This round of international friendlies had some meaning – not least the one played between the US and Ukraine in Cyprus. Of course the match was slated to be played in Kharkiv, Ukraine, but was moved to Cyprus due to the current crisis in Ukraine. (I don’t feel comfortable speculating on what the Ukrainian players felt before or during the match, though.)
Ukraine just missed going to the World Cup, losing to France in a playoff. But they were good enough today to beat the U.S. (though NOT, as ESPN’s commentators kept saying, the best side to miss out on the World Cup. That’s Sweden).
All of the World Cup-bound sides were in action today. For me, the two highlights were Ivory Coast and Belgium drawing 2-2 (with Romelu Lukaku fanboying hard over Didier Drogba) and Switzerland and Croatia also drawing 2-2.
Happy that internationals are done (for now), and club football can return.
World Cup Qualifying is winding down. To date, 21 teams – Brazil (hosts), Japan, Australia, Iran, South Korea, Italy, The Netherlands, Argentina, Costa Rica, the United States, Colombia, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, England, Spain, Chile, Honduras and Ecuador – have qualified for the 2014 tournament. Teams around the world – including France, Uruguay, Sweden and Mexico – will compete in playoffs to fill the remaining 11 slots.
I will be happy when it’s over and even happier when the WC group stage draw is revealed on December 6 (That’s also when I’ll feel comfortable predicting anything about the tournament).
Until then, fans of already-qualified teams can relax, fans of playoff-bound teams can hope for the best, and fans of the teams that will miss out on Brazil 2014 can lament that fact and think about what could have been over a few beers (I’ll join even though my team’s already qualified because I like beer).
This lull is also a good time to remember that there are 9 months between now and the start of the tournament on June 12. In that space of time, any number of factors can affect a team’s prospects, including player injuries and teams’ loss of form. It is a little early to declare which teams will and will not be successful.
So calm down, everyone. The real competition is still quite a ways off.
Another round of international matchdays is upon us, and yeah, my enthusiasm for these interruptions in the club football calendar is nonexistent.
One irony of my football fandom is that although I became a fan of the sport via an international tournament (the 2010 World Cup), I now dread the internationals that crop up throughout the year.
Yes, World Cup Qualifiers and continental competition matches (Africa Cup of Nations, AFC Asian Cup, etc.) are necessary, but meaningless friendlies irritate me the most.
All internationals have the potential to cause player injuries, further disrupting the flow of the club season. What’s more, the vast majority of these international matches are drab affairs, IMO, compared to what’s on offer in the club game. Boo.
No surprise then that I’m not much looking forward to the round of friendlies taking place Oct. 11-15
Indeed, when I hear the words “International Break,” the only reaction I have is this one.
The fact that there also are World Cup Qualifiers taking place during this break doesn’t offer much solace. Over this past summer, I realized that, while I want to watch the World Cup, I don’t want to watch World Cup Qualifying.
At the end of the day, though, I am a football fan, so I will follow the internationals, keeping more of an eye on the competitive matches than the friendlies.