Remind each player of the following: “What is your opposite number doing this week to improve his chances for the game and can you be doing more?”
If you can convince a player they are working harder than the player they are playing against, then there is a greater chance of them feeling confident.
Of course physically if they are better prepared (no late nights etc.) then there is an advantage as well.
Before the kick off
Warm-up soccer drills can give away a lot about a team – who plays where and what size they are.
In the changing rooms be careful what you say as walls have ears. Talk tactics on the pitch instead.
The kick off – have a plan and be calm
Focus on what is going to happen in the first few plays, for example, first corner, first attack. Players can then move quickly into position in the first moments of the game.
This is the moment to ensure players are not over-heated – they are less likely to charge off, giving away free kicks from over zealous play.
Mental rehearsal just before kick off is fantastic, with players imagining what they are going to do, for example, picking up their player to mark.
There is enough scientific evidence to suggest that the mental preparation make their first few minutes of the game far more effective.
Rhythm – move at your pace
Set the rhythm of the game by the way the team approaches the restarts. Slow things down by moving slowly to a free kick or throw in, but then change the tempo later in the game by being in position before the opposition arrive, shouting the calls to make the other team hurry up.
Rhythm can also be set by the nature of your passing game or free kicks. Kick long to change the pace of the game, making their forwards move to places they have not been.
Game breakers – timing
All sides have one, if not more players, who are more likely to make the crucial breaks to score goals or set up goals. Set up plays which disorganise defences, then use the gamebreakers. In other words, teams will be geared up to stop the best players, but will find it more difficult when they have been forced out of position.
Winning teams are often patient teams – they have confidence in their plan and their ability to carry out the plan. Not every move will break through, but constant attrition will eventually wear down a side and produce the opportunities to score. The decision makers in the side need to be aware of this and keep to the plan until a collective decision is made to change it.
Soccer referees, good or bad, are vital to the way a game is played. To win games, it is important to bend and compromise, learning the way that the referee wants the game to be played. Despite all efforts at mind games, complaining or disagreeing with the referee does not cut much ice, whatever the level.