NARRATOR (JOHN SIMM): This is not about the origins of the universe. It's not about the destruction of our planet by an asteroid. It's not a matter of life or death. It's far more important than that. In one inspired moment David Beckham scored the goal that is taking the England team to the World Cup finals. Behind this achievement lies a revolution in football thinking.
SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON (Manager, England Football Team): We work a lot on tactics, we work a lot on fitness. It's very difficult to do something more in those two things, but where you can do things are on the mental base to practice your brain.
NARRATOR: This is the exclusive story of how Sven-Göran Eriksson got inside the brains of the England football team and used the science of psychology to transform them into realistic contenders in the World Cup finals. The England team are now the epitome of the modern football side. They're confident, relaxed, winners, but it wasn't always like this. They've been transformed by nothing less than a psychological revolution. Just 12 months ago it was very different. There was no talk of science. It just wasn't English. The team's first World Cup qualifying game was against the old foe - Germany. It seemed to be the most crucial fixture of the campaign, held on the home turf of Wembley.
JIM WHITE (The Guardian): The first England/Germany qualifier for the 2002 World Cup was a fabulous metaphor for the pessimism that surrounded English football. It was being played in this decaying, ghastly, urine-stained stadium which was meant to be our great pride and joy. It rained for about three days before-hand and about four days' worth of rain during the match. It was a foul day, a foul match and there in the person of the England Manager was Kevin Keegan.
NARRATOR: Keegan was a national hero. He'd been an outstanding player and embodied all the old-fashioned virtues of the English game: hard work and physical commitment. His sole psychological weapon was to appeal to his players' sense of patriotism.
IAN RIDLEY (The Observer): Kevin was very much in tune with the average football fan in, in this country, very patriotic, for St. George and England and all that stuff and I think he would often, you know, evoke that kind of thing in, in the dressing room.
KEVIN KEEGAN: Graham. You're too early for it.
NARRATOR: On the day that demanded England played well something was clearly wrong. Patriotism was not working. Fourteen minutes in Germany were awarded a free kick 35 yards from goal. The England team never recovered.
IAN RIDLEY: With the Germany game at Wembley I think we had reached some kind of nadir really. It was a low time. The team on the field just looked a mess you know square pegs in round holes, stretched out all over the place, no support for the man with the ball. It, it was, it all just looked such a mess.
NARRATOR: England were beaten. A side brimming with talent was reduced to 11 disembodied, disheartened men. It was more than just a defeat. It was humiliating. It seemed the team would never qualify for the World Cup and everyone blamed the Manager.
JIM WHITE: Now Keegan's a nice bloke, a good bloke he's on the side of the angels, but he admitted later on he really was out of his depth.
NARRATOR: Less than an hour after the final whistle, Keegan resigned. English football was in disarray. At this darkest of hours someone had a revelation. It was time for something new, time for radical action to restore England's position as a great footballing nation. So the Football Association did the unthinkable: they went to Italy and brought back a Swede. In head-hunting Sven-Göran Eriksson the FA had chosen a man who believed in the power of positive thinking.
SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON: It starts when you wake up in the morning. If you wake up and think, think that life is difficult, life is boring, going to the work this morning is very bad you already started very badly, so you have to work with yourself and that's, I tell the players that of course when you come and people sit here even if it's raining, even if it's snowing, the wind is very strong we have to go out and work so try to be positive. Life is wonderful.
NARRATOR: Eriksson believes football matches are won not with tactics and training alone, but with the power of the mind and behind Eriksson's thinking are the theories of Europe's most eminent sports psychologist, Prof Willi Railo. Prof Railo has dedicated his career to perfecting a psychological model to maximise performance for ailing teams like England.
PROF WILLI RAILO (University of Oslo): I'd like to show a model that I've been working with for years and the model goes like this. Up here we have a maximum and down here we have a minimum. We have all such possibilities, from the top to the bottom, you have, I have. I've been working with psychology for more than 30 years and the main focus in my work is the work with achievers, people performing within sport, within art and in business.
NARRATOR: Over the last 20 years Eriksson and Railo have developed a psychological master plan and they've used it throughout Europe to transform under-performing teams into winners.
SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON: You know Willi and I we work together for many years and we worked with a lot of things. He helped me personally, how to behave as a leader, as a Manager. Then of course he helped me with the teams I had, tried to create winning atmosphere in the team, winning teams. He helped me with individual players which I couldn't do so much about.
WILLI RAILO: Sven has always been interested in the social relations between people and the strength of having a team and the strength of having players that are mentally fit.
NARRATOR: Though they did not know it, the England team was about to be put on the psychologist's couch. In the past, the idea that psychology had any role to play in English football had been dismissed as absurd.
JIM WHITE: In many ways this is a cultural problem. It's to do with the sense of superiority which permeated England post the Second World War. It was to do with this amateur ethos that, that we wouldn't really engage with science because there was something slightly suspicious and perhaps underhand about it.
WILLI RAILO: Many people are looking at psychology as a problem thing. You go to a psychologist when you have a problem and if you do not have a trainer and a coach that believes strongly in it and more or less impose the method it's very difficult in football in general and not at least in the UK.
NARRATOR: Despite the view that it was all mumbo-jumbo, Eriksson and Railo knew they had to tackle the psychological problem at the heart of the England team. From the outset Prof Railo diagnosed the England patient as having a very specific disorder: fear of failure.
WILLI RAILO: Down here you have the fear of failure. That is very, very important negative factor. Fear of failure, afraid of doing mistakes, too much fear of it.
NARRATOR: Fear of failure is a crippling form of anxiety, a negative reaction to the huge burden of expectation. Players become inhibited, take fewer risks and consequently underachieve.
SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON: Fear of failure, it's a big, big problem in football. They are afraid doing mistakes, afraid not being good enough and so on and I think the job as a Manager you have to make them secure, tell them that you don't need to be afraid, just go out, I'm behind you, I take the responsibility and, and things like that.
NARRATOR: According to Eriksson and Railo fear of failure is more than just a mental problem. It directly affects physical performance on the pitch. It causes a phenomenon sports psycho-logists call choking. One of the most infamous examples of choking was the Euro '96 semi-final. The match against Germany came down to penalties. As the last England penalty taker, Gareth Southgate faced extreme pressure. if he missed England would lose. Gareth Southgate choked. He hadn't even kicked the ball cleanly and it was all because of what happened inside his brain. At the University of Lancashire Dr Rod Corban is investigating precisely why Gareth Southgate choked by looking at how mental pressure can inhibit a player's physical skills.
DR ROD CORBAN (University of Lancashire): It is the case when people are anxious their movements do become very stiff and jerky, that somehow something about the control of the movement changes and that's one of the reasons I, I decided to pursue this line of investigation.
NARRATOR: In Corban's experiment reflective markers are placed over the subject's body. These relay the relative position of his limbs to a computer for processing.
MAN: On my mark. Three, two, one. Go!
NARRATOR: The data is used to calculate the smoothness of his movements.
ROD CORBAN: What we've been doing in the laboratory is train people up on a variety of tasks and in particular we've looked at a football. We asked him to kick the ball under normal conditions and clicked the information on their kinematics or their movements. We've then placed them under some sort of stress and observed the changes in their kinematics and compared them to their kinematics or their movements under these normal conditions.
NARRATOR: For the anxiety phase of the experiment the player was simply told his performance would be rated by an expert panel. Corban wanted to find out if the player's movements would become less expert under pressure and sure enough, he couldn't even hit the goal.
ROD CORBAN: What we've found, thus far, is that what seems to happen is that under anxiety conditions, their behaviour or their kinematics or their movements become less variable and that is their movements are, are not as fluid, it's more stiff or rigid and also that their movements resemble those observed when they were learning the task.
NARRATOR: Anxiety makes a footballer's movements less flowing and it's all down to how their brain works.
ROD CORBAN: When we learn a task a particular part of the brain seems to be more involved in the control of the action and as we become more expert at the task a different part of the brain becomes more active in the control of that movement.
