Sunday, 11 October 2009

Winning When It Counts

Yesterday’s World Cup qualifiers reinforced an opinion I’ve held for a while about top-level football - that teams only perform to their optimum level when the outcome matters. I could probably make a case that this applies to many sports, but footballers seem particularly adept at underperforming in dead matches.

Would England have been beaten in Ukraine if they had needed a result? I doubt it. In the majority of games, teams needing a result achieved their aim when competing against opponents with nothing to play for. Only Bulgaria blew my argument, capitulating to Cyprus. I’ll put that down to the south European temperament. Stand-out results were away wins for Paraguay and Chile in the South American qualifiers, Serbia’s demolition of Romania to confirm their qualification to South Africa, and Germany’s win in Russia.

So can I carry this opinion forward into a profitable strategy? In international qualifiers and Champions League games, probably. In league football, different rules seem to apply. I’ve basically given up on football betting during the last month of the league season, due to the daft results which occur. What’s the difference? Probably my old nugget – ‘mental fragility’. Lesser teams will crumble under pressure, whereas top players improve their performance.

I’ve added the highlights from Argentina’s win over Peru – an incredible finish. I particularly enjoyed the Argentinian defender’s attempt at a backheeled flick clearance from his own penalty area, with his team leading 1-0 after 89 minutes.

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