Is England’s World Cup Campaign the Result of Genius Long-Term Resource Planning?

by Rainer Kivimaa / 7/16/2018 2:47:53 PM

Even after defeat by Croatia in the World Cup semi-final, few would argue that England’s World Cup 2018 has been anything but a resounding success. Ganttic founder, Rainer Kivimaa, argues that a change in the FA’s approach to long-term planning and Gareth Southgate’s sure-footed resource management over the last few years has finally ended England’s dark years of failure in international football.

England’s performance in Russia is in stark contrast to that of 2010, when it lost to Germany 4-1 in the last 16; and 2014, when it drew once and suffered two defeats, failing to progress out of the group. Despite the youth and inexperience of the 2018 squad, the comparison is like men (New England) versus boys (Old England).

So, what has changed? Following failed strategic moves – first, bringing in foreign coaches to foster intelligence in tournament football; then, hiring a series of English managers who failed to improve results – the FA finally recognized that big change was needed if England was ever to regain a strong international position.

Making bold changes

The first, major step was to refresh the entire coaching staff from youth levels up and to implement a different way of coaching and playing. Bringing coaches through the levels from youth to senior, all playing the same way; Putting equal focus on team ethic and mental strength, and training and skills; Pushing the idea of playing to win a tournament, rather than just one game.

After a few years, England started to be successful at youth level, where the transformation in coaching was quickest to translate. England won the under 20 and under 17 World Cups in 2017, and the Under 21 Toulon Cup in 2018. This was a sign that the change in approach was working.

Taking calculated risks

When England’s then senior manager, Sam Allardyce, was sacked in 2016, the FA made the unpopular decision to promote the under 21 manager, Gareth Southgate, to manage the England team. Southgate worked to the formula that had been delivering results with the youth squad and took it to the next level.

He did what all great resource managers do – he communicated well. He asked all levels, from the press team to senior players, what they would do if they could start over, and he listened to what they had to say. He learned from what was working in other sports, including the NFL, tennis, and rugby. Absorbing all this, he made sweeping changes, even altering the formation of the team when England qualified for the 2018 World Cup, as he knew it wouldn’t be good enough to win. 

Planning for the long term

Southgate’s genius in resource management was demonstrated by focusing his energy on building a young team that was rising through the ranks. He took calculated risks, buying into a plan for the future. He made his resources, the players, fit the plan; rather than developing a plan around the players. 

England’s success in the 2018 World Cup shows the value of planning for the long term, as well as the short term; and the importance of having a clear overview of the ‘big picture’, while also drilling into the detail.

You could argue that England’s defeat by Belgium in the group stages was caused by an error of judgment when selecting who to put on the pitch. However, some suspect that the loss was engineered by Southgate in an effort to avoid a clash with Brazil. If so, it might have been a masterclass in excellent resource management.


Old England

New England

World Cup Campaigns

1990 – semi-final

1994 – didn’t qualify

1998 – last 16

2002 – quarter final

2006 – quarter-final

2010 – last 16

2014 – group stage


2018 – semi-final

2022 -- ?


Squad style

The dream team that arrived on the scene in 1998 - Owen, Beckham, Scholes, Lampard, Gerrard – were billed as the ‘second coming’, the best shot for England since 1966, but they didn’t ‘bring it home’.


In successive campaigns, they were increasingly overpaid in their Premier league clubs and under-ambitious in their national team.


Harry Kane, winner of the prized Golden Boot in 2018, led a charge of youthful, hungry footballers, new to the international scene, with something to prove.


Watch this space!








Penalty shoot-outs

A strong performance throughout. Crucially, the team ended the penalty shoot-out ‘curse’ in its triumphant clash with Columbia.



Play to win each game


Play to win a tournament

Training Approach

Focus on training and skills required to win a game.


No need to focus on penalties if you win each game outright

Focus on mental strength and team ethic.


Practice and perfect pain points (penalty shoot-outs) in training.


Management Motto

If it isn’t broken don’t fix it.


Keep learning


Rainer Kivimaa is the co-founder of the resource management software Ganttic. He knows the difference between building features and solving problems and his hard work, bright ideas, and coding skills are what make Ganttic happen. 


Latest Book

Cover for Management of Portfolios