It’s getting close to that time of the year where the biggest games of the season are being played. This week it’s the Champions League Semi-Finals. Apart from the final they are potentially one of the biggest games in the season.

In these big games there’s a huge amount of pressure, nerves, excitement and anticipation, but how do you perform well in them?

There have been many cases of big players taking the game to the other team and leading their own side to glory but as players, we know that this isn’t easy at all.

You may be playing against your local rivals, rivals that have numerous school friends on their team. It may be that you are playing to win the league, or cup. It may also be a great opportunity for you, an opportunity to trial for an academy team, something that you’ve been working toward for years and years.

But how do we perform well?

What can we do to make sure that we don’t let the moment pass us by?


Cristiano Ronaldo, scoring of four goals in Champions League Finals. The ultimate big game player.

Firstly, we’ve got to accept that we will have nerves. In some cases these nerves will feel so strong that all you can think about in the days prior to the fixture is the game. It may feel like these nerves are a bad thing, but you need to accept them. Accept them and realise that this nervous energy can actually be used to help you perform even better.

Every player will have these nerves, but they don’t need to affect your game. Tt actually shows how much you care, which is a great thing!

On the other hand we must make sure that we are too pumped up and too motivated. If you’re over motivated you may make rash decisions and begin to tire yourself out by working too hard, too early.

So, make sure that you aren’t over motivating yourself, making decisions that you may not in other games. And this is something that we can all be guilty of. I know as a young player I would be in bed the night before the game and envisage what I would be doing and how the game would go. Invariably I would dream about situations that were unrealistic, such as me picking the ball up and beating the whole team with a great dribble, then rounding the goalkeeper and scoring.

It’s great, and something that we should all strive for, however we need to have an air of realism when we play in these big games.

Don’t try and do too much too soon because you’re overexcited.

The best thing to do is to play yourself into the game. In the early stages, the nerves and that anticipation, may make you feel like you’re heavy legged, or tired a bit sooner than you may be usually. The best thing to do is to play steadily at first, taking a good touch and playing the simple pass.

Sometimes, in these big fixtures, we can play like we have dreamt the night before, trying to dribble past too many people in order to impress those watching, or playing a long ball that is very difficult to execute. It can happen all the time, even at the top level, but we have to make sure that we are playing sensibly.

Play yourself in to the game. Don’t go chasing it. Over my time playing, I realised that the best thing to do in these big games is to be calm, thinking clearly and playing sensibly. This begins to build your confidence, giving you a good feeling about how you’re doing and how you’ve started the game.

If you try to do something special, something that you may not have done in another game, and it doesn’t work, then your confidence can be knocked, which is something you don’t want. If that mistake happens, then just relax and work yourself back in to the game once again, playing simple passes, communicating with your teammates and gaining your confidence again. If you don’t do this, and you go chasing the game, trying to make up for the mistake, then that one mistake can quickly turn in to two, or three.

The big moments are what all players want to play in and you have to make sure that you give yourself the best chance to succeed.

To do that you’ve got to be calm. Realise that there will be nerves, accept that and then focus on thinking clearly. Have a plan of how you are going to play in the first 15 minutes, giving you the best chance to remain focused without getting too emotional, or too excited. This plan will help you to play simple, giving you the confidence to go and perform. You’ll find that it seems like the game comes to you, you’ll receive the ball in good positions because you’re getting involved and then, eventually, the more significant things are more likely to happen.

But one of the key things to remember is to not go and chase the game. It is very tempting, but you have to make sure that you remain calm and composed. If a mistake happens, a poor first touch for instance, don’t try and make up for it the next time you get the ball. Don’t look to do something special that is highly risky, try and play simple and build your confidence again. A second mistake because you’re trying too hard can cause your confidence to be knocked even further. We all make mistakes, but we must realise that you can’t change the past, that moment has gone, and all you can make sure is that you learn from it.

In these big games it is so important, and that is why it is vital to remain calm and composed.

Do that and you’ll find out you have a much better chance of success.