I did not get to watch El Clasico until after 10pm last night, and more significantly, until after I knew the result 3-1 to Barca. Barca has been the best club in the World for several years and has a rightful claim to being the best club in the history of football. It goes without saying that they have gotten the best of Real Madrid of late, and this was important in the psychology of this match.
Entering the game, Real was believed to be in top form, and Barca below their best. Real had a “dream” start yesterday scoring 22 seconds in, but as I watch the game, this was Fool’s Gold. The goal was a fluke, the product of a horrific passing error, and occured before the match had established any pattern.
This was a critical psychological turning point. Casting aside the temporary emotions of the moment, the match was now determined: Real would defend, and Barca would attack.
This liberated Barca to play unburdened football secure in the notion that their only route to victory lay in aggression.
Real was simultaneously burdened by their early lead that was not the product of superior play, but a singular mistake. Deeper still was defending a 6 point lead in the La Liga table. Up 1-0 they held everything, the game, and the league, even conceding a goal and tying would serve them well. Their lack or recent success against Barca heightened this sense of defending and holding what they had rather than attacking, and when the equalizer and go ahead goals followed, a sense of inevitable failure seemed to sap Real of any fight.
From 1-0 in 22 seconds, the game actually began in earnest, but what happened in those 22 seconds irrevocably changed the psychological impetus of both teams. Circumstances of the game dictated how the it would be played, not anything that Real imposed or dictated upon the game.
In my basketball season, my team has lost twice. In both games the pattern was similar. We played the first quarter even, faced adversity in the second, compounded it in the third, then mounted furious, but ultimately futile charges in the fourth. During our charges, we played with inspired abandon displaying perhaps all we could be as a team. Why then, and not earlier?
I believe it is because our failure through three quarters liberated us. We had to attack it was our only option. It removed the tentative aspect of our play so evident when the game was in the balance.
This is evidence of our failure to dictate the game. To be consistently successful, you must dictate the terms of the game. Your tactics and execution define the tempo and manner in which the game is played. You get a lead and grow a lead. Until we mature mentally to dictate games, we will remain a good group of kids with a lot of heart. Admirable, but not the stuff of Champions.
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