NARRATOR: When learning a new skill a player has to think hard about what they're doing and their movements are controlled by a conscious thinking area of the brain called the ventral stream, but once the player is expert at the task their movements become second nature and are now controlled by a different, and subconscious, area of the brain called the dorsal stream. Dr Corban believes anxiety reactivates the conscious part of the brain to turn what should be a subconscious, expert movement into one which is clumsy and amateurish.
ROD CORBAN: And that is why we think choking occurs, that is if this ventral stream all of a sudden becomes more dominant and you tend to think too much about what you're doing, rather than just letting the motor system control the movements automatically as it would usually.
NARRATOR: And that's why even professionals can get it so wrong.
ROD CORBAN: If you look at that clip you'll notice he looks as, as if he was, was very anxious and quite rightly so, but then if you look at his actual kick the kick just looks awkward, it looks forced and, and there we might have a classic example of how this increased level of anxiety has had a negative consequence on the control of his action resulting in a poor performance.
NARRATOR: Gareth Southgate's mental fear of failure doomed England from the moment he'd stepped up, making him play like an amateur. Railo and Eriksson's diagnosis was that fear of failure had become the England team's dominant mind-set. It physically inhibited every area of their game, not just passing and shooting but the coherence of the entire team. Dr Railo's cure seemed just plain contradictory.
WILLI RAILO: You have to dare to lose to win, you have to dare to lose to win, you have to dare to lose to win. A winner hates to lose, but the winner is not afraid of losing. That's the difference, that's the difference.
NARRATOR: Prof Railo's mantra daring to lose to win applies to everyone in the England set-up. Crucially it's an example the Manager himself must set.
WILLI RAILO: He is self-confident, he is not afraid of failure he dares to win, he is able to change the thinking way amongst the player because he transfers in a very good the way he thinks himself to the team, so the team is a Sven-Göran Eriksson team. The mind-set is transferred and he is doing an excellent job in transferring his own mind-set to the whole team.
NARRATOR: This is the key to the Eriksson method. He encourages his players to take risks and never criticises them for their mistakes.
SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON: They must feel secure, they must feel that the Manager, the coaching staff accept them, even if they're not the best football players in the world and if you feel secure in your work, specially a work like football, you can behave much better. If you are afraid going out there you know that the Manager will shout at you first time you miss a pass and things like that you can never go out and do a good job.
NARRATOR: England's conversion to Eriksson's new psychological approach would very quickly face its first test - the qualifying game against Finland. England were bottom of their qualifying group with only one point from a possible six and defeat against Finland would rule them out of the World Cup for certain. As the team lined up neither they nor the Manager looked worried.
JIM WHITE: He is a man who is calm and rational and, and quiet and, and not given to histrionics and his psychology fits that very, very well. It is about patience, it's about team building and, and I think because the two fit hand in glove it's paid dividends for him.
NARRATOR: England started well. They even began to relax, but then it all went wrong. England went 1:0 down. The players turned to the dug-out and their Manager.
IAN RIDLEY: There was this man on the sideline that wasn't agonising with the rest of the nation. You know, he almost stood above it all and looked down sort of like some Emperor and I think this, this air of calmness, this air of, of we're just simply doing a job here it pervaded its, its way out to the players on the field and I think they relaxed. They saw he was relaxed and they relaxed.
NARRATOR: The players responded to their Manager's calm. They did not choke under pressure. They continued to pass with confidence. Owen equalised. Beckham completed the victory. The win breathed new life into England's World Cup challenge. The team had begun to conquer their fear of failure but Finland were small fry compared to what was yet to come. Facing England's nemesis, Germany, was a challenge that would require phase two of the psychological master-plan to be in place. Eriksson believed his England squad needed to learn to think as one, develop one mind for the whole team, something sports psychologists call a shared mental model.
PROF DAVE COLLINS (University of Edinburgh): As a sports psychologist working with a football team I've got 12 clients. I've got 11 individual players and I've got an 11-headed monster that I have to deal with which is called the team and the psychology of the team is very much trying to get the guys to think with a shared mental model.
NARRATOR: A shared mental model is the very essence of teamwork. It's knowing how every player's role intertwines and how to support a team-mate's moves instinctively.
