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Dealing With Setbacks in Soccer

Updated: May 9, 2023

Soccer fail

We all make mistakes. Even the pros. But sometimes we forget that no one is perfect on the pitch.

In fact, some of the best players in the world make mistakes when it matters most.

In this post, I'll share some examples of players who experienced setbacks as well as ideas on how to cope with your own mistakes.

Let's get to it!

Lionel Messi

Let's start with none other than Lionel Messi. In the 2016 Copa America final vs Chile, Messi missed a penalty that caused Argentina to lose the game.

He launched the ball over the crossbar and into the next zip code.

You would never expect this from someone with his skill and ability. But that's the whole point.

It happens to the best of us. Even to Lionel Messi in a Copa America final.

Kylian Mbappé

Next is Kylian Mbappé. He missed a PK against Switzerland in the Round of 16 of the UEFA Euro 2020 tournament.

France was the heavy favorite and the penalty kicks had all been flawless until Mbappé.

He was the fifth and final shooter for France. His shot was decent but still blocked by the keeper in the end.

If Mbappé can miss a penalty, so can you. It can happen to anyone no matter how good you are.

Raheem Sterling

Next is Raheem Sterling. He missed an absolute sitter in the Champions League vs Lyon.

This is one of the those shots where it's harder to miss than it is to score. But then again, we've all been there before.

I know I've missed shots like this and I'm sure you have too.

It's hard to watch this video and not feel bad for Sterling. He definitely should have scored but sometimes things happen.

David Beckham

Another one is David Beckham and his missed penalty against Turkey. It seems like Beckham loses his footing but the shot is still embarrassing.

He slips and launches the ball over the crossbar.

I think Beckham is a great player but this wasn't his best moment. But being able to bounce back from mistakes is an important skill for any soccer player because they happen so frequently.

Tips for Dealing with Setbacks

As a soccer player, you're going to have setbacks. There's no avoiding it.

But how you deal with those setbacks says a lot about you as a player.

Messi, Mbappé, Sterling, and Beckham have all had great careers despite the mistakes shown above. They've all been able to bounce back and learn from each experience.

I'm sure it was hard to get over something like that. I can't imagine playing in the Copa America final and everything coming down to my PK.

It's easy to see how someone could miss or mess up when playing at such a high level, but sometimes we forget the same idea applies to us.

We can be really hard on ourselves at times. But most of the time, that doesn't really help.

What we really need when we make a mistake is to replace it with a positive.

Positive Self-Talk

For example, say you miss a wide open shot. Do you get down on yourself and beat yourself up?

If you do, you're normal. That's what most of us do. However, if you want to reach your full potential as a player, you have to replace the negative with the positive.

If you miss a wide open shot, just say,

"I'll get the next one."

And move on. Don't dwell on your mistake. Don't beat yourself up.

Just say "I'll get the next one" and move on.

Why It Works

If you make it habit to be positive when you make mistakes, you will get better results. You will teach your mind to focus on the next opportunity.

You will bounce back from even the largest mistake and may even score the very next play.

But if you beat yourself up after every mistake, how do you think you're going to feel?

Like crap. No one wants to feel that way. No one plays their best when they feel like a loser.

So if you want to win, keep it positive. Acknowledge the mistake and move on to the next play.


I hope it's clear by now that it's normal to make mistakes. It's going to happen all of the time, especially if you take risks.

When those mistakes come, just be positive and say "I'll get the next one". I've made this a habit as part of my game and it helps me to stay focused and play my very best.

Just remember, if it can happen to Messi it can happen to you. The stakes aren't as big as they seem. Just do your best and stay positive and everything will work out great!

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