bonuses was resolved. The national football federation said it had to take out a “private loan” to meet player demands, increasing the sum given to each squad member by US $12,000.
What happens in the background will always transfer onstage; people will always trip over loose cables. Before your big day or event, do a second sound check and make sure everything’s in order. You don’t want any post-event investigations.
7. Holland: The Extra Mile
After 120 minutes of scoreless play, it came down to a penalty shoot out against Argentina to advance to the finals. But the Dutch bowed out with a 4-2 defeat—a stellar performance from the Argentinian keeper.
It was Argentinian keeper Sergio Romero’s extra homework that sent Holland packing. Like a diligent student camped out in the library, he compiled a binder, analysing each of the Netherlands’ attackers shot history and tendencies. Had the Dutch keeper done the same, it may have been a different story.
‘Luck’ always finds its way into the hands of the diligent. To stand apart from the ordinary, one must be willing to extra. It certainly paid off the Argentinians.
8. Russia: Follow The Leader
With such a rich soccer tradition, Russia failed to impress taking an early group-stage elimination. Magnifying the upset, was the notable leadership of Fabio Capello, the highest-earning manager of the World Cup. Many argue that he implemented a strategy severely lacking any serious attack, and the players did what they were told.
Every successful person has a coach or mentor. And the apple rarely falls far from the tree. If you don’t have a mentor, get one. If you have one that isn’t bringing out the best in you, it’s time to end that relationship.
9. England: Past, Present, & Future
Failure to make it out of the Group stage after defeats to Italy and Uruguay saw England taking the early exit for the first time since 1958.
It was the gaping hole within the squad between experienced and inexperienced players. A heavy reliance on past performer Wayne Rooney to balance out that gap was far more than one person could carry.
The Football Association of England agrees that the England Manager, Roy Hodgson, “Has no depth to his squad.” England had been so reliant on veteran stars such as Rooney, they forgot to build the future generation of elites.
It’s easy to isolate a successful experience in life and forget about the aftermath. The cards that you play at this moment may no longer be effective in the future. Make sure you are setting yourself up for victories not only for today, but also for next month.
10. Croatia: Sometimes You Get Hit With Lemons
The opening match against Brazil has become the talking point with the infamous dive by Brazilian Seleção’s Fred, which sealed the victory over Croatia. Jeers spread like wildfire throughout the stadium as replays showed Fred crashing to the field after minimal contact; the referee bought it hook, line, and sinker, and pointed to the spot.
It’s a reminder that even when we check all the boxes for success, there are things that are simply outside our control. Especially negative decisions others make. Not sure how Croatia are supposed to make lemonade out of that situation. But just try to squeeze whatever positive drops possible from lemons you encounter.
11. Argentina: The Journey & Destination
While it was absolutely heartbreak for the Argentinians to lose in the 105th minute to Germany, they wouldn’t have traded the grand final experience for anything. It’s not only the highest pinnacle and unique setting to apply all their training, but a very clear bulls eye for which every team is aiming.
It’s one thing to have passions and desires, it’s another to create a clear vision and actually get there. Even though Argentina didn’t take the crown, they valiantly battle through 6 matches to arrive at the final stop. There is no doubt those matches were filled with the richest of experiences.
When it comes to success and chasing after your dream, there needs to be a clear destination. But it’s going to be a rich journey that brings you there. It can’t just be about the journey, nor just about the destination.
12. A Lesson From Every Losing Team: Get Back Up
Out of the 32 teams that competed at the World Cup, 31 are “losing teams.” None of those teams will decide they they’re over and done with the World Cup—that they’ll never compete again. They’ll pick themselves up, study their mistakes, and work twice as hard to be twice as good over the next 4 years.
Failure is a comma, not a period. The journey to success will be paved with obstacles, setbacks, and frustrations. But the only true loser is the one that doesn’t get back up and keep moving forward.