The international break, loved and hated

Some love it, others loathe it; the international break comes periodically and sporadically during the season. Sometimes an advantage and a benediction, at other times an unfortunate interruption, the “interlull” particularly affects teams with many international players called up by their country. Discover the use and the frustrations linked to these five annual breaks lasting a week each – in March, June, August, October and November – with your Foot Culture column.

Qualifying for major tournaments

There are no free rides in soccer (unless you’re the tournament host): all countries aiming to take part in international tournaments have to qualify beforehand through a process determined by their regional confederation. Thus, a qualifying campaign can last a year and a half (like in Europe and in Africa) or two years and a half (like in North America). During that stage, the most interesting qualifying games often occur in South America, where all teams are in the same group and have to face each other twice, home and away. Clashes between Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay, amongst others, are guaranteed, while elsewhere, we have to hope for a favourable draw to get something worthwhile instead of a 10-0 France win over San Marino.

Prestigious friendly games

Even during the qualifying process, national selections don’t always have two competitive fixtures during these windows. Federations are then free to organize friendly games and add them to the schedule. As our national team’s results have been in the darker shades of grey for a couple of years, we often have to resort to these friendlies. But this time, Canada will play in a major tournament, the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which starts on Friday, July 7.

No league games, no party

Obviously, one’s loss is another one’s gain. For each supporter happy to see international games, another one groans at the idea of having to make do without club action, while holding their breath so that all players who travelled around the globe come back healthy. It is in fact one of the most common criticisms about these windows: they break the leagues’ rhythm for games which are often without peril or without anything at stake.