Our US team had an improbable run in this World Cup and almost made the quarter finals. Almost. For just the second time in my life, I became more than mildly interested in this tournament. I have plenty of observations that won't fit into this space, some of which might spawn argument from the soccer faithful, but for now I'll focus on what happened in extra time after the teams played to a 0-0 tie following 90 minutes of serious running around and kicking that soccer ball in pursuit of a goal.
The hero of the game, in my humble opinion, was Tim Howard, the US goal keeper. Howard fended off a record number of shots on goal throughout regulation time, while Belgium continued to press and the US did not. He was one busy rubber band man, who reacted with lightning-fast reflexes and stretched in every conceivable direction. From watching the pressure he faced, you had to wonder how long it would be before the odds resulted in one shot finally getting past him. For 90 long minutes, he held the Belgians off.
As the 30 minute extra time period commenced due to the tie score at the end of regulation play, however, the game shifted. At 93 minutes, and again at 105, Belgium scored. The US suddenly found itself down 2-0, with the clock ticking away and hopes for advancing to the quarter-finals fading with it. Based upon their lack of offensive performance to that point, it seemed almost impossible that the US could mount a miracle comeback. At 107 minutes, however, US player Julian Green came in on fresh legs and made a spectacular shot on goal; this narrowed the gap to only one goal. The US team came alive and played with an offensive intensity in those final minutes that was absent earlier in the contest. Sadly, the effort was too little, too late and Belgium hung on for the win.
In soccer, as in business, in order to win and advance you must launch a consistent, balanced attack. Even the strongest defense of customers and market can't hold up to an unrelenting onslaught, unless the business is also working on its offense to score and create a lead. The competition will keep coming and wear you down in extra time, if you allow it to happen. One of the best ways to protect your goal is to be playing the game on the other end of the field.
For the entire game, the Belgian team launched 27 shots on goal to only 9 for the Americans. That statistic alone suggests that the game should have been more lopsided than the final score indicates; but for Tim Howard, it would have been.
Do you spend your time deflecting shots, or making them? For many of us, there's some of each in our work. When you're deflecting, that's a lonely activity; when you're making them, odds are there's a true team at work that has placed you in a position to score. As for having Extra Time, you can't count on reaching that to make the difference. It's only going to help at that point if you find a way to play the game differently and achieve a winning outcome.
(Footnote: A special Thank You to Team USA for inspiring our national pride. There was "no quit" in your determined play throughout the tournament.)