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Angel Correa, Argentina U-20 Captain, has set high expectations for both himself and his teammates in this year’s U-20 World Cup

“We have a big team and we want to win the World Cup.”

“We will play each game like it is a final.”

Angel Correa, captain of the Argentina U-20 squad, clearly has very high expectations for the FIFA U-20 World Cup that kicks off on Saturday.

 The Athletico Madrid forward is regarded as one of the outstanding talents at this tournament.  His statements, made soon after arriving in New Zealand, reflect a high level of self-belief and confidence.

So how important are individual and team expectations in achieving success?

Regardless of the nature of the occasion – a FIFA World Cup event or a weekend junior football match – positive expectations are core to achievement.

Michael Jordan, the great US basketballer, summed up the value of expectations beautifully – “You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them.”

The challenge for educators, parents or coaches is to instill the importance of high standards in our young people so that they can achieve their full potential.

United States based educationalist Benjamin Bloom tried to discover how to do this by researching the background of 120 of the world’s elite performers.  This group included Olympic athletes, classical musicians, mathematicians and research neurologists.

Virtually the entire group was not remarkable as young children, or even as adolescents.  As such, Bloom did not believe a prediction could be made of an individual’s likelihood of success based on technical expertise at a young age.

What he did find however, was that the vast majority of individuals had trusted adult support.  They were also challenged to improve.  The expectation was set that they would be the best that they could be, if they worked hard.

This combination of nurture and challenge provided the bedrock that set the individual up to continue learning and improving.

It is an insight that can be applied to the world of junior football.

Providing goals is vital for a young athlete to take advantage of the “nurture and challenge” foundation.

However, it is not enough to set goals.  The right type of goal has to be created also.

Performance goals, focusing on out-doing peers, can be a source of motivation for a young footballer.  However, the challenge of peer related goals, is that being better than your peers may not be enough for long term success, if your peers are not of a high standard.  This is a challenge, particularly in a small, isolated country like New Zealand.

The more effective goal is mastery of an individual skill.  Young players are effectively challenging themselves to focus and improve.

The advantage of this approach is twofold.  Firstly, if a player is not constantly comparing progress with peers, that can help preserve self-esteem.  Secondly, there is no finish line with mastery.  Touch, co-ordination and control can always be improved.

The expectations of Correa set the attitude of the Argentine squad.  They show a hunger to take on the best U-20 nations in the world.

We will know by June 20 if he is successful in achieving his goal but regardless of the final outcome, his statement serves to challenge both the physical and mental team performance of Argentina.


Argentina’s opening match of the FIFA U-20 World Cup is on Saturday May 30 in Wellington against Panama.  Kick off 4.00pm.

For more information on Benjamin Bloom please read his book Developing Talent in Young People (Ballantine Books, 1985)

More information on the value of expectations and mindset will follow in future Top Flight Football Academy blog posts.

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