What the World Cup can teach us about testing


Every 4 years the world comes together for the World Cup.  32 teams from all over the globe converge for the coveted title of the best in the beautiful game.

While watching some of the games it dawned on me that there are a lot of similarities between soccer and being a tester…

There’s a lot of pressure on you – like Brazil

Brazil is hosting the World Cup, and they’re also one of the favorites to win it.  That’s a lot of pressure on a team that, if they were playing in Europe, wouldn’t even be considered one of the top 5 teams in the tournament.


In Brazil’s first game they looked nervous.  You could feel the entire weight of the country bearing down on them, especially for the first 30 minutes.  They lacked creativity, their opponent was finding holes to exploit, and they collectively weren’t their best.

This is similar to when you take on a new testing project.  Management wants results right away, but where do you start?  You can’t test the entire application right away, just like you can’t win an entire soccer game in 5 minutes.

Brazil overcame their pressure by breaking the game down into small victories.  Step-by-step they started stringing together passes.  Then they got a boost by scoring a goal; it wasn’t a pretty goal (by Brazil standards), but it counted none-the-less.  Before you knew it their confidence had grown to the point where you could tell that they were in the driver’s seat and the game was theirs.

The same can be said about testing.  You can’t get overwhelmed by the enormity of a project.  Break it into smaller victories that will give you and management confidence moving forward.

You need to be methodical – like Germany

“Full coverage.”  Often times that’s the name of the game from management’s perspective.  They want to test every aspect of their application, leaving no area uncovered.

No team in the tournament personifies this mentality greater than the Germans.  A soccer field can be up to 120 yards long by 80 yards wide.  That’s a LOT of area to cover for the 11 players on the field.  Yet it seems that every time the opposition has the ball, Germany is right there to win it back.


In their first game, the Germans were up against Portugal and one of the best strikers in the world, Ronaldo.  Many thought that Ronaldo had a chance to score multiple goals against Germany’s aging defense.

But the Germans had a plan.  They very methodically spread themselves around the field, clogging the passing the lanes, and isolating Ronaldo so that he couldn’t receive the ball and attempt to score.

It wasn’t flashy, but they covered the field well, stuck to their plan, and ultimately ended up winning (4-0).

Same with testing.  When facing a threat, like a shortened testing period or invasive app changes, you need to come up with a plan and execute that plan methodically.  Figure out the most important areas that you need to cover and makes those a priority.

Only then will you be able to isolate your threat and increase your coverage elsewhere.

Creativity is king – like Argentina

Argentina have the blessing of playing with potentially the best player ever, Lionel Messi.  He’s minute in stature (5’7″, 150 lbs soaking wet), but he doesn’t let that stop him from being a force on the field.


Messi’s success comes from moments of brilliance, where he sees an opportunity and exploits it before anyone else realizes what’s going on.  Just when defenders think they know what’s coming, he turns the game on it’s head and does the complete opposite of expectations.

This is a vital component for any tester’s arsenal.  You can’t simply test what developers EXPECT you to test.  Sometimes you need to do the opposite and test what no one is expecting you (or your users) to do.  You never know what bugs are lurking just outside the normal workflow, and without some creativity and thinking outside the norm, you could miss potentially crippling bugs.

Be creative, and impress your peers with what you may find.

Never give up – like USA

You know what team no one wants to face in the World Cup?  USA.  You know why?  Because they NEVER give up.

USA is notorious for playing hard the entire game and always believing that they can win.  Look no further than their first game in 2014 for proof…

USA was fortunate enough to score 30 seconds into the game against a fast and punishing Ghana team.  They were riding high, until tragedy struck…

One of their best players, and their best scoring threat, suffered a hamstring injury and was carted off the field.  The immediate reaction was “We’re doomed”.

But the USA held on.

At half-time one of their starting defenders left the game with an injury, making way for a 21 year old kid to take his place.  “He’s too inexperienced.” “Ghana is going to tear him apart.”.

But once again, the USA worked as a team and held on.

Even their captain got kicked in the face and reportedly suffered a broken nose.

But you know what?  They stopped the bleeding, and despite having a hard time breathing, he and the team held on.

The crippling blow came with 10 minutes left when Ghana scored to tie the game, and you could tell that they were on the verge of scoring another.

Any other team would have conceded the tie, or even a loss, and point to too all of the adversity that they had to overcome.  But not USA.

With 3 minutes left in the game, the USA scored the game winning goal.  And it was off the head of none other than the 21 year old substitute.


Never. Give. Up.

As testers we’re constantly faced with blow after blow adversity.  “There’s not enough time to fully test features.”, “Management wants this pushed through regardless.”, “What do you mean you’re failing my code?  My code is just fine, what’s wrong with you?”.

Don’t ever allow yourself to get down from the adversity that you face.  You were hired to do a job, and you should do that job to the best of your abilities, no matter how much others may try to sway you otherwise.


Now go and prove to the world that you’re a world class tester with World Cup qualities.


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