DAVE COLLINS: If you see a team with a shared mental model things will happen almost flawlessly. To see a situation and to, in a common fashion, read that situation and then to arrive without any conversation at a solution which is the same, so every-body's pulling, if you like, in the same direction, singing from the same hymn sheet.
NARRATOR: But getting 11 players to act as one is incredibly tough. Achieving a shared mental model is the Holy Grail of team psychology because it can turn 11 great individuals into a single world beating team.
WILLI RAILO: I also mention the importance of what I call a cultural architect.
NARRATOR: Prof Railo has a unique solution to the challenge of developing a shared mental model, players that he calls cultural architects.
WILLI RAILO: Cultural architects are people that are able to change the mind-set of other people. They're able to break barriers, they have visions, they are self-confident and they are able to transfer their own self-confidence to a group of people.
NARRATOR: Cultural architects are players with exceptional mental strength and a complete faith in their Manager's vision. They are Eriksson's mental clones on the pitch.
SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON: That's very important that you have one or two players out there thinking for you which, doing the, the job on the pitch for you and if you have that as a Manager you feel much more secure.
DAVE COLLINS: This concept of cultural architects is a good example of the shared mental model in operation. It's almost like those are the guys who've, who've bought into that picture, or who grasp that picture the best and therefore they can act as, as leaders, not necessarily in the formal sense, but as the, as the cement that pulls all these bricks together in the common style.
NARRATOR: Eriksson and Railo concluded they needed three cultural architects to spread the shared mental model through the England team, but cultural architects are rare and you have to know what to look for.
SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON: It's difficult to find those people because all the players they can't do it. You must have some leadership in your body.
NARRATOR: The search for cultural architects began on the training ground. Unknowingly, the players were being subjected to psychological scrutiny.
WILLI RAILO (V/O): Not more than 5-10% of people are cultural architects, so you can see that in one training session and in one match together you can spot those easily.
NARRATOR: And very quickly one player stood out.
WILLI RAILO: Let me mention just one name - Beckham. He has grown to become a cultural architect. He has today a very great influence on the attitudes of the other players and he is thinking the same line as Sven-Göran Eriksson, so it's a very good tool for Sven is on pitch.
NARRATOR: Beckham is undoubtedly a cultural architect, but it's a closely guarded secret who the others may be.
JIM WHITE: Is it Owen, is it Scholes, is it Gerrard, is it Ferdinand? These are the guys who he has said you are the heart and soul of this team you are the guys who create the climate in the dressing-room, you are the guys who people look to as the leaders.
NARRATOR: The time had come to test the mettle of England's cultural architects. It was the crucial away match against Germany. Winning this game was vital if England were to stand any chance of progressing to the finals. On that night in Munich there could not have been more at stake. If ever fear of failure would creep back in it would be now.
IAN RIDLEY: The interesting thing about the Germany game was that it, it was not just a football fixture. The history and the culture of the two nations going back so long, both on and off the football field, meant that it was a hugely hyped fixture.
NARRATOR: But Eriksson's approach to this vital match was unusual. There were no appeals to patriotism and no one mentioned the war.
SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON: I think the game in itself is very stressful, so they don't need to be stressed before the game.
IAN RIDLEY: It wasn't a case of shouting at them and telling them they're going to war and
you're wearing three lions on your chest lads and do it for the folks back home. I think it's actually the opposite. He simply told them that, you know, this was a football match, there's 11 of us and 11 of them and we are better than them and they went out feeling that.
WILLI RAILO: To put the player under pressure for playing for their country is a bad thing because it's irrelevant to the whole thing because you're not playing better football, because you're thinking of the Queen. You have to think of the, of the match and what they were going to do and not all other things.
NARRATOR: The new approach made an immediate difference. England came onto the pitch focussed and unafraid.
SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON You can feel that in the dressing-room before a game that the team is ready, the team believes they can go out winning and that's, that's a Manager's wonderful feeling when you feel that before the game.
NARRATOR: From the start the game had all the passion and intensity expected from an England/Germany clash, but then again it all went horribly wrong. England went 1:0 down, but the Eriksson/Railo psychology began to take effect. One by one England's cultural architects stepped forward to lead by example. First Beckham.
