by Lasse Boettcher, UCFB firm offer holder for BA (Hons) Football Business & Marketing at UCFB Wembley.

The World Cup 2018 is upon us and many people are asking themselves: Who will win the World Cup? Who is going to be the stand out player of the World Cup? Who is going to score the most goals?

These questions are enormously unpredictable, so the people are looking for more reliable ways to predict the result of each match in order to win the communal betting competition.

In 2010, the people trusted the octopus Paul to predict the results of the World Cup in South Africa.

There has been a new study which has been published in the European Journal of Sports Science (Slater, 2018) that explains what the singing of the national anthem before the match reveals about the performance of the players.

It has been proved that the more passionate the players were singing the national anthem, the more likely they won the match. To be precise, football teams who sang their national anthem with a lot of passion conceded fewer goals than the opponents, but they did not score more goals.

There are some teams who really identify with the country and the fans, just remember Brazil when singing their national anthem at the World Cup 2014 in their country.

Or just remember Italy at the European Championship 2016 in France, one could feel the intensity of Gianluigi Buffon singing the Italian national anthem.

It definitely shows the identification with their nation. And this could lead to a stronger performance with a stronger mentality because a player who does not just want to win for himself or for the team but for the whole nation is more likely to put more effort in order to increase the winning chance.

The strong identification with the nation can also have negative consequences, because a strong identification also means that the fans are expecting a good performance and this means a lot of pressure for the players. For instance, in the semi finals 2014 in Brazil when Germany was beating Brazil 7:1 and destroyed the dreams of the whole nation.

In 2014 it was reported that the former England manager Roy Hodgson instructed his players to sing their national anthem with greater passion before the match in order to be more likely to win the matches. But it does not make sense to just instruct your players to do so, it is more important that the players are singing the national anthem with passion because they really identify with their nation. Singing the national anthem passionately together with the teammates can also show something about the connection and the relationship between the players.

The identification with the nation is one of the most important things during the World Cup, Germany could be the most popular example at the moment. Germany won the World Cup in 2014, so they have a lot of pressure because they want to defend the title. Two weeks ago, Mesut Özil and Ilkay Güngogan went to the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and they signed their jersey for him. This caused a lot of rumours in Germany and many people did not want Özil and Gündogan in the German squad. In the last friendly match of Germany against Saudi Arabia Gündogan was substituted and the fans in the stadium were booing and insulting him.

In the end, the team with the better tactical system and with the better performance will most likely win, so it will still be hard to predict the result of the match, but how the players are singing their national anthem and how they are identifying with the nation is an important factor.