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  • Suhail G Algosaibi

Leadership Lessons from Germany’s Untimely Exit from the World Cup


(Picture credit: Getty)

I suppose it’s only appropriate to start this article with a disclaimer; I’m a big Germany fan. My family and I were thoroughly distraught when Germany left the World Cup in the group stages. It was a bitter pill to swallow. To make matters worse, my friends made a point of teasing me on our WhatsApp group. Ouch!

Admittedly, I’m not a big football fan and only follow the game during the big tournaments where “Die Mannschaft” participates in. But I really do think that Germany did not deserve to exit so soon. Quite frankly I think it was just plain bad luck. Germany played their hearts out but could just not get the ball through the net enough times.

But am I being too biased? How can we look at this objectively?

Well, let’s look at the numbers. The numbers, as they say, do not lie. Let’s first remind ourselves of the bitter facts, Germany lost two of its three games. The results were:

Germany vs. Mexico : 0-1

Germany vs. Sweden : 2-1

Germany vs. South Korea : 0-2

But when we look at the match statistics (see tables below), we see a bit of a different picture. In all three matches Germany totally dominated the games with ball possession averaging 67%. (60% in the Mexico game, 70% in the Sweden game, and 71% in the South Korea game).

And as you can see, Germany surpassed the other teams on virtually all other stats, including Attempts, Attempts on Target, Pass Accuracy, and Number of Passes. When it comes to the number of passes, they were more than double of those from Mexico and more than triple of those from Sweden and South Korea.

So, what is the lesson to be learnt?

First, when in doubt, look at the numbers. Too often we rely on emotions, gut feelings or assumptions. Best look at the numbers/data (when available).

Second, don’t underestimate the power of luck! I first heard a British entrepreneurship professor mention this some years ago at a conference, and it stuck with me ever since: A company can do everything right and still fail. Based on having watched the matches, and studied the statistics, I would say that Germany played well and executed their plans perfectly, but were just unlucky. Sure, they did not play perfectly and made tactical errors here and there, but even “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”.

This, in my view, is confirmed by the fact that Joachim Löw, German football coach, is staying in his job. Fundamentally, there is nothing to sack him for.

The lesson my friend, is that business, like football – and life in general – has its fair component of luck. Luck will sometimes give you that added, unexpected boost, or it can crush the best of plans.

Plan well, execute as best as you can, and then adapt accordingly when fate comes knocking. And sometimes, like with Germany, you have to go back to the drawing board and start all over again.


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