image by prettyfriendship, flickr artist

i like drawing parallels between sports and life. there are so many lessons that we can learn just by taking a look at things through a different lens. the beautiful game is no exception.

it’s world cup time right now; for me this is a huge deal. the only way i can describe it to non-football enthusiasts is to take thanksgiving, wrap it up in christmas, and then get rid of it for 4 years. it’s massive.

as i’ve watched the games and results unfold this year, i’ve had to rub my eyes in disbelief on more than oneoccasion. most notably, for me, the first group-stage match between spain and switzerland where the swiss won with a 1-0 final score. if you look beyond the score to the match statistics you see today’s lesson.

official stats for the game: spain 63%possession, 12 corner kicks, 24 shots… only 8 on target. switzerland 37% possession, 3 corner kicks, 8 shots… but 3 made it on target and of course one resulted in that crucial goal.

by all accounts spain has the better squad, from the starting XI all the way through the last player on the bench. two years ago they were theeuropeanchampions and rode into this tournament on an incredible streak having lost just 1 match in their last 48, including a 10-0-0 record in qualifying. as for the swiss.. not so much. it was a true david versus goliathmatch-up, and the stats illustrate that perfectly. spain dominated in every significant category, especially possession. it’s rather difficult to score goals and win matches when you don’t have control of the ball.

but what the beautiful game teaches us is this, and it’s very important: make the most of every opportunity.

on the one hand you have theindomitablespainiards who spoiled chance after chance wide of the goal, over the goal, straight into the keeper and had nothing to show for their tremendous effort. then on the other, you have the very opportunistic swiss who only had 3 real chances to score a goal (two coming on just the one play), and they did. another match worth bringing up is the italy v. paraguay fixture, where paraguay managed a draw with the defending world champions from 2006 — my boys —gli azzurri. paraguay managed 8 shots, and only 1 on target, with that one shot being the one goal they needed to split the points and help propel their squad into the knockout rounds.

it’s true, in life, that some people have more opportunities than others. where we’re born, the parents we have (or don’t have), our environment growing up — all of these factors and more have an influence. some of us are spain and some of us are switzerland, but in the end we all get opportunities to score.

if you have a chance, take it. spain or switzerland, you have to make the most of your opportunities.