3 Lessons We Can Learn From The 2022 World Cup

Theo Luciano
8 min readDec 10, 2022

As we watch this year's World Cup, truly one of the most anticipated sporting events on the world stage, we see storylines unfolding and legends being created. We see proverbial Davids taking down Goliaths. We watch as the talent of tomorrow bursts onto the stage and the stars of today fight for one more chance at glory before their time is up.

As I write this, Morocco just defeated Portugal to become the first African team to reach the semi-finals of the tournament. Christiano Ronaldo, one of my favorite players, is again denied the ultimate goal, and perhaps for the final time. This most likely is the last time we’ll see him at the World Cup.

A view of Christiano Ronaldo sadly bowed on his face in defeat, shown from above
Christiano Ronaldo after Portugal is defeated by Morocco, 1–0

Brazil, one of the favorites to win the Cup, was defeated yesterday by Croatia and is heading home. Germany failed to make it to the round of 16. Spain was the previous victim of a surging Moroccan squad.

Croatia’s captain Luka Modric consoling Neymar and other members of the Brazil national team after their shootout loss.

I could go on about the teams and players that seemed to shine brighter than the rest, as well as those who surprised us by the way they failed to do so.

As I contemplate what I’ve already watched and what is still to come, I think about how we can apply this beautiful game and captivating tournament to another game we all are familiar with. It’s a game we’re all playing.

Some are rookies, just looking for an opportunity to make a mark. Some are seasoned veterans, who continue to prove themselves day in and day out. Some excel at one part of the game, while others shine elsewhere. Everyone has a position they play and the team’s success depends on how well individuals can execute at their position. As expected, there will be joys and heartbreaks, the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

The game I’m talking about now is called “Life”, and I want to share what I’ve seen at this year's World Cup that can maybe help us all play our game of Life a little better.

Play as a team

Many of us have heard the big names at the 2022 World Cup: Messi, Neymar, Mbappe, Benzema, Ronaldo and more. These men are key to the success of their team and provide a spark of talent that is generational.

But they each also know that if they try to play on their own, they are dead in the water. Each one understands how important it is to move that ball around, utilize every position to develop a push for the goal, and that it could be anyone’s day.

It’s true more all the time that you need to play as a team, but when you get to the biggest stage, it’s more important than ever. The success of the team comes before the success of the individual.

Who’s on your team? Take a moment and think about it. Maybe you have a few teams. Coworkers, siblings, friends, brothers and sisters in the Lord, these could all be teams.

Once you know who your team is, think about what your goal is. You might not be winning a trophy, but you probably have something you’re working towards.

The World Cup trophy

Consider what your strengths are, and those of your team members, and when you have an opportunity to do what you do best, take it! Move the ball down the field.

But when it’s time to pass, do it! If you encounter a situation that calls for something you’re not as strong in, chances are you know someone who is strong in that area. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking for help. Don’t be the person who tries to hold onto the ball every time, weaving and dodging through defenders, only to get crushed by a tackle they easily could have avoided, and ultimately missing the opportunity to score.

The only good, non-watermarked image I could find just had to be of an Italian getting tackled…. sad

Let your people do what they’re good at. I understand it can be hard to relinquish control, but you can’t do it all. There are people who are a lot better at some things than you are.

Remember: when the team wins, all its members win too.

It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

Brazil and Croatia had played to a 0–0 tie at the end of regular time for their quarterfinal match of the 2022 World Cup. Since a winner needed to be declared, it was time for another set of 15-minute halves.

In the 106th minute of the game, Brazilian forwards Neymar and Rodrygo pulled an ace out of their hand and connected for a beautiful series of passes that ultimately saw Neymar take a sensational shot from an unforgiving angle and stick the ball in the top of the net to put Brazil ahead.

Brazil forward Neymar scores against Croatia in the 2022 World Cup

With one 15-minute half to go, surely that was it, right? One would assume Brazil had punched its ticket to the next round.

But Croatia had other ideas.

After what I would assume was a heartbreaking goal to give up (though I’m sure that’s true for any goal in the World Cup), Croatia didn’t just roll over and die. They kept playing their game, kept pushing the attack, never giving up, and in the 117th minute, they tied it up after a powerful shot by Bruno Petkovic that was deflected off the goalkeeper’s outstretched hand, into the goal.

Croatia celebrates after scoring a late equalizer vs Brazil in their 2022 World Cup quarterfinal game.

Croatia would go on to win the game in a penalty shootout. Comeback completed. Down but not out.

You’ll encounter similar situations in your life. Brazil scoring during your game of life might look like:

  • losing your job
  • missing your flight
  • your car breaking down
  • your finances getting out of control
  • the McFlurry machine being out of order (come on, you should know better by now)

All of a sudden, you’ll feel like your back is against the wall. No one would blame you for giving up and accepting defeat. Better luck next time, right?

It doesn’t take much to give it your all when things are going well. It feels good when you’re winning at life. But it’s when things get tough that we start to become who we can be.

Romans 5:3–5 tells us about what happens during these times. “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

See, those wholesome and wonderful qualities like endurance, integrity, hope, love, and perseverance are usually strengthened through hard times. We can’t get better at these things unless we experience a situation that requires us to use them.

So next time one of these situations tries to knock you out of the game of Life, remember that it’s not over until it’s over. That 117th-minute goal won’t happen if you stop looking for it.

What About When You Fail?

Ultimately, by the time the World Cup ends, only one team will have not failed. We’ve already seen the USA, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Australia, and many more fail this time around.

In the end, it doesn’t matter how far a team gets. When you have a goal in mind, and you miss that goal, you failed.

Of course, failure isn’t only for soccer players.

Surely, you can think of a time that you’ve failed. It probably is not a time you look upon fondly, but it really did something for you.

It probably lit a fire under you and made you think “I don’t ever want to experience that again.” Maybe you took that attitude, paired it with a lot of hard and many other factors, and came back next time stronger and more prepared than ever.

Is that an automatic guarantee of victory? Fail once, get motivated, work hard, and you’ll win next time? Of course not, but it’s true that failure is never wasted if you maintain this attitude.

You may be happy to find out that all your preparation does in fact lead to the victory you seek when you try again. If so, congratulations! You experienced one of the most rewarding outcomes of failure.

But what if you keep failing and failing?

There are several good options. First, you could find something you’re better at. This could be a case where you need to “pass the ball” to a teammate and let them excel, while you discover your true calling. Don’t get this confused with quitting. It can be hard to tell the difference but checking the attitude helps. If you’re wallowing in self-pity and blaming others, you’re probably quitting. If you’re excited to pass the opportunity to someone who can perform better and actively looking for another way you can make a difference, that’s “passing the ball”.

Second, you could keep trying. If you simply lack the God-given ability or some other aspect, you may never reach your goal, but be assured that the dedication and hard work you bring to this pursuit will spill over into other areas of life as well. Even if you never reach your ultimate goal, you’re probably reaching other goals day by day, perhaps without even noticing, simply because you’re building good habits and strong character.

Third, you can adjust your goals. It is valuable to find a balance between goals that challenge you and goals that are actually achievable. If I, as a rec soccer player, decide that I want to be on the next USA world team, that would most likely be a goal that is beyond challenging. It would be very easy to lose motivation for that goal because the measurables are so far away. Instead, a more realistic goal might be to help my team get promoted to the next level of league play; or to score a certain number of times next season. By adjusting one's goals to be challenging, yet still attainable, you give yourself a better chance to stay motivated, achieve your goals, and then set new ones.

As you ride the wave of the 2022 World Cup, see what else you can learn. There are always concepts we can apply to life and there are many more than I mentioned here. I hope you enjoyed this! All I ask is that you join me in rooting against Germany and England, forever and always.

This is also my 100th blog post on Medium, so that’s exciting. I’m winning at something 😄

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Theo Luciano

Design @ RoleModel Software and a myriad of other things // John 14:6