Wednesday night saw Croatia knock out England and book their place in the World Cup Final. An incredible achievement for a country of just over four million. However, it does look as if the over confidence of English pundits may have done a lot to motivate Modric and his team-mates. Therefore, it is now time for English pundits and journalists to choose their words more carefully in future. If not for their sake then at least for the sake of the England squad.
Strong words from Luka Modric post-match:
"English journalists, pundits from television, they underestimated Croatia and that was a huge mistake. All these words from them we take, we were reading and we were saying 'ok, today we will see who will be tired'" pic.twitter.com/cspDwvr3Kv
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) July 12, 2018
You can tell from Luka Modric’s post-match comments above that the Croats were at the very least put out by the English media’s eagerness to write them off. Suggestions that they would tire proved unfounded. Indeed, it looked to be the English players who tired most as the match wore on into extra time.
At this stage I must clarify some things. I am Scottish and I enjoy the rivalries of football. A rivalry undoubtedly exists between Scotland and England. However, I am not vociferous about it. Football is just a game after all and I like to think I can be objective in my analysis.
With that said, Gareth Southgate and his charges deserve huge credit for their achievements during this World Cup. The manager has carried himself with dignity and class and has achieved a togetherness and positivity around the England national team that I have never really seen in my lifetime. They have a lot of positives to take and a lot to build on.
My point regarding the media comments motivating the Croats are based on more than Modric’s comments. It is an age-old reality of football that ill-judged media comments can sometime be used to motive your opponents. How many times have we seen post-match comments saying along the lines of “We saw their comments before the game so we made sure to pin the quotes up on the wall.” In this case the unwitting overconfidence of pundits went some way to doing the Croatian manager’s team talk for him.
It is a lesson that the English media must learn should England reach such stages again in World Cups or even in two years at the European Championships. Be wary of over-confidence and accidentally insulting or condescending your opponents. Southgate and his players never did anything to contribute to Modric’s comments. And the Real Madrid star only referenced “journalists and pundits”. Therefore, it should become obvious that their words carry weight.
Speaking of weight, I hope for the England player’s sakes that the semi-final loss doesn’t become a weight on their shoulders should they reach that stage again. They only just exercised the penalty shoot-out demons in this World Cup. The last thing they need is to replace it with some semi-final superstition. They need to avoid as much talk about 1990 and 2018 in years to come as possible.
I am certain that Southgate will ensure that his players do not fall into that kind of trap but sometimes things simply enter the national psyche. As was the case with penalties previously. Constant media references added increased pressure and nervousness amongst supporters. This only serves to heap pressure onto the player’s minds. Minds that should be freed up from such additional distractions.
For this England team, media support will become more and more important moving forward. My suggestions would be: Avoid the overconfidence trap, always respect the opposition and don’t go on and on about the past.
For England’s national team, it is the future that really counts.