Pressure Cooker – Will England Overheat?

By Candice Lingam-Willgoss

Following Saturday’s defeat against Italy, England are now in a position where they have no breathing space and have to win their next two matches.  The Telegraph reported Hodgson himself saying they need the next two wins against Uruguay and Costa Rica, and he went on to say that their “fate is in their own hands” 

If we weight up the odds, things are pretty equal, Uruguay are also coming off a loss to Costa Rica and while the sideline fans will throw criticism at the England squad the reality is that they played a decent game last Saturday, with even possession and more shots on target unfortunately in the world of sport luck can come into play. 

What is interesting about the next match is that we have a country who have football as their national sport, vs a country without such a heritage – however where previously I discussed how the pressure of expectation could adversely affect England will this lack of expectation on Uruguay mean that they go in feeling less pressure than the England starting line up? Both teams are on the back foot but again England have a whole country depending on them to win.

From a psychological perspective there is no question that the team will have heightened levels of anxiety – this concept is something Sport Psychologist Yurin Hanin discussed in the 1980’s, in that all athletes have an optimal zone of functioning – some will have already reached their optimal levels but for others their next game will see them achieve their peak.  This idea of optimal arousal relates closely to interpretation, as it is having a positive interpretation which allows the individual to utilise their arousal in a facilitative manner that results in the best performance. 

With the World Cup stage no longer an unknown to the new players who have never worn the England shirt in such a high profile tournament there is a hope that any pre-tournament nerves have been put to bed, but what can remain though will comes down to how their arousal levels influences them in Thursdays game.  This is something Roy Hodgson needs to have in his mind as he finalises his starting 11.  What the matches so far this tournament have shown is that it isn’t just about player ability it is about mental fortitude and courage and that these will often be the defining factor of whether a team will be successful in their quest for world cup glory.

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