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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  1. Mike

    If you are a football fan, like myself, you find almost any match entertaining and of some value. For example, since I am English I find beating Germany a very satisfying result regardless of whether the match was 'friendly' or not – due to the history between our two countries. Renaming it to a 'test match' is pointless because the real supporters (the only ones that matter in such a debate) know what 'friendly' match really means.
    'Test Match' is pretty much a cricket or rugby term and best it stays that way. Just because the match doesn't necessarily involve friendly relations, it doesn't mean that we have to replace it with something more literal. I am afraid that the subtleties and tradition of the game will be lost if we wish to get involved in the status or wording of a competition.
    When I know there is a friendly match to be played, it is the anticipation that the rivalry felt by opposing supporters will be strong, because it is two nations (in this case) meeting to give each other a bit of a warm up before the real competitions start. The reason it should remain as a 'friendly' is because there is nothing at stake other than a bit of pride.
    To the person responsible for the article, please note that between major competitions there is a lull in National team competition so that club competition duties can be fulfilled. You also need to take into consideration that the National side players don't often get to play as a team together all too often – although there are National training schedules. But training cannot offer what a real match can offer – a real match without any major consequences apart from the potential to gain Selection.

    November 21, 2008 at 5:01 am | Reply
  2. youwai yap

    Ya, I agree it's a waste of time as well as the waste of the brain juice of the big clubs' officers figuring out how not to let their star players to go on the trip. England B beat Germany B and Brazil scored 6 goals against Portugal in "friendlies" don't do much to the adrenalin. The media knows too and hence, they don't make headlines. Personally, I'd like to know if Chelsea had beaten Newcastle after watching Liverpool drawing Fulham. And what could happen to Arsenal now that they are having to deal with an emotional captain?

    Back to friendlies: I truly hope the FAs could figure out some other ways to generate revenue.

    November 24, 2008 at 9:37 am | Reply

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