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International friendlies are still important

8 February 2011

Walcott has a chance to impress for England (Elicar)

As England prepare to take on Denmark in Copenhagen on Wednesday, many fans of English football are bemoaning the timing of the international break. Perhaps it’s because we’ve just enjoyed a weekend of 43 goals, or that Champions League fixtures are only a week away. Either way, the general sentiment, as shown by this Daily Mail messageboard, is one of discontent.

The first comment highlights the general ignorance towards the break:

they are a total waste of time and its just another excuse for th[e] FA to rip of the fans

The international schedule is organised by FIFA, not the FA, and the match is in Copenhagen, where the Danish FA will set the ticket prices. It’s up to fans if they wish to travel.

Are the matches a waste of time? In 2011, Fabio Capello will only meet his England players for 8 matches over 6 international breaks. Given most fans resent the break in August along with the current one, the demand would be to have 6 matches over 4 breaks, with only one of those matches a friendly, against Ghana in March.

Yet fans still criticise England for looking disjointed in summer tournaments. They still criticise Capello for not knowing the players and the culture well enough. They still expect England to be challenging for honours.

We can’t have it both ways. Just because the break isn’t convenient to English football fans, it doesn’t mean it isn’t convenient for the other 207 members and their supporters. France v Brazil, Argentina v Portugal and Germany v Italy, a rematch of that classic 2006 World Cup semi final, all represent opportunities for top sides to experiment against world-class opposition. England fans would do well to appreciate the benefits of exploring new line-ups, tactics and formations, especially when Capello has such little time with the players on the training ground.

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