MATCH COMMENTATOR (JOHN MOTSON): Beckham takes, Gerrard waiting here.
NARRATOR: Then Gerrard. Then Owen.
MATCH COMMENTATOR (JOHN MOTSON): The equaliser here and they've done it. Michael Owen yet again...
NARRATOR: With Owen's equaliser they were back in the match.
MATCH COMMENTATOR (JOHN MOTSON): Scholes. Oh look at this, Gary Neville on this side of the pitch in a lot of room.
NARRATOR: Then something remarkable happened: a shared mental model emerged. England played as a team.
IAN RIDLEY: It was getting players in the right positions to do what they do best and it was very simple. Let's get Owen one-on-one with their defenders.
MATCH COMMENTATOR (JOHN MOTSON): Oh good effort.
IAN RIDLEY: Let's impose ourselves on the game let's move the ball quickly. That was very, very key to what happened that night.
MATCH COMMENTATOR (JOHN MOTSON): And it's 2-1 England.
NARRATOR: The floodgates opened. Eriksson's team was unstoppable.
MATCH COMMENTATOR (JOHN MOTSON): It's Owen again. England have gone into a 3:1 lead here in Munich. Oh fantastic stuff.
IAN RIDLEY: What we saw was, was utterly astonishing. I don't think any-one in the world would have ever predicted that result. It, it was quite simply a wonderful night to be in the Olympic, Olympic Stadium.
MATCH COMMENTATOR (JOHN MOTSON): Owen. Oh, this is getting better and better and better.
NARRATOR: No longer under-achievers, no longer afraid of failing. The positive impact of the cultural architects stunned the world.
IAN RIDLEY: What was so refreshing about it was the way Eriksson empowered these energetic, vibrant young men, took the fear out of them really.
DAVID BECKHAM: We knew it was going to be hard, but to start off with, which it, which it proved, you know. We went 1:0 down. We had to grind it out, but that shows the character of the whole team. You know, we, we had to work hard for each other and we done that.
MICHAEL OWEN: No one would have predicted that result, but you know, some of us may have predicted the, the England win 'cos you know we're a good team and it's just about time we started showing how good we are.
IAN RIDLEY: Eriksson showed that we did have enough good players in this country and I think by the time they got to Germany you know that wonderful late summer's evening, they believed that they were good players and it was simply changing the mind-set.
NARRATOR: It seemed the team was on its way again. That victory had restored England as a great footballing nation. The country believed the patient was cured, the Eriksson/Railo treatment complete.
JIM WHITE: Well the fantastic thing of course about English football is that one minute nobody thinks we can tie foreigners' bootlaces. Then we win a match and we're world beaters and so the slight pessimism that there was before the Germany game completely disappeared to oh we've only got to go out on the pitch against Greece and win it.
NARRATOR: By the time England faced Greece at Old Trafford they'd beaten Albania and now victory would guarantee them a place in the finals. It all seemed so easy.
IAN RIDLEY: I think again against Greece the expectation was enormous. Nobody thought that England wouldn't win. We'd beaten Germany, we'd beaten Albania how could we not beat Greece who don't travel well? It was, it was quite unthinkable.
NARRATOR: But from the very first minute it was clear something was wrong. England couldn't even pass the ball.
MATCH COMMENTATOR (JOHN MOTSON): Gerrard again and that's a poor pass as well. Gerrard's passing in the first half has been well below the normal standard.
NARRATOR: The shared mental model had collapsed. Fear of failure was back.
IAN RIDLEY: But I think again a tension came through the player and this is something Eriksson will have to address with Willi Railo during the World Cup, this sort of tension and it, and it spread throughout the team.
NARRATOR: Then out of the chaos just one of the cultural architects stepped forward. David Beckham had the game of his life.
IAN RIDLEY: David Beckham, you know, seized the game by its boot straps and said, you know, I'm not going to let us, you know, go out of the World Cup here, you're all going to follow me and he was everywhere and he just dragged the team with him. It was the most amazing thing to watch.
