|Football Bettor's Survey|
When Top Teams Face Bottom Teams
by Daniel Andersson
When a strong team faces a significantly lesser team, we mostly see the stronger team as the winner. But this happens less than we think it should.
How is it that a obviously stronger team can be beaten by its lesser adversary?
Of course there are many factors, such as form, fatique and injuries but one thing that stands out as a very important piece of the puzzle, and usually overlooked, is the psychological aspects of it. The two psychological aspects I will discuss here is motivation and conviction.
"Motivation beats Class" is a very well known qoute and as much as it's true it isn't the whole story.
As important as motivation is as one of the most essential parts of selecting winners, it isn't the only psychological aspect football. Another part is the belief that a player has in his own ability. This is what I call conviction. How convinced you are in yours and your team's ability to win the game in question.
These two concepts may seem separate but they are actually somewhat intertwined. It is different everytime. On some ocassions, they are very influential of each other and somtimes not at all.
For example, Barcelona is playing at home against a bottom side like Levante and Barcelona has a crucial upcoming Champions League fixture midweek. In this situation Barcelona will be totally convinced in winning the game against Levante but their motivation will be very low and we will most certainly see a very poor performance from Barcelona. This does not mean that Levante will win the game, Barcelona is still a much better team.
When looking at this from the smaller teams perspective it looks alot different.
If Reading was to face Manchester United at Old Trafford they will, as underdogs, be very energised and motivated to play and do their best to keep up with the Devils. They will fight to keep up with the Old Trafford giants.
But as you all allready know, most of the time, that's not enough. A large portion is because Man U just is too much better of a team but it's not just that...
Many times when a smaller team visits one of the giants of their league they themselves don't believe they can win. They aren't convinced in their own ability to stand victorious. This causes a defensive atitude and lack of focus in their offensive adventures.
So even though they are motivated it, it isn't a motivation to win, since the conviction isn't there, but more a motivation not to lose with too many goals or perhaps grab a draw.
These atitudes and beliefs is extra visible when an underdog takes the lead in a game. They will become very defensive, somewhat stressed and just waiting for the end whistle.
On top of that, the better team will gain motivation after conceding.
So now, they aren't just facing a top team but a team that is better, confident and motivated to show how good they are. This is why a early goal, in any game really but especially from an underdog is almost never anything to worry about.
Most of the time changes in the attitude of the players and not in favour of the scoring team, as demonstrated earlier. Even though a goal can raise the confidence levels of the scoring team, it the same time lowers the motivation or to be more specific it gives a sense of relief which is why a team can be extra vulnerable immediately after scoring a goal.
And if the team focuses too much on the fact that they are a underdog, they will mainly focus on defending their goal and that in combination with the favourites' extra motivation is never good for the underdog.
There are a couple of exceptions when the underdog will have some chances though. One of these times is when the favourite has an important game comming up in within the next week. In these situations the focus will be on that game.
Even if they say that they take one game at a time, it is very unlikely that they have their entire focus on a game against a bottom side when say, an important Champions League fixture is comming up.
When these situations come you can almost be certain of a poor performance from the big team because their motivation for the game is so very low. The same is true for the national cups for the bigger teams. It is usually very low on the priority list and motivation is very low or a B-squad is set up to play.
Another time when a favourite can have trouble against a underdog is when they have gone through a bad spell during a longer time (more than a few games). In these situations if they let the first goal in thoughts like "oh no, not again" start popping up and the conviction level start to sink. This isn't common in top teams but can happen. Let's say they haven't been able to recover after conceding the first goal for the entire season or they haven't been able to win at home for a extended period of time (real life example Milan and Valencia 07/08) or the same situation at away ground.
Milan's season 07/08 has shocked quite a few people and it sure is very strange a quality team like them have performed so poorly in the Serie A. But if you look into it a big part of their failure is based in the concepts I have discussed in this article.
Before the season, the Milan administration stated that their main focus was to become Club World Champions. This competition is played in December. This puts the players' focus, and with that their motivation, on that tournament. The second priority was Champions League. So the league was just third on the priority list. This, along with Milan's relatively small squad makes it tough for the players to be motivated to play the league games.
Motivation and focus is very closely related so when you are motivated, it is very uncommon to not be focused. That also works in the opposite way, when a team lacks motivation they also lack in focus. If conviction, which is almost the same as confidence in your ability to perform a task, is high and motivation low you get a very bad combination. This will make you sloppy and underestimate your oponents.
This is something you can see in top teams when playing a underdog, not all the time though. And if the underdog, facing a poorly motivated favourite, has high conviction (motivation is always high when facing a star team) from a good spell or a good history against the favourites, an unexpected result is not far away.
I am a new member from last week. It has been a fantastic result and I am really happy with the silver circle. I think I will join for a long time.
- Mesut Erdem, Turkey
"I notice prices get short on many of the teams you tip. Is this because your subscribers are plenty or are you betting heavily on your own picks yourself? Either way, keep up the great work!"
- Jeffrey Low, Singapore