FA Cup final: Mental preparation the key to success

A leading sports psychologist says the team that has the best mental preparation with be the one who wins the FA Cup Final at Wembley on Saturday.

Manchester City and Watford meet at the national stadium in a game many pundits are predicting will result in a comfortable victory for the North West side.

City are chasing the treble after claiming the Premier League title and Carabao Cup this season, while Watford are aiming to win the first major trophy in their history.

However, Dan Abrahams, an expert in sports psychology who has worked for a host of top class organisations during his career, believes the winning team will be the one which copes the best with the pressure of playing in a big final.

“Players need to, in pressure situations, focus on themselves,” Abrahams told Betway during a recent interview.

“That’s their responsibilities within their role, their mental skills, having a consistent personality on the pitch, playing with positive intention and at the right intensity.”

“It’s easy to say these things, which seem small things and throwaway remarks but, ultimately, these can make or break a player’s performance.”

The FA Cup finals history is littered with unforgettable moments where the underdog overcame a more a fancied team.

Wimbledon’s victory over Liverpool in 1988 and Wigan Atheltic’s triumph against City in 2013 are two examples that Watford will undoubtedly try to take inspiration from.

There are also numerous instances of teams folding under pressure on the big stage, thus costing themselves the chance of victory.

England’s humiliation against Iceland at the 2016 European Championships perfectly highlighted how a team could fail when the chips were down.

The Three Lions produced a shocking display on their way to a 2-1 defeat, leaving many pundits questioning the mental fortitude of the players.

Abrahams is a firm believer that a positive mindset can make a huge difference in top class sport and says both teams will need to control their stress levels if they are be successful at Wembley.

“You see it all the time in one-off games, as players fail to deal with the occasion and their performance levels drop well below the standards of which they are capable,” he added. “They misplace passes, overhit crosses and miss chances they would score in any other game.

“As the name performance anxiety suggests, players can experience psychological anxiety and physiological stress response,” says Abrahams.

“Players develop tunnel vision, where they no longer see a 360-degree view of the pitch. It will make them feel lethargic and flat, so they’re slow to anticipate and are slow to make decisions.

“Their first touch goes and their motor behaviour, which is essentially their technique, atrophies. Subsequently, what you see is a player playing worse.”

FA Cup final: Mental preparation the key to success

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