Italy don’t have a coach and barely any players, enthusiasm is low in Germany, England are searching for an a neutral venue: why is international football happening…?
“Why?” is a frequently asked question when international breaks come around, but this time the query does not come from apathy or boredom without club football.
This time it’s a genuine question inspired by the general state of things in the world.
Why, with the second wave of the pandemic very much in progress across the continent, and with most top leagues doing a decent enough job of keeping internal outbreaks to a minimum, are players being asked to fly around Europe, and beyond?
Take Italy. They have three games over a week – a friendly against Estonia, then Nations League games against Poland and Bosnia-Herzegovina – but as James Horncastle explained on the latest European edition of The Totally Football Show, it could get farcical pretty quickly.
“Roberto Mancini has got Covid-19. He’s asymptomatic but he’ll have to test negative before he can take charge of the team. Until then, his assistant Alberico Evani is in charge.
“He named 41 players in his squad, and that has since been shaved to 18, because of the restrictions [placed on players playing in certain regions by local governments], which doesn’t make things any easier.
“They don’t have a manager, they don’t have a lot of their players. I think it begs the question: aside from money for federations who went so long without games, why is this happening?
“The international calendar is so congested and we’re living in this unprecedented environment, that these games feel quite frivolous. They seem to be putting the players under yet more duress in a condensed season.
“In October, you had players going away – the most high-profile being Cristiano Ronaldo – and coming back having contracted Covid.”
Quite. The enthusiasm levels are similar with Germany, according to Rafa Honigstein.
“There’s a lot of effort being made in making the German team more popular at the moment, and making people respond to them. Last month they put them up in a special edition of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? for charity purposes. Although without a crowd it was a bit flat – not sure it had the desired effect.
“The games are a little bit devoid of meaning at the moment, even in the Nations League – it’s difficult to get hugely excited, and even some of the players, I’ve been told, are not that keen to play. It’s the sort of game you wouldn’t mind missing.”
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