The World Cup 2014 is upon us and all eyes will be on the host nation Brazil. The purpose of this article is to outline the concept of ‘home advantage.’ In providing this outline, there will be an opportunity to address the expectancy levels of Brazil. To supplement this, the psychological factors associated to helping or hindering the chances of Brazil will be discussed.
Research evidence indicates that the home advantage constitutes a unique opportunity over opponents. This advantage can be determined by a multitude of factors that include ability, fans and environment amongst others. Relative to these factors one could assume that the home advantage could be determined by:
- Ability to win with a high percentage success rate
- Intimidation of the opposition
- Increased self-confidence with the mental toughness to win all games
- High levels of performance outcomes in relation to mental, technical, physical attributes
The case of home advantage and Brazil is an interesting one. Historically, Brazil is a successful nation that has won the World Cup more times than any other country. In addition, Brazil has also be labelled the ‘People’s Champions.’ In assessing chances of champion nations one could assume that Brazil have the best possibility to win another World Cup.
It would therefore be prudent to assess the psychological attributes that could contribute to success or hinder the predictive success. There are examples of success, most notably the 1966 World Cup win for England. It should be noted that not all host nations go onto to win the World Cup. Therefore, a consideration of the most important aspects that relate to Brazil will be provided.
1) Brazil as a nation requires an understanding of its culture and heritage. The nation follows its football intensely and one common attribute relates to the ‘rags to riches story’ of football. There are many (although there are notable exceptions) Brazilian players who have had a poor upbringing but made it rich through football. This provides many aspiring footballers the same dream and ambition. Players are seen as role models and people align closely with them and their upbringing.
2) Brazilian culture – Football in Brazil is like a carnival. The nation rejoices and dances to music. The players love music and dance to it throughout their journey from hotel to stadium. Research clearly outlines the psychological benefits of music.
3) Brazilian fans – The fans will also contribute to success within stadiums during match days. The atmosphere of happiness and joy can lead to belief, which would evolve into success. A stadium full of home support with a patriotic following can intimidate many opponents. The fact that the Brazilian fans will allow their players to express themselves without fear could also work in the home nations favour.
4) Performance outcomes including mental, technical and physical aspects can lead to success. These aspects could support the Brazilian players because they will believe in themselves, technically have good skill sets and physically they are a blend of a strong but creative force.
5) Environment and conditions – in a World Cup the environment could work in the favour of the home nation. The Brazilian players will be most likely to acclimatise better (although many of their top performers now play in Europe) to conditions than European teams.
One must be cautious in their interpretation of the home advantage. This is because other factors could contribute to limit success. These factors could be increased pressure as the tournament progresses. Getting closer to the finishing line could be more difficult as the expectancy levels go through the roof. In addition, one mistake or referee decision could also contribute to failure.
In conclusion, the home advantage is an interesting concept. Teams have succeeded as a result of the home advantage but there is also evidence of non-success. Of the 19 World Cup Finals only 6 have resulted in the home nation winning.
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About Gobinder Gill
Gobinder is a lecturer in Sport Psychology and Research Methods at Birmingham Metropolitan College in the West Midlands.