Germans thrive when under pressure


"The World Cups of 20 and 16 years ago were garden parties compared to what is involved now, with the pressures that have developed. The increase in pressure seems continuous from one competition to the next. Now it is almost completely out of hand. In nearly all the countries of the world football is the most popular sport and today the media bring it to the masses and bring the feelings and demands of the masses back to those working in the game. It is my great fear that one day the World Cup will no longer be the sporting event [people] enjoy, it will become too big, too important, too hard on the people concerned, just impossible to go on with."

Which manager, of the 32 under siege at this World Cup, said these words? None of them, they were spoken by Helmet Schön, the coach of West Germany, in 1978.

It is said that pressure is a single-parent in a dead-end job struggling to put food on the table. That is true, but feeling the weight of a nation's hopes on young shoulders is pressure too, and if it was that bad then, and Schön had won the World Cup in 1974, what is it like now? A couple of contemporary coaches have provided clues.

Raymond Domenech, the departing manager of France, sought to excuse Nicolas Anelka's infamous outburst when he said: "People cannot imagine the pressure. We are in a dressing-room, the coach says something to a player who is already under pressure, he can react angrily, and with strong words." Domenech said if the incident had stayed in the dressing-room, he would have forgiven Anelka.

Marcello Lippi, after Italy's exit, took responsibility for sending out a team for "such an important game with terror in their heart and legs".

England looked like this against Algeria, and Germany struggled to play freely in their decisive match with Ghana. The factor which may decide today's showdown is who deals best with this pressure. Both should be more relaxed because going out in the group stages would have been as humiliating as it was for France and Italy.

Who is under the greatest pressure? Probably Germany, who last failed to make the quarter-finals in 1938. Their benchmark is a semi-final berth; in a poll by Kicker magazine almost everyone thought they would get that far.

Who are best at dealing with it? Germany again. They are used to winning and expect to. Players are chosen for their ability to handle pressure, which is put upon them at an early age.

Mathias Sammer, the sweeper in their Euro 96 winning team, is now technical director of the German FA. His brief includes their age-group teams and, unlike most youth coaches, he puts an emphasis on results.

"The only way a young player can acquire a winning mentality is by winning," he said. "It is not something you can teach. I want our young players to realise that the recognition you get for winning a title is more valuable than money."

Under Sammer, Germany have won the European Under-17 and Under-21 titles with several graduates from the latter team (who beat England 4-0 in the final) in South Africa. They include the gifted playmaker Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, who replaced Michael Ballack with aplomb, and Manuel Neuer, the 24-year-old who solved the goalkeeping problem.

Germany are also the younger side. Will that make a difference? "Young players know no fear," is a common mantra. Against that, older players have the experience to cope with changing circumstances.

What is beyond doubt is that elite sport is played between the ears as well as with the body and limbs.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
This weekend's 'Big Hero 6' by Disney Animation Studios
arts + ents
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee