Anorak News | A Friendly Too Far

A Friendly Too Far

by | 22nd, May 2003

‘DOES anyone know exactly why it was necessary for England footballers to prepare for their Euro 2004 qualifier against Slovakia by travelling to South Africa for a friendly match?

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In footballing terms, the logic is baffling.

The players are surely already tired enough after a gruelling domestic season – and it is not clear what good this friendly match will do.

A number of the team that will line up at the Riverside on June 11 are missing and there are several players out through injury.

We can expect a repeat of the lacklustre performances in previous friendlies, most notably against Australia.

Had Sven-Goran Eriksson been judged on his team’s performances in friendly matches, he would surely be out of a job by now.

In competitive matches, by contrast, he has only lost once – and it is hard to draw a connection between the teams that line up for the two.

In that light, one has to wonder about the wisdom of playing friendly matches at all, particularly ones that involve a 12-hour flight.

It would appear, therefore, that the decision to play the match in South Africa has more to do with off-the-field requirements than the game itself.

Many of those are important – the encouragement of the game in southern Africa, demonstrating support for a 2010 World Cup bid (and looking for reciprocal support for an England bid at a later date?) and giving the players a chance to meet Nelson Mandela, for instance.

But it is the timing that is strange. After all, so soon after the FA Cup final means that Ashley Cole, Wayne Bridge and James Beattie have all been excused the trip.

South Africa is hardly en route to La Manga, where England will hold a training camp ahead of their friendly against Serbia-Montenegro and then match against Slovakia.

So, tonight’s game is, literally and metaphorically, a diversion. A draw and no injuries is about the best we can hope for.

Posted: 22nd, May 2003 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink