Although international friendlies are seen in modern times as an interruption and, frankly a nuisance to many football followers, managers and players, the importance of them from an international perspective is vast. Whether playing 19 or 90 minutes, the friendlies offer a chance for players to show their qualities on a world stage, allowing international managers to judge whether the players they have been watching at club level for the previous few months perform to standard.
These friendlies, although less competitive than a ‘World Cup’ or ‘Euro’ match, still maintain a sense of seriousness, as out-of-form or highly criticised nation teams attempt to send a message to the rest of the world, that they are still a force to be reckoned with. The importance of this was made clear on Wednesday, as an English squad still in dire need of final tweaks before the Euro’s fought for a credible 3-2 loss against the Dutch, whilst 600 miles away, a suddenly strong and balanced modern French side recorded a 2-1 away win to Germany. With the emergence of these results, previous form and the unsettled nature of the English camp, it seems that Euro 2012 Group D will be a lot harder to finish top of than first thought.
The English performance on Wednesday evening presented spectators with a lot more promise than in recent Capello years. With the regulars Lampard, Terry and Rooney out of the side, it was interesting to see how the youth would take on the World Cup runners up. Although making some risky decisions already in his short time as caretaker England manager, baffling a few with the choice of Scott Parker as captain and the decisions to bring in more youth than experience, they seemed to pay off well, with Parker putting his heart on the line for England as only a traditional England captain would, and the youth providing pace both in attack and defence as Smalling, Richards and Cahill looked exceedingly competent at the back. However despite this, a new team, a new manager and constant speculation surrounding who will and won’t be in the side later this year could be the downfall to England’s bid to surprise many and defeat the likes of Holland and Spain come June.
Just a few hundred miles away from Wembley in Munich, another clash of European titans was occurring, with Germany hosting a much forgotten about French team. The highly rated young German side were exposed and outplayed throughout this game, with the French utilising the German fragilities in defence. Although the German side were injury-hit and missing the likes of Per Mertesacker or Lukas Podolski, the team was still strong enough to compete, yet failed to impose any sort of control over the game. However for the French side this was no fluke, and with 18 games unbeaten, should they maintain this kind of form against tough opposition, the side will be tough to stop come June 11th when English and French paths cross.
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