JIM WHITE: A, a lot has been said about David Beckham's performance that day, but the strength of character he showed to keep going was huge. The self-belief, the, the, the determination was really, really admirable.
MATCH COMMENTATOR (JOHN MOTSON): Well you would never have surely anticipated this. Oh he got a free kick out of that (INAUDIBLE REMARK)
NARRATOR: In the end England needed to score one goal to qualify. Again it all came down to Beckham.
MATCH COMMENTATOR (JOHN MOTSON): It's a free kick 25 yards out in what is probably the penultimate minute of the game.
NARRATOR: In the 93rd minute of play he had the chance to secure England's place in the World Cup finals single-handedly.
MATCH COMMENTATOR (JOHN MOTSON): Beckham to take. The 93rd minute at Old Trafford. Beckham. Yes, yes, he's done it. (INAUDIBLE REMARK) Fantastic. It's 2-2 and England may still be going to the World Cup automatically. It's a fantastic ending to a very, very poor performance.
NARRATOR: One man's mental strength had taken England through to the World Cup finals. The science of psychology had done wonders for the England side but the Greece game showed the progress was very fragile. For England to succeed in Japan they had to find a sure-fire way to prevent fear of failure creeping back in and there is an answer. It lies in what was happening inside David Beckham's brain at the very moment he took that free kick.
PROF RICHARD FRACKOWIAK (University College London): Let's take David Beckham doing a free kick. I mean it's very topical. Why does he manage to do it so often and so well? I think it was that advertisement for one of those footballs which showed his secret where he kept kicking the ball into a hoop from all sorts of areas and he must do that every day of every week of every year hours and hours at a time, so that he could do this in his sleep. Now that's an interesting thing. He probably does do it in his sleep 'cos the other interesting thing is that you can practice in the mind.
WILLI RAILO: The ball is like this. Here we put the situation to...
NARRATOR: Practising in the mind, or visualisation, is what Prof Railo believes could be the key to preventing fear of failure from reasserting itself.
WILLI RAILO: You can see back home in it so far and visualise the situation and have a result. To top level players it's very important to visualise on top of doing this even in practice on the pitch, so by doing the combination or doing the practic thing on the pitch and visualise back home in the sofa and to reach your peak level you had to do both, both.
NARRATOR: At first glance it seems absurd. To visualise a free kick a player will imagine placing the ball just as he would for real. He'll imagine stepping back just as he would for real and then he'll imagine striking the ball and scoring the perfect goal, just as he would dream of doing for real, but Railo believes visualisation is more than ideal day-dreaming. It's the vital mental exercise needed to train a player to eliminate all anxiety. The remarkable powers of visualisation are being studied at the University of Edinburgh's Department of Psychology where Prof Dave Collins is measuring the players muscle spasms to compare what's happening inside the brain during physical training and what's happening during visualisation. First they carry out the physical challenge.
DAVE COLLINS: Hands down by the sides. A nice fast start. On your marks, get set, go. Come on, come on, come on, pushing, pushing. Come through, come through, come through, finish it off and steady down, that's it. Push and push and push, then slow down. Come on. Turn and steady down, slow down now, slow down. Maybe run into the corner.
NARRATOR: Then Collins runs the experiment again, but this time there's a difference.
DAVE COLLINS: Eyes closed, down you go.
NARRATOR: The subject will simply be visualising the same routine.
DAVE COLLINS: Set, go. Concentrate hard, come on, make the turn, make the turn. Good, come on, push it, push it, push it. Well done. Round the cones. Again, again, again. Come on, come on, come on, come on, keep it going, keep going. Finish, down. Each time we're doing this what's going to happen is it's almost like you're layering on an extra level of detail. (Yeah) Go, come on, come on, come on, push to the corner, push to the corner. Go, come on. Go. Make the turn. Come on, come on, come on, make it a bit bigger, that's it, well done. Come on and through again and another. Well done, round the cones and at the end come on, finish it, finish it. Nice run, well done. What we should see are the same, the same rhythm of signals the same bursts of activity in more or less the same rhythm and the particular things we're interested in are the relative timings that these big, pronounced movements like the turns, like the slalom bits that split the movement up into phases.
