Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Starting Eleven Friendlies: Why Some Matter

Brazil Just Rocks
International friendlies are kinda like cholesterol; they just clog up the arteries of the football season.

Most of these guys play long enough seasons that they don't need another mid-week call-up for a friendly with Slovakia. No offense to the Slovaks, but I'm all set with that. I don't want my stud defender catching a stud on the kneecap and be injured for six months.

Compounding the nonsense that is the International Friendly, particularly in 2010, is that it's a World Cup year. National teamers play full bore for their club teams, most of the good ones play in earnest through May until league titles, domestic cups and the Champions League are decided. This year, those guys transitioned right to the World Cup, which was in South Africa in case you don't remember. That's not exactly around the corner, and for added measure this year, it was cold down there.

Now most are back in full swing for their domestic campaigns and Euro 2012 qualifying, and lo and behold, here's another round of International Friendlies. Gotcha.

Most of these games suck--there, I said it. China-Lativa? Really? We need that Latvian tour of Asia in mid-November? Slovakia-Bosnia (eesh, not even going near that political undertones there). Poland-Ivory Coast? Someone's got a real f-ing sense of humor there.

Here's rundown of some that matter:

It's not all bleak today, however. Portugal hosts Spain today at 4 p.m. ET, the best game of the day in the last time slot. Hopefully it's a good one. Remember, Spain knocked off Portugal 1-0 in the second round of the World Cup on its way to the championship. Portugal gave Spain a decent effort, but as usual when it counts, came up just short (hmm, methinks I used to say that about Spain back in the day!).

Some interesting storylines here though: Paolo Bento gets his first crack at a "tasty" friendly and it's a chance for him to score more points with his players and the home folk. He's called up an interesting roster and it will be interesting to see what the Portugal Starting Eleven will be against Spain. Will Nani continue his fine form? Will Ronaldo step up his national team play against many of his Real Madrid mates? Which Eduardo will we get? World Cup Eduardo? Or that other guy who F-d up the first two games of Euro qualifying and got Queiroz fired?

As for Spain, they're fine. Trust me. 

England will start Andy Carroll up front and Fabio Capello has another opportunity to prove his genius in games that don't matter. Is there any bigger disillusionment that Capello? This man turned England on its ear prior to South Africa; the team was just killing everyone in its path, scoring at will; he could do no wrong. And then they got to South Africa and the goals dried up, the imagination withered and Wayne Rooney was a shell of himself. No measure of redemption will save either until 2014.

France, meanwhile, is just the scourge of football in my opinion and not enough bad things can happen to that national team on the pitch. They can't lose by enough goals. They can't have enough mutinies to satisfy me. Thierry Henry cheated France into the World Cup and the sweetest justice was the manner in which they exited.

Here's hoping England jumps ugly on them.

This one matters just because. It's the two best teams in the world with the most dynamic players and the most inspirational fans. And no Maradona. A win all around. 

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