The last two weeks have not been kind to England. Back-to-back loses, for the first time in what seems like forever, have lead to more doom and gloom predictions for Rio 2014. That these came against Germany and Chile - two incredibly balanced, talented and on-form sides - is characteristically ignored by the media, but what is more alarming than any of this is the increasing chorus of voices who claim that international football just isn't important. Even here at SBN, our main football blog showcased an article decrying international football as stupid, a trainwreck of nationalism that can't be missed - one that the author (who is certainly a better writer than I am) would put aside in exchange for more club football. I, for one, firmly disagree.
This past week, I had an opportunity to watch two of football's most exciting international sides - Brazil and Chile - clash in my hometown, the sports hinterland of Toronto. Too often deprived of quality sports of any kind (Toronto FC has the dubious record of being the worst team in MLS history, and the last major title brought to the city by any sport was in 1993), the chance to see this game was one I, and some 38 000 others, simply couldn't pass up. Sat behind the Brazil goal in a mix of both fans, the atmosphere was electric. Both sides traded friendly banter before kick-off, and at fulltime they traipsed off, arm-in-arm, to talk about their chances for next summer. The result (a 2-1 victory for Brazil) was unimportant - it was the chance to see their heroes that mattered most.
That, in a nutshell, is what international football is all about. Barring the MLS, there are no All-Star Games, no chance to see your favourite players from across the world compete against each other, no other opportunity to see just how certain players would react to certain atmospheres. Besides, while they may break up the schedule of club football, they bring a welcome break. A die-hard Evertonian can cheer on Steven Gerrard, and a hardcore Gunner can salute an Ashley Cole performance. It adds a bit of flavour to a supporter's life.
Most importantly, international football tells you what a country's flavour of football is. For Brazil - Samba. For Spain - Possession. For England - Four-Four(F'n)-Two. The sides are given little time to prepare and club commitments restrict how extensively managers can use their players, forcing the words "passion" and "commitment" to one's country into overuse as managers focus on the formations that are most widely understood by their players. While it may be simple at times, people will still watch - after all, it's meant to be fun, and it often is.
At the end of the day, it's too easy to say one hates "boring" international football and then spend an afternoon watching a Hull-Crystal Palace snoozefest. International football is a welcome break - so relax and enjoy the spectacle when you can.