There is a growing need to reduce the number of international matches played each season. The Premier League may have taken a two week sabbatical but the Tottenham players and internationals from all clubs face a hectic schedule of travel, preparation and games in the next ten days as they represent their countries in World Cup qualifying games.
Tottenham fans have a fortnight to mull over the weekend’s defeat to Fulham and the previous week’s events courtesy of FIFA who decreed that with eight matches of the season remaining, there should be a break for international games. Most fans take only a passing interest in the internationals being more focused on events at their clubs so it’s never good to head into such a forced break on the back of a defeat. For the Tottenham players and supporters, it on the back of three disappointing results and performances. While fans may spend time mulling over the results, the players have no time to dwell on what happened at Anfield, the San Siro or White Hart Lane as they embark on a busy period on international duty.
Who’s Left at Hotspur Way
During the international period it must be quite a strange experience at the Tottenham training ground for the players not selected for their country as the few who remain must continue training.
The next week will see Tottenham players travel and play for their country with most games being played on Friday, 22nd and Tuesday, 26th March.
Tottenham’s contribution to the England squad has finally settled at four. Injury forced Aaron Lennon and Michael Dawson to withdraw leaving Kyle Walker, Scott Parker and Jermain Defoe. The withdrawal of Rio Ferdinand has seen Steven Caulker called up from the Under-21 squad as his replacement.
England play two World Cup games in Group H, they are away to San Marino on Friday and then travel to play Montenegro next Tuesday.
Jan Vertonghen and Mousa Dembele have a double header against Macedonia in the next week in Group A. They travel to Macedonia for Friday’s game and then play the return fixture on Tuesday in Brussels.
Gareth Bale will once again be the star name in Chris Coleman’s team as Wales play Scotland at Hampden Park in Group A. This will be like an old ‘Home Nations’ contest with Scotland still annoyed that Bale scored two goals, including a penalty he won, and a late winner as Wales recovered from being a goal down to snatch victory in Cardiff. The former Scotland manager, Craig Levein acknowledged the difficulty of trying to stop Gareth Bale. In an interview for BBC Sport after the match, he said,
“He’s an excellent player. I didn’t think he caused us too much problems in the first half. He began to wander and caused us problems. We knew that, but it is difficult to stop him in full flow.
Bale will then have a home game on Tuesday against Croatia where he will renew acquaintances with a number of former colleagues, including Luka Modric.
Hugo Lloris will be in the France team which faces two crucial World Cup matches in Group I. France travel to play Georgia on Friday and then face World Champions, Spain, in Paris on Tuesday.
Gylfi Sigurdsson is one of the players who has only one World Cup match on this occasion. Iceland are in Group E and have to travel to Slovenia for Friday’s match.
Clint Dempsey who has just recovered from a calf injury will be required to play two matches for Jurgen Klinsmann’s US team as they look to progress in their World Cup qualifiers. They are at home to Costa Rica on Friday playing at Commerce City, Colorado and then travel to Mexico for their next game on Tuesday.
Dempsey has made 91 appearances for the US and scored 31 goals. He played the second half of Tottenham’s game against Fulham on Sunday and Klinsmann expects him to be available. Speaking to the the Denver Post, Klinsmann, the former Spurs player, said,
“He should be on board. I spoke to him (last Tuesday) and he’s all good to come. He’ll play in their league game on Sunday and come here on Monday. He’s been training the whole week.”
Cameroon and Togo
Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Emmanuel Adebayor should meet up as their two countries clash in the World Cup qualifier on Saturday in their countries’ only match. The Cameroon will have home advantage.
‘Club vs Country’
The thorny question of ‘club vs country’ always arises at this time and Alan in a previous blog has a solution to the problem of players withdrawing from the internationals. It is a crucial period for all clubs who are involved in vital matches as the season draws to a close and they don’t really want their players called up for these games with all the additional travelling which is now required. Most of the players selected are with clubs who are involved in trying to win trophies or avoid relegation and to be away from their clubs at such an important time seems unnecessary. Players who are already struggling with injuries and exhaustion after a lengthy season don’t need additional matches at this time of the season. Both FIFA and UEFA need to look at ways to reduce the burden on top players by stream-lining their major club and international competitions.
When all the players return to Tottenham, Andre Villas-Boas will have only a couple of days to prepare them for what has become a very important Premier League match for Spurs against Swansea on the Saturday afternoon. Having lost their last two League matches, Spurs need a win to avoid a third successive defeat which would seriously damage their challenge for a Champions League finish.