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10 Memorable World Cup Moments And The Lessons For Life And Business

For the next month, the world’s eyes will be fixed on 12 locations across the vast expanse of Russia. Once again, the FIFA World Cup is here to turn even the football-weary into the fanatical. And for the already football mad, there are few greater spectacles.

While the tournament might have been supplanted by the Champions League as the pinnacle of footballing entertainment, as a global event it is unsurpassed. Both of the last two World Cup finals were each viewed by an estimated audience of 3.2 billion people around the world. Meanwhile, this year, hundreds of thousands of fans will make the journey to cities as far-flung as Yekaterinburg on the Asian continent and those steeped in history, such as St Petersburg and Volgograd.

You’ve no doubt already argued for your England starting 11 or made the case why Serbia will be the tournament dark horses, but who will actually be crowned world champions? Could the value of each country’s squad provide an indicator of the winner? The number crunchers at AAT have calculated the total worth of each of the 32 teams at the tournament, using the transfer values of the players who make up each squad. Here’s what they found…



“Based on the calculations, France are the most valuable squad in the tournament, with almost a billion pounds worth of talent, although Spain are not far behind,” says Rob Alder, AAT Head of Business Development. “England are in fifth, and we will all be hoping that their relatively high value will mean that they can at least go into the later stages of the tournament – especially given that Portugal had only the sixth most valuable side at Euro 2016 but ended up with their hands on the trophy.”

“At the other end of the scale, Panama have a total squad value which is less than one-hundredth of France’s squad, and only twice as much as England’s least expensive player, Ashley Young, who’s valued at £4.5m. Egypt’s value of over £150m is somewhat inflated by the £135m price tag on the head of the currently injured Mohamed Salah.”

So, there you have it, based on player valuations France look a pretty solid bet to lift the World Cup.

In that case, is there even any point tuning in? Well, yes, ofcourse. To bring it back to business (I know, we took our time), every World Cup is packed with compelling stories, on and off the pitch, that can teach us much about life and business. That’s why we’ve picked 10 memorable World Cup moments and deciphered some – slightly tenuous – business lessons. OK, we might be stretching some of these but hear us out.


1. The battle of Santiago

“The most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football, possibly in the history of the game,” was how a BBC Sports commentator described this infamous 1962 clash between Italy and Chile.

Dubbed the Battle of Santiago, the game was played out amidst the sort of tackles and general ill-discipline that would earn lifetime bans in today’s game. Chile won the match 2-0 but more remarkable was that only two players were sent off – both Italians.

The lesson: Business is not always pretty

We certainly do not endorse this kind of unruly behaviour but it is a marked reminder that the beautiful game is not always so beautiful. In business, there are times when things can turn ugly. What matters is retaining your integrity and treating your competitors with respect, even when the stakes are raised.

2. England win the World Cup

1966 is considered the high watermark of English football. But its place in the national psyche could have been very different had one fateful decision not gone in England’s favour. At 2-2 in the World Cup Final against West Germany, having conceded an equaliser in the 89th minute, England’s star striker Geoff Hurst twisted and turned inside the box and fired a shot that ricocheted off the crossbar and bounced off the goal line. The Azerbaijani linesman, against a backdrop of Union Jack flags and ferocious home support, raised his flag to indicate the ball had actually crossed the line. Goal! England went on to win the final 4-2. Many have since tried to claim proof that the ball did or didn’t cross the line. Whatever view you take, England’s World Cup victory came courtesy of a very generous refereeing decision.

The lesson: Sometimes you make your own luck

In business, you’ll face setbacks and sometimes things won’t go in your favour, but you need to stay in the game. If you show bravery and tenacity eventually you may get that stroke of good fortune which your efforts will have earnt.

3. The Hand of God

Curiously, two of football’s most iconic goals were scored in the same game by the same player, but both are remembered for different reasons. One was a sublime display of individual skill, remembered as one of the greatest goals ever scored. The other was a moment of Machiavellian deceit, scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God,” as Maradona himself put it.

