What Euro 2020 Can Remind Young Players About Failure

Aug 19, 2021

Despite delays and interruptions from COVID-19, Euro 2020 has lived up to its hype and given fans a spectacular series of matchups. It has also had its share of surprises, many of which were disappointments for fans and young soccer talent. This post will take a look at some of the upsets young superstars have faced and the lessons young players can learn from them. 

Kylian Mbappe (Missed Penalty) 

When France took the World Cup home in 2018, commentators labelled Kylian Mbappe as the “19-year-old with the world at his feet”. He walked out of the tournament with numerous accolades such as being the second teenager after Pele the score in the World Cup final and receiving FIFA's World Cup best young player award. Understandably The World At His Feet label what's something that my Boppy likely internalized.

Three years later, at Euro 2020 the world expected Mbappe to deliver the level of greatness he demonstrated at the international level. But he didn’t. Unlike his teammates Benzema and Pogba, the Mbappe we knew was scoreless although he did London assist to Benzema. Worst of all he left the tournament with his biggest disappointment so far a missed penalty against Switzerland that eliminated them at the round of 16. 

Mbappe posted this heartbreaking message afterwards:

 "It's very difficult to get over, the sadness is immense after this elimination as we couldn't reach our target," he said.

"I am devastated by the penalty, I wanted to help the team but I failed.

"Sleeping will be difficult tonight, but it's the ups and downs of this sport that I love so much."

"I know fans have been disappointed, but I want to thank them for their support and for always believing in us."

The disappointment doesn't take away from his immense talent and bright future. He will bounce back and deliver much more. There’s an important lesson that young players need to learn from the French superstar.  

Lesson: You can be on top of the world and still fail to deliver. 

Just because a young player might be the star of the team or attract the attention of Scouts or local records it doesn't mean they will never have disappointments or low points. The most talented youth players at the end of the day are still human and we'll make mistakes or simply have less than stellar performances. It's sobering and even frightening. But ultimately, it’s humbling. The key, however, is to never allow disappointments to define your career or your past accomplishments.

Erling Haaland (Didn't Qualify)

Haaland is no doubt an object of envy for so many soccer players and fans alike. Think about it: he's accomplished more by the age of 20 than most athletes will ever accomplish in their entire careers. His resume is nothing short of immaculate. 

He's the youngest player to score 20 Champions League goals. He’s the first player to score 25 goals in his first 25 Bundesliga games. He’s Also the first Dortmund player to score on debut games in Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League.  

That's just a few of his accomplishments he's got more under his belt already.

And yet still Haaland was a no-show at Euro 2020. Of course, if you were following the tournament, you know he didn't make an appearance because Norway didn't qualify to compete at the tournament. Serbia defeated Norway 2-1 at the Euro qualifier. Reports came in that Haaland was ‘very angry’ at the loss. That's understandable. For a 20-year-old Superstar to be denied an opportunity to play on the national stage is no doubt frustrating and disheartening. 

Of course, we have no doubts that Holland will get that opportunity to play at the national level again. And he will remind the world why he is one of the greats. But there's an important lesson here for young players to learn as well. 

Lesson: You're only as great as the rest of your team. 

No matter how talented you are or what you’ve accomplished, you can't do great things all on your own in soccer. Even if it seems like you can carry a team by yourself you are limited and what you can accomplish. So it's crucial that you never see yourself as the saviour of your team even if you happen to be a star player.  Your success (and failure) is something that the whole team shares. 

Ryan Gravenberch (Elimination)  

This young Dutch sensation wasn't really a household name such as Mbappe or Haaland. Going into Euro 2020 he popped up on the radar and was recognized as a player to watch. But he still carried a label that no butting Superstar wants to carry for too long: relatively unknown. And given the rich lineage of superb talents that the Netherlands has produced, trying to fill the role that his predecessors had would certainly put a lot of pressure on them.

However, Gravenberch rose to the occasion. He didn't score any goals but he played with confidence. you demonstrated great Style on technical ability as a midfielder. He also put his speed and size to you and has since drawn comparisons to great stars such as Paul Pogba and the late great fellow Dutchman midfielder Johan Cruyff. 

Yes, the Netherlands was eliminated from the round of 16 after losing 2-0 to the Czech Republic. But his performance at the tournament generated interest from different soccer clubs, especially Liverpool. When you're 19 being offered a role at one of the greatest football clubs in the world you're obviously doing something right. And that in itself is a lesson for youth players everywhere. 

Lesson: Being an underdog doesn’t make you a failure

Underdog stories in soccer or any sport are cliche. but there's a reason why they exist and Grafenberg is a good example of an underdog who is Breaking Free from that status. If you don't seem to get the same recognition as another player it doesn't mean that you're destined to stay in the shadows. Persistence, hard work, and self-confidence can help you play to the best of your ability. Once you keep putting in that effort you will get noticed. 

Keep Your Head Up

One of the reasons we call soccer the beautiful game is because it builds character and teaches valuable lessons. It's a tough sport, a humbling one at that. But it's filled with opportunities if you're willing to work for them, even during the rough patches. 

You will have moments that frustrate and demotivate you, even if you’re an elite performer. But as a young player with lots of time room to improve, you just need to focus on your next performance. Because the true test of greatness is how well you can bounce back from disappointment.

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