Be Mentally Ready for the Challenge
Have you played an overly physical team and your team was not mentally ready for the challenge?
The one style that most teams have difficulty playing are overly physical teams who commit many fouls.
Overly physical opponents can take you out of your game mentally. If you are not mentally prepared or able to adapt, your team will be at a disadvantage.
In our Mental Game of Soccer Survey, a soccer player asked how to stay mentally in control when playing against physical teams:
“What is the best way to deal with opposing teams that commit a lot of fouls?”
When you play a team that is overly aggressive, your focus switches from your style of play to how the opposing team is playing. You get frustrated when the referees miss obvious fouls.
You are more cautious going after the ball. You avoid contact and pass the ball earlier than you normally would. Your whole game revolves around what the other team is doing and you miss opportunities to push the ball down field.
You are nervous and fear getting hurt, so you hang back and make the safe play. You give up control and allow your opponents to dictate the play on the pitch. The opposing team recognizes your hesitancy and their confidence flourishes as the game progresses.
You must be mentally prepared to face rough teams, effectively manage your emotions, and keep a focus on your game plan.
The United States men’s national soccer played Honduras in the 2021 CONCACAF Nations League semi-finals. Honduras is known for its hard-nosed play. Some of the players on the US have not played against an over-aggressive opponent at this level.
In fact, the US squad was playing with two players, Joshua Sargent and Giovanni Reyna, who were playing in their first competitive match against a CONCACAF opponent at the senior level.
USMNT veteran defender John Brooks talked about the importance of both preparation and experience when playing against rough teams.
BROOKS: “I think talking about [playing against rough teams] is different than like actually playing against teams like that, after the Honduras game, now I think everybody knows how it is to play against teams like that. It’s never going to be easy. Every game is a battle. And so it was against Honduras. All that counts is that we won the game and we’re in the final against Mexico now we are ready to go.”
If the USMNT was not mentally prepared to meet the challenges of playing a team that excessively fouls, the team wouldn’t have beat Honduras 1-0, then win over Mexico 3-2 for the championship.
Of course, experience is a great teacher but so is mental training.
You could have all the experience in the world, but if you are not mentally prepared and mentally tough, you will still respond ineffectively under rough circumstances.
How to Prepare for Overly Aggressive Opponents:
The first step is to recognize that some teams will foul more than others. The referees will miss calls too. Both of these challenges you cannot change, no matter how much you want to argue calls.
Instead, focus on what you can control during the game, such as your performance and how you react to non-calls or fouls. Be ready to refocus on the next play and not the fouls.
The key is to focus on your strengths and not retaliate. When you maintain your composure, you will frustrate your opponent and gain a distinct advantage.
Related Soccer Psychology Articles
- Playing Focused Soccer Against Bully Teams
- How to Overcome Anxiety During Soccer Games
- Break Through a Soccer Slump
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