This month one of the biggest football events in Europe will take place at the stadiums of Poland and Ukraine. Sixteen countries will compete with the one and optimal goal, to reach the top and to win the 2012 European cup. It is commonly accepted that there are some favorite teams for winning the Euro cup this year. These national teams are Spain, Germany and Italy, countries that have rich football history and achievements in both European and world cup competitions. However, within the short past, it has been revealed that within this competition “smaller” teams are able to reach the top of Europe as well. In the last five European cups (from 1992 to 2008) two teams that were perceived as outsiders won the European trophy. These teams were Denmark in 1992 and Greece in 2004. Therefore, winning the European cup needs something more than to be named as the first favorite team. In my opinion, there are three elements that lead to success and therefore, these elements can be referred to as the geometrical triangle of success. Taking the example of Greece in the EURO 2004, I will try to explain shortly this triangle.
In one corner of the triangle we find the ability of the team to achieve a goal. It is more than true that the Greek super league is very weak compared to leagues such as La Liga, Campionato, Premier league or Bundesliga. A very poor domestic league has a direct impact on the footballer’s abilities and vice versa. However, having a closer look at the Greek squad that won the EURO 2004 we can observe that several players during that time were playing in different clubs around Europe. More specific, at the starting line of the Greek squad, 8-9 players they were playing in Spanish, English, German, Portuguese and Scottish football leagues. Therefore, at that time, more than 2/3 of the Greek line up had been influenced and had gained experiences from elite and competitive football leagues. Participating in elite leagues and top football teams gave to the Greek players the chance to improve their mental, tactical and personal skills. Furthermore, an additional factor promoting the team’s ability to success was the head coach Otto Rehhagel. Otto was a very experienced German coach who added some important elements to his team, elements that had previously been missing. Otto added elements like hierarchy, organization, discipline and team spirit to the Greek team. As a result, both the players and the coach enhanced the team’s ability for success.
The second corner of the triangle of success represents the will to win. During the Euro 2004, Greek players showed a will to achieve something great. Their initial goal was to solely reach the next round and then to, step by step, go as high as possible. At that time, for the players and the coach everything was possible and they “fought” for that until the last game. But according to my experiences, will to win was something that it was missing from the Greek squad 4 years later at the EURO 2008. I had the chance to watch a training of the Greek national team during the first games of the EURO 2008. The players, and probably the coach, had accepted that it’s impossible to achieve the 2004 feat. Watching their training, I had the feeling that they did not believe in themselves. They were unhappy, unfocused and passionless about the following games. Even in their interviews they were showing no signs of belief in potential success. The team’s results in that EURO were the mirror of their attitude; three defeats and elimination from the EURO in the first round.
At the third and last corner of the triangle of success is an element that none of us can predict or control, and that is luck. Of course it was not based on luck that Greece won the EURO 2004 cup, since they won twice against the Portuguese national team (host team), once in the opening game of the tournament and once in the big final and they also won the defending champion team of France and the big favorite to win the EURO 2004, Czech republic. However, it is more than true that you cannot reach such a high achievement without the element of luck. In the semi-finals, for example, Greece had to face one of the best teams in the tournament. Czech republic was a strong team with very talented players. During that time, one of the team’s biggest stars was Pavel Nedved. Nedved was injured and was substituted during the first half of the semifinal. For Czech republic, losing their star player was a great setback, which completely changed their original plan of playing. The game went to the extra time and Greece scored the silver goal few seconds before the first half of the extra time and qualified for the final. To put it simply … lucky Greece, Unlucky Czech republic.
From my point of view, in order to win in any kind of sport competition, like the European football championship, you need the ability, the will to win, and you also need luck. These are the three elements that gives us the triangle of success. It is impossible to win a trophy when you miss one of these three elements. Of course the balance between the three is always changing but they are eternally united parts of the geometrical figure that leads to success.