I’m learning to love the International Break.
Usually, as I write this, Britain would be in Premier League fever. My now derelict train would be full of top flight and Championship fans travelling to an exciting away day. I might even make some discussion with them about how Sheffield United are doing so well this season, or how my experience as a Villa fan is putting me in brighter spirits.
Instead, starved of league football with our domestic sides we just don’t seem to have a lot to talk about. Most conversations about International football seem to be:
‘Did you see the England game?’
‘Not really mate, who even cares, we already know how it will go’
‘Yeah we’ll probably nick it in the last minute’
And that’s usually what happens. We see England give us the typical performance they’re now associated with – whilst doing a perfectly professional job which has seen them quite comfortably qualify with the World Cup. Gareth Southgate has done a perfectly fine job in the grand scheme of things really.However, it’s not England I really care about in this round of qualifiers. I’m not going to analyse anything here but there’s just so many cool stories to have caught up with because it really isn’t just about our National side.
In fact, the big game over the next few days will be Wales vs Republic of Ireland. Two teams who we’d all like to see in the finals! Unfortunately, one of them has to go – and it will be somewhat of a derby. It’s certainly going to get heated, and it remains to be seen what Wales’ youngsters can do against a solid Martin O’Neil side.
Looking at Asia, we saw Syria pull off an unbelievable 1-1 draw against Australia and all eyes will be on whether they can pull of an incredible upset and finish the job in the 2nd Leg on Tuesday night. The story of a war-torn country coming this close to World Cup qualification is a beautiful one and I’m excited to see if they can do it.Staying in that continent, the Fifa U17s World Cup kicked off in no other than INDIA! What an incredible scene it is to see football played in such a huge country, passionate about sports and full of fans of the Premier League, La Liga and Bundesliga. It will remain to be seen whether their boys can start a revolution where football overtakes cricket as the biggest sport in the country. Over in North America, the USA are dangerously close to having their wheels fall off – behind the Mexico and Costa Rica in their group they may be forced to take the alternative route through playoffs. It’s the story of a nation becoming increasingly passionate about soccer whilst politics surrounds so many of their national competitions. Let’s not forget the USA women are some of the best in the world – and the so the standard is set high for the men’s team who have been relying on young Christian Pulisic. A striker who has of course been tearing the Bundesliga apart for Borussia Dortmund. In South America, all eyes are on Argentina who are threatened by a strong Peruvian side who look to make their first World Cup since 1982. Talk continues to echo about what it would mean if we see a World Cup without Lionel Messi. Are Argentina in crisis? It remains to be seen. But a win against Ecuador should be enough for them. Elsewhere in the group, Brazil are dominating with 38 points, and Chile will hope Alexis Sanchez will help them gain a huge victory against the last hosts. All things aside. International football is exciting again. We just need to stop focusing on England so much. They’re doing the job they were expected to do. We can worry about them when the World Cup comes along.
I know I’ve glossed over a lot of amazing individual campaigns but all these stories I mentioned just come as an example of how beautiful a game football really is.