Pressure – it’s the intangible factor that renders the world’s best players helpless from 12 yards. Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest player of all-time, has missed 16 of the 79 penalties he has taken for club and country.
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Barcelona’s diminutive genius barely breaks sweat when he slaloms through tackles and effortlessly finds the top corner of the net, but place the ball on the penalty spot and ask him to beat the goalkeeper with one shot and he shrinks back into human form.
Why does a player of Messi's unwordly talents struggle with this task, when the likes of Leigton Baines and Rickie Lambert make it look easy?
“Pressure is only a perception: in other words, I can create the pressure, or remove the pressure from the way that I think about the opportunity that lies ahead,” explains Tom Bates, peak performance coach at Brentford. “Key word: the ‘opportunity’ that lies ahead.
“I’m focusing on the things that will be of benefit to me when I score: what goes well, how it’ll feel, what it’ll look like. There’s more chance of me feeling good about the opportunity that presents itself.
“Always prepare for the opportunity too. It’s always better to prepare for the opportunity and it not arise than it arising and you not being prepared. Clarity builds confidence.”
Want to clear your head of the mush when it’s your turn to step up? Click play and banish your nerves with advice from Bates.