November 20th, 2008
03:28 PM ET

A friendly waste of time?

So, England defeated Germany 2-1, and Brazil thrashed Portugal 6-2. There were a few other interesting results, too.

But how much did these matches really mean? Did you watch them?

While Germany had their first loss at Berlin since the 1970s and a defeat for England would have tainted an otherwise good year (apart from the fact they didn't appear at the European Championships) – the win was essentially in a game of England B versus Germany B.

The question I'm asking is: are these international "friendlies" worth the bother?

If they don't mean anything they're just upsetting the increasingly important club seasons across Europe, and if they do - then why are they called "friendlies"? If they want any kind of status then maybe they ought to be renamed as "test matches" or "ranking" matches?

You could never imagine a "friendly" in a sport like rugby union or cricket – so why should the beautiful game tolerate such nonsense?

I mean, had the England v Germany match been a crucial World Cup qualifier, do you really believe that Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard would have been unable to play?

And for those who are involved in these matches - or at least the lead up to them - there is the serious risk that an injury could jeopardise their club involvement or future international involvement.

Look at Theo Walcott for instance. He gets injured training for a friendly match that essentially means very little, and now faces a spell on the sideline at a time when his Arsenal club need him most. If Arsene Wenger disliked friendlies before that happened, he must be seething now.

Now I'm not saying that the international game isn't important. It is vital to the success of football, and the value of international matches needs to be high - which is perhaps another reason why these friendly games aren't good. Could they be devaluing the international football brand by having a meaningless match where not all of the top players are involved? Maybe these games could be played by development sides in future? Or an unofficial version of the international team?

Either way, I don't believe these friendly matches should be played by the supposed elite international teams. These sides and the respect they carry should be reserved for true battles when they fight gritty encounters for World Cup places, or show their flair in regional tournaments.

I understand that international teams still need a good hit out against other sides to help prepare for big matches. So maybe it was just the timing of these matches that really irked me. Most of the important internationals for the year are long since over. England for instance has its next qualifier in April. What did they stand to gain from playing Germany, while missing their top players, in November?

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Filed under:  Football