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International Football Has Lost Its Appeal

The qualifying matches for Euro 2008 will continue this weekend. For many of us – whether we’re European or not – it doesn’t conjure up much excitement, but why?

Growing up as a kid in Britain in the 70’s and early 80’s, I was accustomed to placing international teams as the pinnacle of the sport. I fondly remember the Home Championships where the British national sides played each other in a memorable tournament each year. I also adored the World Cups with the 1978 and 1982 ones being extremely memorable for me still to this day.

But over the years, club football has overtaken the international teams. I believe that one of the reasons is that we’re so used to seeing international players in the Premier League and Champions League now that club football is essentially made up of all-star teams. If sides like Barcelona, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Inter Milan can buy the best talent in the world, isn’t that much better than watching an international side.

The perfect example of this is England. The national side is improving under Steve McClaren, but let’s consider the starting eleven that’ll probably start against Macedonia.

Paul Robinson, Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Shaun Wright Philips, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Scott Parker, Stewart Downing, Wayne Rooney, Peter Crouch

Out of these players, is there one that’s playing at the top of his game right now?

Crouch has been the best performer for England recently, but he hasn’t played for Liverpool much due to Rafa Benitez’s squad rotation system. Rooney has been pathetic and should have been dropped. Downing has been injured. Parker means well, but has been suffering with a weak Newcastle defence. Lampard has been improving, but is still way below par. Gerrard has been less influential for Liverpool as of late. Wright-Philips has been practically invisible for Chelsea (no matter how much I rate the player).

The backline of Terry, Ferdinand and Neville have been below-par also with all three of them looking suspect at times this season. Robinson meanwhile has been a sieve for Spurs although he did make an incredible save for Tottenham against Portsmouth this past Sunday.

If you look at the players who are lighting up the Premiership, most of them are foreign with Cristiano Ronaldo and Didier Drogba the two best examples.

That said, let’s give the international teams the benefit of the doubt over the next week to see how they perform. Watch for a listing of the matches being shown on U.S. TV in this week’s EPL Talk Email Newsletter (subscribe via the link from the homepage of

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  1. Anonymous

    October 8, 2006 at 11:53 am

    The stuff I saw was great. Italy-Ukraine game was very entertaining-good football. I read that Scotland got extremely lucky, and England were plain bad. I actually look forward to international breaks and qualifying games. Despite the big money of the domestic leagues and the Champions League, I still think playing for one’s country still means something! Even if it is a meaningless game against Andorra or something like that.

  2. The Gaffer

    October 7, 2006 at 5:40 pm

    Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to watch the matches yet, but yes – based on the scorelines today – this is pretty amazing turn of events.

    Scotland’s 1-0 win over France is one of their best results *ever* especially when you consider they’re in the same group as Italy.

    Ireland’s crushing loss to Cyprus is embarrasing. So too was Wales’s thrashing at home against Slovakia.

    England barely survived what could have been a shock result against Macedonia. Why McClaren decides to play Rooney in the form he’s currently in, I do not know.

    I’ll watch the matches later tonight on tape. Hopefully the action and drama is as thrilling as the results suggest!

    The Gaffer

  3. Anonymous

    October 7, 2006 at 5:22 pm

    Gaffer, wrong again!
    A great day of football drama all over Europe! Shocking results for England, France, Ireland, Wales, Spain, etc.
    You’ve seen the scores, and I watched 4-5 games live or on tape. Quality stuff all around!

  4. Anonymous

    October 6, 2006 at 5:23 pm

    Actually, two teams from the ACC or Big East can’t play each other until the Elite Eight.

  5. PK

    October 6, 2006 at 10:14 am

    Not only has international football lost some of its appeal, but the Champions League is losing its allure for me, too, for two reasons.

    One, I hate the two-legged format. It encourages the away team to play for a 1-1 draw in the first leg, getting that vital away goal.

    Two, the way the seeding is done for the groups is pathetic, as is the proviso that teams from the same association can’t play each other until the Round of 16.

    Can you imagine the NCAA men’s basketball tournament if two ACC or Big East teams couldn’t play each other until the Sweet 16? Ludicrous, just like

    The Champions League would be much more exciting with a knockout format like the FA Cup and with better seeding and no matchup restrictions after the group stages.

    I guess I’m in the minority: I much prefer the real drama and rivalries created by domestic league competition over the dull competition of the Champions League, Liverpool’s march to the title two years ago notwithstanding.

    It says something about the Champions League that teams are seemingly just as excited to qualify for it, due to the huge financial windfall, as actually competing for the title.

  6. The Gaffer

    October 5, 2006 at 7:54 pm

    $tevie G’s Double:

    Only Steve McClaren knows the final line-up against Macedonia, but based on a report I just read tonight on SkySports, my line-up is correct except for two slots.

    Instead of the one that I had (Paul Robinson, Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Shaun Wright Philips, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Scott Parker, Stewart Downing, Wayne Rooney, Peter Crouch), this is what Sky said:

    Robinson, Neville, Ferdinand, Terry, Wright-Philips, Gerrard, Lampard, Carrick, A Cole, Crouch and Rooney.

    Sky predicts Carrick (instead of my Parker) and A Cole (instead of my Downing).

    Let’s see what the real Gaffer does on Saturday.

    The Gaffer

  7. Steven Gerrards Double

    October 5, 2006 at 2:28 pm

    No idea where you got that England line up from but it’s certainly NOT the one that will start!

  8. Anonymous

    October 5, 2006 at 4:23 am

    It doesn’t conjure up much excitement from an England fan’s perspective because basically we have been let down so much in recent years by the performances of the admittedly over-hyped national team and uninspiring gaffer McLaren is (lucky for him) going to lead us through to inevitable qualification for the ’08 finals with no really testing opposition (remember how exciting the 2002 W Cup qualifying was, last ever match at Wembley v the Germans and later the Beckham last-gasp equaliser when only one automatic place was available)

    In addition, with the money money money Premiership now resulting in a near closed-shop scenario when it comes to which teams’ players get selected – remember Steve Bull of the Wolverhampton Wolves from the 2nd division appearing in the 1990 W Cup – I think I’ll give the Macedonia match a miss. If Owen Hargreaves & Andrew Johnson had been playing though….


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