NARRATOR: The results show some-thing quite extraordinary. The two traces reveal that at critical moments, such as making a sharp turn, the signals from the brain are just as pronounced when the player was simply visualising as when they were physically running the course. It seems that to the brain visualising is much the same as physical practice.
RICHARD FRACKOWIAK: Imagine the movement is essentially everything in the motor system barring the executive part which is just that final little stage.
DAVE COLLINS: So at least two-thirds of the brain activity is the same whether I'm actually physically practising or mentally practising.
NARRATOR: What happens when a player practises a free kick for real is signals are passed from the primary motor cortex via the lower brain to the secondary motor cortex and only then down the spinal cord to the muscles. When a player is visualising exactly the same sequence of events takes place inside the brain, except for the last step. Instead of travelling down the spinal cord the messages end up in the frontal lobes where a mental image is created, so as far as the brain is concerned, visualising in the mind is as good as physical practice but in one crucial respect visualisation can do something for a player that physical practice never can. On the practice pitch there is no hostile chanting, no pressure from opponents, but all that anxiety can be present in the brain when you visualise.
DAVE COLLINS: When a player's visualising really well they'll feel what they feel in the physical situation, so if I'm rehearsing taking penalty kicks, yeah, I presume I'm going to be somewhat nervous, I presume I'm going to feel a little bit of pressure, yeah. That's what I'll feel and that what I want them to feel so if you're going to be scared in that situation be scared in your image and overcome it. If you're going to be aggressive in that situation be aggressive in your image, but overcome it 'cos that'll make it more vivid, more realistic and more likely to have the performance outcome that you want.
MATCH COMMENTATOR (JOHN MOTSON): 60,000 hearts stopping here. Any more...
NARRATOR: Simply by visualising a player can mentally train himself to conquer his fear of failure. Visualisation could be the final step in getting all 11 players to shed their fear of failure. It can transport them into what's called 'the zone', the ultimate mental state for any player.
DAVE COLLINS: The zone is typified by low levels of thought low levels of effort, almost a letting go. When a player's in the zone time will fly effort will be low, really the only thoughts they're having are thoughts of, of pleasure. It's almost like the other players are moving in slow motion, it's easy to make decisions, you know what people are going to do.
NARRATOR: It's now clear that in the final qualifying game against Greece David Beckham was in the zone. All the elements of the Eriksson/Railo psychology came together at one moment. Beckham had no fear of failure and for the sake of the entire team he dared to lose to win.
JIM WHITE: I think what he probably felt as he was putting the ball down is I can't miss again, I never miss, I'm sure this one will come off and certainly he must have been pretty confident the way he brushed Teddy Sheringham aside and said well I, no don't worry, this one'll come off.
NARRATOR: Beckham slipped into his practised free kick routine. Automatic thought process took over.
IAN RIDLEY: This was the body language of a man that believed he was going to score, certainly thought he was going to score and didn't, didn't have previous failures in his mind. I mean this is the kind of character you want on your side.
NARRATOR: He'd mentally rehearsed the entire sequence of events in his mind. Even before he kicked the ball the knew the result.
MATCH COMMENTATOR (JOHN MOTSON): Yes, yes, he's done it. David Beckham...
NARRATOR: For England to shine in the World Cup finals each member of the squad will have to launch themselves into the zone. The Eriksson/Railo psychology has equipped the England team with the mental tools they need to get there. They've never been better psychologically prepared. The coach now believes that winning the World Cup is perfectly feasible.
SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON: You must be, try to be as much prepared as possible. You have to set the aims, the targets - should be high targets, but not impossible to reach.
WILLI RAILO: If the England team is able to mobilise all their mental collective powers supporting each other when winning and losing there might be a possibility for England to do a very good Cup.
NARRATOR: The psychologists have done their job. Now it's all up to the England patient. A nation holds its breath.
MATCH COMMENTATOR: ...and it's through again for England. What a chance for the hat trick here. Owen. Oh this is getting better and better and better. One, two, three... they're heading for off side, the Germans. He's caught them square and he is lethal.