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Is A Winning Mentality Important at International Youth Level?

Is A Winning Mentality Important at International Youth Level?


Spain under 21’s winning the 2011 UEFA under 21 European Championship

You might read the title of this article and think, yes that’s obvious! However it is easier said than done. In European under 21 football there is only an opportunity to win a trophy every two years. This summer the 2013 UEFA European under 21 Football Championship will kick off in Israel and only a few players competing will have ever won a trophy at International level. You could say that these few players are one step ahead of every one else as they have already got the winning mentality and know what it takes to win this competition.

What is a winning mentality?

Dorrance and Averbuch (2002) say that the winning mentality is “a combination of focus, pride, competitive anger, relentlessness, hardness, fitness and courage”. The word relentless stands out in this definition. Relentless means to never give up (Dorrance & Averbuch, 2002). It may be too harsh to say that the England senior team give up in tournaments but if you look at the Spain senior team, they have this energy about them that makes them work for each other and press the opposing team right until the final whistle. It can’t then be a coincidence that they have won the last two European championships and the last World Cup.

The Spain under 21’s play exactly the same as their senior team. They look up and admire their role models and the coaches have replicated that style of football and implemented it into the youth set up.

Spain won the under 21 European championship in 2011 which came after the senior team’s 2008 European win and 2010 world cup trophy win. You could say that the under 21 players had a belief they could win that trophy after seeing their role models win two trophies back to back.

Now in 2013 many of that European winning team in 2011 are in the senior set up. Players such as Juan Mata, Javi Martinez and Cesar Azpilcueta have experienced what it is like to win a major trophy at youth level. So that niggling fear of “can I really win” or “am I good enough” have been wiped away from their minds due to the fact they have won something and know what it takes.


Bayern Munich won the 2013 UEFA Champions League.

Javi Martinez also plays for Bayern Munich who have stormed the football world this season in winning the Bundesliga, the Champions League and the German Cup Final. So much so that they are refunding all their home tickets that have been bought this season due to how it easy it has been for them and the lack of entertainment for the fans. Bayern and the German national team have a core of German players, many of whom played for the German under 21’s who won the 2009 UEFA under 21 European Championships.

This win in 2009 for Germany again cannot be a coincidence. Four years on and the core of that winning team have won the treble for Bayern Munich and are part of the Germany senior team that is the most feared European country in football at this moment in time.

The Brazil national team are favourites for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in their home country which could be a big reason why they are favourites. However their under 20’s won the under 20 FIFA World Cup in 2011. Players such as Chelsea’s Oscar, Juan and Coutinho were part of that winning team in Colombia and are all in the senior team nowadays. They have experienced winning at International level and don’t be surprised if the favourites come out on top this time next year!

In answer to my question “Is a Winning Mentality at International Youth Level Important?” The answer to that is a resounding yes. All countries should focus more on youth side of international football if they want to have a better chance of winning the major tournaments at senior level. If they want to know why; the evidence is there! Players need to find that edge over their opponents and believing you can win and having that experience of winning goes someway to achieving success in your chosen sport.

Article by Joe Husbands

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Twitter: @SSPsychology

1 Comment

  1. Interesting Joe. The Brazilians of the recent past have had the talent no doubt but they appear to have lacked your winning mentality. Let’s see if the youth can change that this time round!

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