The Possibility in Expectations
I remember hearing that, when coaching volleyball in the college system in the USA, the best thing to do was always to 'just' make the playoffs (Conference Tournament), and then win the first game. Yes, the person telling me this was a little cynical, but it actually rings quite true. By just making the playoffs, you are always achieving something at the end if the season, which people remember. And then by winning the first game, the fans/sponsors/public are happy because the team did a bit more than expected. Sure, at the beginning of the season expectations might have been different, but who will remember them at the end of the season?
So, while people will always talk about 'winning' and 'medalling', in the end most people end up being happy if you exceed expectations. If expectations are that you aren't very good, they are very happy if you prove to be competent. If you are competent, they are very happy if you have a good run. If you are good, they are happy if you medal.
The only time fans are not happy is when their team is heavy favourite. When this is the case, if you lose, then you have failed. And if you win, there is more relief than joy.
So, to paraphrase a friend of mine, the best thing to do is to lower expectations and exceed them.