Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 20th 2014 Contents A73
Friday, June 20, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
It has been a goal-filled, penalty-stricken
and quite exciting World Cup football tour-
nament thus far, and emotions and antic-
ipations are running high.
Disappointing play from hosts Brazil and
football giants like Argentina and even Italy,
have left fans at the edge of their seats,
wondering "What next!" The surprising
bulldozing of former defending champions
Spain by the Netherlands and Chile, and
of two time champions Uruguay at the
hands of Costa Rica, a clear underdog who
has not won an opening game since 1970,
has blown this World Cup wide open. It
seems to be anyone s for the taking, and
has highlighted the power of the underdog.
The general definition of "underdog" is
the person or team that is expected to lose
a game or fight. The term originated from
nineteenth century dogfights. The beaten
dog would normally be pinned underneath
the winning dog, giving rise to the terms
"underdog" and "top dog," as the winning
dog would be called.
Despite this glum imagery, there are some
interesting advantages to being the underdog
in a competition like the World Cup, that
can lead to an astonishing upset as in the
Spain/Netherlands, Spain/Chile and
Uruguay/Costa Rica matches.
Firstly, there are no expectations made
of an underdog team, except that they should
lose. Therefore, the underdog has nothing
to lose. Because there are no expectations,
there is little pressure on the team to win
and players can focus more on the process,
rather than on the outcome.
It can be quite a liberating and freeing
experience, as the athlete can just enjoy
playing the game without the weight of
I bet that this reason was partly respon-
sible for Costa Rica s victory over Uruguay.
Although Uruguay scored first and initially
pressured the Costa Rican goal, Costa Rica s
play showed ease and enjoyment. Spain also
felt the pressure of being the "top dog" and
crumbled against the Netherlands and Chile
under the world s expectations, much to
the disdain of millions of football-frenzied
However, Spain and Uruguay also fell vic-
tim to what I like to call "adverse top dog
psychology" and underestimated the
Netherlands and Costa Rica. Underestimat-
ing causes players to unconsciously cut cor-
ners in their mental preparation and become
lazy in the first part of the game, until it
is too late. I am no football analyst, but I
almost wanted to reach through the tele-
vision and tap Gerard Pique on the head
for what even I could see was some lack-
adaisical defending. This underestimating
by the top dog team opens up avenues for
the underdogs to sneak through to score.
Then, panic-stricken, the top dog
attempts a haphazard scramble to regain
control. Often times, it is in vain and detri-
mental to the team, resulting in red cards
and suspensions as it did when a frustrated
Maxi Pereira was sent marching to the locker
room. Spain, in a desperate attempt to defeat
Chile, seemed to fall victim to the pressure
that resulted from the hole into which they
had dug themselves against the Nether-
Another advantage to being the underdog
is an increased level of motivation that
comes with the position. Underdogs tend
to want to prove their worth to both them-
selves and to those who expect them to
lose, and often will work longer and harder
than the top dogs, prepared to fight for as
long as it takes. There is great satisfaction
that comes with beating a superior team,
and this can provide high levels of motivation
to underdog teams...and it does not get
more motivating than beating a superior
team on a global stage like the World Cup!
The typical overwhelming crowd support
for the underdog can also increase motiva-
tion for such teams. Fans love an unexpected
victory, and the drama associated with it.
Research studies have shown that there is
usually overwhelming support for the under-
dog. Their persistence of spirit makes for
a charming attribute and draws in the fan,
who develops an emotional attachment to
the underdog. Ultimately, the fan would like
to see persistence, fight and hard work win
the battle against all odds. Also, as one per-
son put it, a close game is far more exciting
than a lopsided one, and fans will therefore
root for the underdog so that the game can
be more closely contested and therefore
It will be interesting to see how the Brazil-
ian team responds in this World Cup. Will
the team rally under the encouragement of
their fans? Or will they crumble under their
expectations and succumb to "adverse top
dog psychology?" Only time will tell in this
World Cup of upsets and underdogs.
Carla Rauseo, DPT, CSCS is a Doctor of
Physical Therapy and a certified Strength and
Conditioning Specialist at Total Rehabilitation
Centre in San Juan.
Hitzfeld made no secret yes-
terday about his tactics head-
ing into Switzerland s poten-
tially decisive clash with
France: Solid defending and
Whoever wins in Salvador
today will take a major step
toward clinching top spot in
Group E, and probably avoid
Lionel Messi s Argentina in the
"It s a derby," Hitzfeld said.