Under searing heat in the world-famous Estadio Azteca, England were holding out 0-0 against Argentina in the 1986 World Cup Quarter Finals. That was until the 51st minute when Steve Hodge’s skewed clearance was met by Diego Maradona slyly raised hand in the penalty area. Guiding the ball over the England goalkeeper, Peter Shilton, replays subsequently showed it was a clear handball. “I saw the ball in the air and Maradona going for it,” said England manager Bobby Robson afterwards. “Shilton went for it as well but Maradona handled the ball into the net. You don’t expect decisions like that at World Cup level.” Argentina went on to win the World Cup. England went home feeling cheated.

The lesson: Embrace the maverick

Maradona’s brilliance was integral to Argentina’s World Cup win. Infused with his natural talent was an arrogance to try the improbable and even bend the rules. Now, we’re not advocating breaking the rules, but there are plenty of parallels with Maradona’s ability to think outside the box and the most successful entrepreneurs.

4. Roberto Baggio skies a penalty in the World Cup Final

Roberto Baggio was a footballing megastar in the early 1990s. He helped to lead Italy to the 1994 World Cup Final, scoring five goals along the way, and wowing fans with his close control and mazy dribbling skills (not to mention a haircut that earned him the nickname Il Divin Codino or the Divine Ponytail).

Unfortunately, he will be remembered by many for his missed penalty in the shootout against Brazil, a wildly off-target attempt that crowned Brazil as world champions for the fourth time. It was a sadly fitting finale to a World Cup that turned out to be bookended by two wildly off-target penalties – the other being a Diana Ross penalty that was blazed skywards during an extravagant opening ceremony.

The lesson: Hold your nerve

Easier said than done, but the best entrepreneurs, just like footballers, are able to hold their nerve and stay cool at decisive points in their journey. If you can still deliver when the pressure’s on, you’re going to take home the biggest prizes.

5. Ronaldo will-he won’t he

No one could quite believe it when they saw the Brazil team sheet ahead of the 1998 World Cup Final. Ronaldo, the tournament’s top goal scorer, was mysteriously absent from the starting 11. Before anyone could find out why, an updated team sheet was circulated showing Ronaldo now starting at 9.

Brazil went on to lose the final 0-3 to France with Ronaldo putting in a strangely muted performance. It later came out that Ronaldo had suffered some kind of seizure before the match, although speculation continues as to what exactly happened.

The lesson: You need to do more than just turn up

In hindsight, Ronaldo should probably not have played the final. Just showing up is not enough in a high stakes football game. In business, when coming to sell your products and networking with others, you also need to be on your game. If you’re not operating at 100%, you won’t succeed either at establishing new contacts or selling.

Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.

Gary Lineker

6. The Beckham sending off

Once upon a time, David Beckham was just a young, talented, English footballer. Having broken into the England team in 1997, he was part of a 1998 World Cup squad that offered much promise. After scoring a free kick to seal qualification in the final group game against Columbia, Beckham and England faced their old foes Argentina in the Round of 16.

With the game finely poised at 2-2, lit up by a memorable goal from Michael Owen, Beckham, floored by a tackle, petulantly kicked out at Diego Simeone, early in the second half. Red card. England, down to 10 men, fought heroically but once again went down on penalties. Beckham went from hero to zero status. 10 Heroic Lions And One Stupid Boy was the Daily Mirror headline, neatly capturing the sentiment at the time. Beckham returned to floods of abuse that continued throughout the Premier League season.

The lesson: Businesses can turn it around

Even at the lowest low, you can still turn things around. Think of big name brands like Apple or Burberry who recovered from the brink of disaster. Indeed, many successful entrepreneurs testify to the importance of making mistakes and using them to learn and improve. Yes, what we’re saying is, David Beckham is the Apple of football… sort of.

