Managing a soccer team is not only about training and tactics, it's about psychology as well. Your team has to want to win and they have to believe in themselves. Your team psychology affects your match results, and in turn your match results affect your team psychology.
The atmosphere at your club has a great influence over the performance of your team. Team spirit affects your midfield ratings, and the higher team spirit you have, the better your midfield will perform. This in turn determines the amount of ball possession you will get.
Team spirit itself can be affected by a lot of things, but in particular your coach's leadership, the team attitude you set for each match, transfers, and your psychologist, if you have one.
Your players have to believe in themselves to perform well. A team with low confidence has trouble finishing their opportunities. High confidence is normally a good thing, but if it gets too high, players may underestimate weaker teams (see below for more info).
Team confidence is reflected in the attack sector ratings. Confidence is largely dependent on the results of previous games, but a psychologist or a coach with high leadership is also known to boost it.
Before each competitive match you tell your squad how important the match is. Your team attitude setting affects how much ball possession you will get. You have three options:
Match of the Season: Your players will do anything to win this one. However, directly after the match the team spirit will fall, which means your players will not perform at their best in the following matches.
Normal: The players perform as usual.
Play it cool: Your players are instructed to take it easy, as there are other more important games to focus on later. Directly after the match, team spirit will increase and your players will perform better in the next matches.
All players have a personality. Dishonest and aggressive players tend to get booked and sent off more often. Leadership is important for your appointed team captain and for your coach.
Psychological match events
The way a match unfolds can impact the behavior of the players beyond the instructions laid out by the coach. Such psychological events can have big impact on a specific match, but they do not by themselves affect the team spirit or confidence of future matches
A team that gains a lead of two goals in a match will automatically start to lose their attacking momentum and to start to focus more on defense. This effect will further increase if the lead is extended by a larger margin. On the other hand, if the opponent manages to draw level again, the momentum switches back to normal.
In some situations teams are able to withstand this psychological effect. If the team has been given “Match of the Season” instructions, they won’t back down even when in a large lead. The same goes if the team playing in the finals of their National Cup, the World Cup or the Hattrick Masters.
Moreover, a team performing unusually badly in the first half might get a tongue lashing from the coach during the break, and be able to pull themselves back together.
If you're facing a team in a worse position than you and your confidence is strong or better, your players may underestimate your opponent and play below their normal capacity. The risk to underestimate your opponent is dependent on the points and position difference between the teams, your confidence level, and your team attitude for the match. The risk is higher at higher confidence levels and when there's a bigger gap in the standings. The only way to completely avoid underestimation is to play 'match of the season'.
If you do end up underestimating your opponent, the points difference, confidence level, team attitude, and if you play home or away determine how much underestimation there is. Depending on the score you may recover at half time though: you'll have a full recovery if behind, 2/3 if you're tied, and 1/3 if you lead by a single goal.
Note that underestimation can only happen in series matches, but not in the first three rounds.