International football needs to change

Stadium in Brussels; Belgium 8-1 Estonia/Credit: Pille_riin on Instagram

There is a great gulf In difference between Premier League football and international football. International football is disliked by fans and the media alike. 11:30am on Saturday morning (19th November) ended the two week wait for interesting, competitive football to return. My day looked great. 12:30 – Manchester United v Arsenal 15:00 Soccer Saturday/Southampton v Liverpool 17:30 Tottenham v West Ham & to wrap it up it was the Madrid Derby. It wasn’t the best nine straight hours of football this season, a disappointing 1-1 draw, a 0-0, an enthralling match but disappointing result in the evening. Everyone hates Tottenham. And a Cristiano Ronaldo hat trick against Atletico Madrid. Sunday was only Chelsea’s narrow win over Middlesbrough.

Stadium in Brussels; Belgium 8-1 Estonia/Credit: Pille_riin on Instagram
Stadium in Brussels; Belgium 8-1 Estonia/Credit: Pille_riin on Instagram

The weekend was not as good as it could’ve been. But it was still a lot better than the weekend before.

There is simply not competition in international football. Belgium won 8-1, Germany 8-0. Ireland won too. But I do not get any excitement before the matches. I only watched Belgium that weekend, their 8-1 win against Estonia in Brussels was a decent watch. But with Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Yannik Carrasco, Courtois in goal and many other world class players it’s a true honour to watch them play. They could beat the 2008-2012 Spain team or the 1970s Brazil team. I don’t ever really bother watching Ireland, a decent team, but when our best player plays for Bournemouth, and our second best is West Ham’s number 2, it’s not a very exciting team to watch.

The Hazard brothers for Belgium/Credit: Eden Hazard's own Instagram account
The Hazard brothers for Belgium/Credit: Eden Hazard’s own Instagram account

Unless your German or Belgian, international football is surely a step down, actually not a step down but three flights of stairs down in comparison to the Premier League, Champions League or a Barcelona/Real Madrid match against one of the teams that can compete against them in La Liga. I can’t imagine leaving the house on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon when the Premier League is on or a Tuesday or Wednesday night with BT’s excellent coverage of the Champions League is on.

However, unless Belgium are playing or Ireland are playing a big match – like they will in March against Wales – I will happily be on a Dart to Malahide where there is no reason for me to be there than watch an afternoon of international football with Armenia v Montenegro, Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan Albania v Israel and Turkey v Kosovo. Most of those countries aren’t sovereign states and three are them are not actually even geographically in Europe.

World Cups are very exciting to be fair. But the European championships are so boring. Particularly this year’s one. So few goals, Romania v Albania, no excitement, and the winning goal for Portugal in the final was scored by Eder, a player who couldn’t get a game for Swansea City last season (out of 38 games, he played 15 and scored none. And he’s a striker). With Italy and France too, Graziano Pelle was Italy’s main striker, who was behind Shane Long at Southampton, Long who’s downright average barring his pace. One of France’s best player at the Euros this year was Moussa Sissoko who wasn’t all that good as Newcastle were relegated from the Premier League.

Benteke and Hazard/Credit: Eden Hazard Instagram account
Benteke and Hazard/Credit: Eden Hazard Instagram account

Back to the qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, what is the point of Gibraltar, San Marino, Estonia, Scotland, Azerbaijan, Kosovo, Luxembourg, Andorra, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Malta & Liechtenstein? Truthfully what is the actual point? They get battered by sixes or sevens or even eights and more each game. Belgium who truly have two world class players in almost every position play against Gibraltar with their fat bartenders, 5ft 3 police men, three non-professional brothers, it’s like less competitive than one of the Belgians playing with their toddler sons. It’s totally pointless. A total waste of time, money and travel.

This point of mine – and all football fans who aren’t German or Belgian – was proven when Christian Benteke scored after eight seconds against the fat bartender team of Gibraltar last month. It was only 6-0, it could’ve been 20-0 if Belgium got out of neutral gear. They have since beaten Estonia (who have fully professional footballers, apparently) 8-1. Belgium’s group consists of Greece, Gibraltar, Estonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina & Cyprus. They’ve won all four games so far, scoring 21 and conceding only one. What good is that then Russia 2018 comes around and they get Germany or one of the South Americans in the tournament?

Thomas Muller/Credit: His own Instagram account
Thomas Muller/Credit: His own Instagram account

Thomas Muller, German legend said “Matches like the one against San Marino have nothing to do with professional football.
‘I do not understand the meaning of games such as these, more so with such a busy schedule.
‘I understand it for them, especially playing against the world champions, I also understand that we can only defend with hard work.
‘Precisely for this reason, however, I wonder if these are not games that lead to unnecessary risks.’

For me sport is supposed to be an exciting, end to end match between players on a same level. This is simply not the case with international football. For me teams like Gibraltar, San Marino, Estonia, Scotland, Azerbaijan, Kosovo, Luxembourg, Andorra, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Malta & Liechtenstein should play qualifying matches for the qualifiers not too dissimilar to what happens in the FA Cup when the semi-professionals, Sunday league teams and pubs teams play each other for seven or eight round robin matches before the professionals of the 72 Football League and Premier League teams enter. This will help internationally too, so first class teams don’t have to waste their time. Playing against three fat bartenders or play hide and seek with your three year old son? Ask that to a German or Belgian player to choose one.

It simply isn’t competitive for the players nor is it exciting for fans unless your German or Belgian.

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