Managing mistakes is vital to a team’s progress.
It’s 16:00 in the Ciudad Deportiva del Villarreal CF and the starting elevens jump onto the playing field alongside the referee. The temperature is perfect and the bad weather has seemed to give the athletes a break.
The home team are hosting a match for Marcet’s junior team, the High Performance Academy’s crown jewel and front running squad. “This idea behind playing a tough rival like Villarreal is that our students get used to facing more and more complex situations”, explains Pere Tarradellas, the visiting team’s manager. “When facing teams like this one, the game’s pace is high, everything happens very quickly which makes for the ideal conditions to get our players learning and progressing”.
This is far from the first expedition out on the hunt for a challenge for Tarradellas’ lot. In this very season, they’ve already seen face to face with the likes of Atlético de Madrid, RCD Espanyol, CA Osasuna, Girona FC, Rayo Vallecano, RC Estrasburgo, Dijon FCO and Real Zaragoza.
The match doesn’t disappoint and both teams show themselves very even from the get go, sharing moments of control over the game offensively and defensively.
‘:19. Whilst trainers, psychologists and substitutes follow the match attentively from the bench, the local team breaks the balance and places the ball in their rival’s goal after a clever play from the left wing.
“When the situation goes south, everything gets a lot more complicated because the pressure is on and that makes managing the match hard”, comments Tobia de Bernardi, one of the High Performance Academy’s team’s two defensive midfielders.
Going under on the scoring board is a test to overcome, especially psychologically speaking. It’s about keeping composed, in control and not giving up or assuming defeat.
“We’re really lucky this year because the team doesn’t let their rival’s goals get to their heads, they’re very quick to pull themselves together”, explains Tarradellas. “This season we’ve fallen behind on the scoring board many times and almost always come back from it. The players understand that once the game has been levelled again, they’re very capable of reaching the victory they’re looking for, something that’s fundamental in the mental aspect of the game”.
The match against Villarreal is no exception to the Manager’s words. “We didn’t change our mindset because we were playing better than them”, remembers Fernando Bajo. The defender admits that the rival goal hit hard but assures that the team knew how to keep giving it their all.
‘:39, Ismael Pardo receives a pass from Tobia de Bernardi and immediately opens the play to the right, where ‘Voya’ gains metres towards the rival’s area in a side by side contest with a defending player.
The struggle between the two players makes finding a line for a pass difficult. ‘Isma’ knows that he can’t stay put with the ball. He swiftly makes his way to the right, invading Voya’s zone, surprising the defender and finds his way around with the ball to then pass it to Hugo Romero for the 1-1.
The goal allows Tarradellas’ team to enter half-time with a tie back in place on the scoring board and morale high. Not exactly something to be taken for granted when you’re up against a team like VIllareal.
Back on the pitch, players and technicians alike have discussed what has happened in the first half. “We need to analyse the errors made and understand why they’ve happened. It’s the only way we’ll get better every time”.
“In my case”, the Italian defensive midfielder adds, “I realised that in the first half we were lacking communication in amongst the midfielders, there we a couple of misunderstandings when the time came to putting pressure on the opposing team, something to take home with us and learn from”.
In the second half, much like in many friendlies, the match transforms completely. Villarreal practically change the whole team and pull off a 2-1 with a header off a corner.
“The results are important, but more so is the fact that our players get used to a more and more intense game pace”, states Tarradellas, satisfied with how his players have performed on the playing field.
Fernando admits that he never really leaves a defeat in a good way, even when they’ve played well. “We had them where we wanted, we could have won… But the important thing is that further down the line and do the best we can next time”.
“The players are aware that a defeat can always be useful”, Tarradellas qualifies. “Post-match critique and evaluation is constructive because they know that matches like these are helpful… It shows them that they are making progress and that there’s a significant improvement throughout the season. This is down to training, but above all thanks to the opportunity that is playing rivals like these. Not venturing further than the league would be limiting our students’ potencial”.
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