7. South Korea’s run to the semi-finals

Backed by buoyant home support, South Korea’s run to the semi-finals is even more remarkable when placed in context. Here was a team that had never won a World Cup game previously. At the 2002 World Cup, they not only reached the semi-finals but also beat European heavyweights Portugal, Italy and Spain en route.

Managed by Gus Hiddink, their hard-working, high energy tactics unsettled superior opponents, a classic example of a team greater than the sum of its parts. Their success was emblematic of a tournament that saw many upsets, as the likes of Senegal and Turkey also turned up to spoil the party.

The lesson: Working together you can do so much more

With a strong team ethic and a fearless mentality, you can go much further and even surpass those with greater individual talent. Even if you’re a sole-trader, think about how you can work more closely with your suppliers and create a working culture that gets the best out of everyone.

8. The Spanish Armada finally rules

Hard to believe now, but Spain were once the perennial underachievers on the world stage. Up until 2010, the best they’d achieved was a fourth-place finish in 1950. However, La Roja came to South Africa hotly fancied on the back of their Euro 2008 victory. Confidence was somewhat punctured after losing the opening game to Switzerland, but gradually Spain found their tiki-taka rhythm, outpassing and outwitting their opponents en route to an ill-tempered meeting with Holland in the final. In a game best remembered for a Nigel De Jong kung-fu kick on Xabi Alonso, Spain’s undoubted superiority eventually shone through. Andres Iniesta broke the deadlock late in extra time to finally bring the World Cup trophy home to Spain and end years of underachievement.

The lesson: Have faith in your products and don’t tinker too much

The Spain team of 2008 to 2012 won a treble of international tournaments whilst never wavering from their tactical philosophy. Even when they suffered setbacks or faced resolute defending they stayed true to their values and ultimately enjoyed success because of this.

9. Brazil’s humiliation on home turf

The five-time champions, hosting the World Cup for the first time since 1960, Brazil went into the 2014 World Cup as many people’s tournament favourites. Heavy expectation fell on the sides shoulders, particularly star player Neymar, with the home fans demanding victory on home soil. “We have one hand on the trophy,” said technical coordinator Carlos Alberto Parreira, reflecting a national confidence that bordered on arrogance.

What transpired was utter humiliation. A 1-7 semi-final defeat against Germany, played out in front of a huge global television audience, shattered any pretence that Brazil were still the masters of international football.

The lesson: You can’t just show up and expect everything to fall in place for you

Despite their World Cup pedigree, Brazil were clearly well behind the European heavyweights. Once the flag bearer for footballing excellence, Brazil’s methods and tactics now seemed outdated next to the likes of Germany and Spain. There was a degree of complacency that ran deep in Brazilian national set up, something that successful businesses can fall prey to – a failure to acknowledge that you might not always reign supreme. Even if your product is outstanding, you have to deliver it successfully for it to stand out in the eyes of the beholder.

10. Germany winning it in 2014

Conversely, Brazil’s humiliation overlapped with a moment of vindication for Germany. In the early 2000s, the German FA overhauled their youth set up in order to foster talent for the national team. The success of this was already evident by the 2010 World Cup. In South Africa, a youthful German team featuring the likes of Mesut Özil and Thomas Muller wowed the neutrals with free-flowing attacking football. By 2014, despite lacking a bonafide star player, Germany were stacked with high-quality players in every position and a highly tuned tactical philosophy that blended possession with pace and power. Although needing extra time to beat Argentina in the final, Germany ran out deserved world champions for the fourth time in their history.

The lesson: Act with conviction but allow time for results to show

Unlike Brazil, Germany proactively addressed weaknesses in their infrastructure following a poor showing in Euro 2000, refusing to let the rot to set in. They placed their faith in a new system and patiently nurtured it until it brought them success. If your business lays down similarly strong foundations, over time you’ll reap the rewards.

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Huw Moxon is the Digital Marketing Manager for Informi

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