"We have to be firm in the
defence and react quickly on
counter strikes." Switzerland
began its World Cup campaign
with a 2-1 win against Ecuador
after a late goal by Haris Sefer-
ovic. The French easily beat
Honduras 3-0 after it was
reduced to 10 men before half-
"If we want to stand a chance
against France, we will have to
play beyond our limits," the vet-
eran German coach said. "In
the first match, we were a bit
nervous. "We have to be calmer
and more composed." Under
Hitzfeld, Switzerland has been
transformed into a very efficient
team, losing just once in 18
matches over the past two years
and reaching No 6 in the Fifa
"The Fifa ranking does not
really matter, except to say that
we are a really good team,"
Swiss defender Steve von
Bergen said. Hitzfeld, who has
announced his retirement after
the World Cup, said France is
the favorite, pointing out the
results in recent friendlies.
"We won 1-0 against
Jamaica, they won 8-0," he said.
"All French stars are primarily
team players, and that is what
makes them dangerous." It
promises to be an intriguing
battle in midfield, with Napoli
pair Valon Behrami and
Goekhan Inler, along with Bay-
ern Munich s Xherdan Shaqiri,
going up against France s Paul
Pogba, Blaise Matuidi and
Inler said Switzerland s
defence will have to take care
not only of Karim Benzema,
who scored twice in Sunday s
win against Honduras, but the
whole French strike force.
"There are no anti-Benzema
tactics," Inler said. "He is a very
good attacker, but he is just one
of many good French players."
Benefits of being
Switzerland to defend against France
Uruguay's Maxi Pereira (16) tries to help
Costa Rica's Joel Campbell (9) during the
group D World Cup soccer match between
Uruguay and Costa Rica at the Arena
Castelao in Fortaleza, Brazil, Saturday.
Pereira was given a red card for the
incident. AP PHOTO
Essien returns to training
Ghana's Michael Essien has returned to training
after picking up a toe injury in the World Cup loss
to the United States.
The Ghana team says the AC Milan midfielder
missed training Wednesday, but returned to
practice yesterday ahead of the Group G game
against Germany tomorrow.
Essien started on the bench in the 2-1 loss to
the US in Natal, which left Ghana with tough
games against the Germans and Portugal to
qualify for the last 16.
Coach Kwesi Appiah has been questioned for
his decision to start with Essien and forward
Kevin-Prince Boateng on the bench against the
Buffon, Barzagli still in doubt
Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and centre
back Andrea Barzagli remain in doubt for today's
World Cup match against Costa Rica.
Buffon twisted his left ankle and knee before
the Azzurri's opening game against England and
watched from the bench as Salvatore Sirigu filled
in admirably for him in a 2-1 win.
Coach Cesare Prandelli says Buffon "has had
three great days of training but the ankle is still
slightly swollen. If he feels good after today's
training he'll play."
Barzagli was held out of training Wednesday
due to a tendinitis problem that bothered him all
season with Juventus.
Die's tears provide evocative image
Sobbing uncontrollably through his national
anthem, Ivory Coast midfielder Serey Die provided
one of the evocative images of the World Cup
before his team's match against Colombia
Die never thought he'd play for his country,
never mind on world football's biggest stage, and
it was all too much for him.
"My life has always been difficult," Die said. "It's
true, I thought about my father who died in 2004.
I also thought about my tough life --- I didn't think
that one day I would be here, playing. This
emotion overwhelmed me and I am a very
"I fought (against the tears) but I couldn't."
Altidore to miss Portugal game
Jozy Altidore will miss the Americans' World
Cup game against Portugal on Sunday because of
his strained left hamstring and appears likely to
sit out next week's match against Germany.
The US probably needs to advance to the
knockout phase if the forward is to return to the
Altidore was hurt in the 21st minute of
Monday's 2-1 win over Ghana, and the US Soccer
Federation said yesterday he will not play against
"He's a big player for us," midfielder Kyle
Beckerman said. "We're extremely bummed for
him and for the team, but we bring 23 players,
and it's just a chance for somebody to step up.
Hopefully the injury's not too bad and we can see
Jozy later in the tournament."
Kompany too injury proned
There is little not to like about Belgium
defender Vincent Kompany at the World Cup. He
has vision, poise and leadership--- all the qualities
teams look for in a captain. Well, there is one
downside---he is injury prone.
So when all players bar one came cycling down
to the training pitch yesterday, there was a
sudden worry Belgium's World Cup campaign
might not look so perfect after all, despite the
opening 2-1 win over Algeria. Kompany stayed up
at the team hotel to treat a groin strain. With
Sunday's game against Russia drawing near,
alarm bells were quickly ringing.
Wilmots announced that the captain suffered
from a "slight groin strain. He is working with the
THE PLAYERS CORNER
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