England 2 – 3 Netherlands: What Can We Learn from Friendlies?

March 1, 2012 - by mosesbet · Filed Under Sports News Comments Off on England 2 – 3 Netherlands: What Can We Learn from Friendlies? 

England’s 3-2 defeat against the Netherlands last night to me just seems like another redundant result in which we learned nothing about our team, managed to get three top Premier League players injured, and didn’t set the stadium alight.

I’m seriously starting to question the point in mid-season International friendlies.

First of all, I just want to make it clear that club football has obviously overtaken International football in terms of competitiveness, quality of games, attendance and commercial value.  The World Cup 2010 in South Africa was a utter disaster in terms of the quality of games, results and alienating real fans.

You only have to look at the FIFA statistics to see that there are less goals being scored in International tournaments then ever before.  This is because teams are setting themselves up not to be beaten – the universal 4-2-3-1 system of International football (with two holding midfielders) abases exciting, open matches.  This leads to predictably boring games (Catenaccio-esque football from the 60s), with goals few and far between, and a lack of shots or even chances.

Nowadays, if you want to watch high quality, intense, end to end football then you need to watch the Premier League, La Liga or the UEFA Champions League.

Why England Fail to Learn Anything from International Friendlies

There are a number of issues I have with making much of International friendly performances and results, especially when it comes to England.

First of all, International friendlies are a training match.  They are not an appropriate rehearsal for a major International tournament such as the World Cup or the upcoming Euros.  Why? Because we continually play our reserve team (which gives up an excuse if we lose), we don’t force the game or play at a high tempo (which is required of world class teams) and there is an ever lack of pressure – something which seems to be our Achilles heel when heading into major tournaments.

England has the worst penalty shootout record in World Cup history.  We cannot cope with the pressure of major tournaments and it continually leads to a break out of individual players such as Rooney’s red card or even David Beckham’s going back 14 years.

With regards to getting “experience” playing the best teams, this means nothing in Internationals.  For example, in a pre-World Cup friendly in November 2008, England’s second team managed to beat Germany 2-1 away in Berlin.  Fast forward one and a half years and England were decimated by Germany 4-1 in the World Cup Quarter-Final in 2010.  There is a huge difference between beating a team in a friendly and beating them in a competitive tournament environment.

Finally, we need to look at the scenario in which England played the Netherlands last night.  Their manager was sacked one month ago; their captain (who didn’t play) was stripped of the armband, Stuart Pearce (the care-taker manager) has a sever lack of tactical knowledge or experience at this level, and we had several first-team players missing.  Hence, how is it possible to judge anything from last night’s perfomance?

Sure, we can look at individual performances and say “Wellbeck’s movement was fantastic last night” or “Parker looked solid in midfielder”, but I’m tired of having the same old excuses that “it’s just a friendly”.

In my opinion, we’re less then 4 months away from a major International tournament in Ukraine and Poland in June 2012, so we should be using this as a rehearsal for that.  As such, we should be playing our best team and aiming to bully our opponents and dominate matches.  Conceding 2 goals in 2 minutes and then failing to score until the last ten minutes is not going to help us in a major tournament.

England managers and fans need to learn how to use friendleis effectively.  You should use these sorts of occasions to incorporate younger players and blood them out against top opponents of course, but then you should select your 1st team every where else.  We can’t just keep playing our 2nd team in these friendlies, with no desire for a result, and then saying “oh well we gave some of the younger players experience”.

We should use these games to prove to the world how good we are (yes we are somehow ranked 5th in the FIFA World Rankings), instill confidence in our younger players, and get the England fans heated up for the tournament in June.  Most importantly, we need to get used to out-playing and beating world-class teams on a regular basis.