It is often billed as a David v Goliath story – the underdog, plucky and with only hope as a weapon, against the vastly superior favourites, marching on from victory to victory. Time and again coaches go into these match-ups with the main aims of stifling thew favourites with a high tempo start, perhaps with the goal of quieting the crowd. But with perhaps a more detailed and analytic approach and using a defined structure of scouting the opponent, the upset can be attained more easily.
ANATOMY OF THE FAVOURITE ATTACKING STRENGTHS
Outside of their normal physically superior attributes (faster, stronger, more powerful) elite teams will also employ mental and tactical strengths honed through their winning experiences. Used as they are to victory, it is in these strengths that the chink in the armour can be exploited. It is rare that the superior team will want to change their style of play or personnel to cope with the underdog – and why should they as the stronger team?
The favourite is so used to victory that it is almost expected, the constant flow of victories and goals can lead to a sense of inevitability about the result, that the ‘results will come’ no matter what the underdog does. As the leading lights in matches they become drunk on the adulation and praise from coaches, managers, family and friends and often opponents vanquished.
They will often have a number of ‘star players’, perhaps over-confident or arrogant, individuals within a team, who they rely on to make the difference. Once they have seen off the initial fast start of the underdog, they will come to the fore and will pull the strings to set the ball rolling to another victory.
SCOUTING FOR VICTORY
Outside of the normal analysis of the opponent (set pieces, attacking & defensive systems, individual traits) alternative enquiries should be made to see if there are other areas that can be exploited.
- How do they deal with set-backs, such as decisions going against them, conceding goals etc?
- Which player is potentially the weakest, either physically or emotionally? Can they be exploited in a one-on-one situation?
- Who are their leaders? Overcoming perceived leaders can lead to a sense of doubt in the rest of the team.
- How does their coach deal with difficult situations?
Where we can beat this unbeatable opponent will be a mixture of a simple and well executed game plan, allied to a dedication from everyone to carry out their role ton the best of their ability for the entire duration of the match.
HOW TO WIN ‘AGAINST ALL ODDS’!
Using a number of strategies on the tactical, mental and physical aspects of performance will help to create that winning environment. Lets begin by looking at how we can try to dominate them physically;
- We will have to be prepared to work harder than we have ever done before. Every step counts and your brain will want to quit before your body will. Be prepared to run yourself into the ground.
- Restrict time and space by closing into your opponent fast and controlled. This included closing down from behind them which is often overlooked.
- The speed of transition from attacking to defending must be quick. An immediate change of direction and chase back will help create a sense of a team that never gives up on anything.
- Winning teams are used to attacking. By maintaining your attacks some of their team may not work as hard in defence. This will be your chance.
Mentality is key. If you think you can’t win, you won’t! But to gain victory we have to break the game into bite-sized chunks. Realise when changes in momentum occur and look to arrest shifts from you to them.
- Aim to start and finish each half on the attack. It creates a sense of doubt in the opposition players and fans.
- Look to dominate each restart; goalkicks, throw ins etc, by creating a high pressure ‘win the ball back’ culture. This should not lead to a chasing around like headless chicks situation but controlled, focussed situation.
- Praise all tasks that are completed well. Every opponent pass intercepted, shot blocked, cross delivered, tackle made should be highlighted to help reinforce that sense of doubt in the opponent.
Tactical considerations are obvious to some extent but the opposition strengths need to be negated and perhaps exploited while allowing their weaknesses to manifest.
- Everyone must know their role in the team. They must embrace their role and see beyond their game to that of the team.
- The mis-match that has been identified must be exploited as often as possible.
- The counter attack will help build a sense of fear in the favourites.
- Having a secondary game-plan can be used when with the primary game-plan isn’t working or to help confuse the opposition.