March 4, 2014 12:07 am0 comments by:


This week, a series of friendly matches have been organised across the globe by national teams. It is a long list of friendly matches arranged by national football associations to assist national managers to decide on a world cup squad. The friendly matches involving African national team are interesting and worth watching. However, it is worth asking the question would it be better to have an extended training sessions rather than a friendly match ?.

For instance,Cote d Ivoire play Belgium, Mexico against Nigeria,Portugal square up with Cameroon,Algeria have arranged a friendly with Slovenia and lastly Montenegro versus Ghana. Football fans would be in agreement that all the ties on paper looks promising. In reality, the matches may turn out to be a mismatch or boring to watch as a spectator. It may also turn out to be a competitive affair, with both opposing managers benefiting from the match.
It is difficult to be sure about the competitive nature of a friendly match, especially a few months before a world cup. Players and coaches might be worried about injuries and losing any psychological advantage to their group opponents. The alternative is to organise extended training sessions and work on various set plays and ideas. In my view, this is more beneficial method than a friendly match especially for African nations.
In the past, we have realised that friendly matches has not determined the performance of African nations in world cups or international tournament. On the contrary, it has exposed the weakness that never gets fixed prior to the actual competitive match. It would have been better to keep the weakness hidden to opponents and hope the team’s strengths win the match. You may suggest that being aware of your weakness gives the opportunity to fix the problem. I would counteract that argument with the fact that every manager has an idea of the team’s weakness prior to first training session.
The manager gradually builds a team and strategy to improve the team ‘strengths and reduce their weakness. This is achieved in various ways such as selecting different players and organising training sessions to achieve an objective. It is the intensity and success of training sessions that is key to building a successful team. A competitive match should be the environment to convince the players that it works and breed confidence. In ideal situation, a friendly match should provide a less competitive match to execute strategy and confidence. The problem is that it tends to be more of an opportunity for commercial and promotional activities. The football element is lost in the commercial envelope.
A match environment can still be arranged in a training environment without having to drag players across the world and thus lose valuable training hours. These travel hours can be best used in working on set plays and team bonding exercises. These are the aspects that are missing with African nations and gets exploited in tournaments. African players are technical good and better creative ideas than other continents, excluding perhaps South America Continent. It is the lack of organisation and tactical inexperience that is the weakness.
Friendly matches does not solve this obvious weakness but highlights the problems. Lots of training sessions helps to increase knowledge of the manager’s ideas and encourage good habits. This helps the team to work on their obvious weakness to reduce its effect on the team’s performance. I am aware that a friendly match can be beneficial to try out player’s mentality and abilities to perform in a match environment. This can be achieved, if the two teams are evenly matched in ability and attitude is right.
A look at the friendly matches arranged for the African nations suggest that the level is close. The other issue about the attitude cannot be guaranteed at the time of arrangement. I hope that everyone involved in the friendly match achieves the objective. In my view, it is impossible for all parties to do so. There is always a loser and a winner in all cases.
My suggestion is that African national teams look into having more training sessions than agree to friendly matches. It is in their best interest and financial beneficial in the long run to do well in the actual World Cup. You improve the sponsorship opportunities as a World Cup winner or semi-finalists. It is difficult to convince a sponsor or national association to invite you, if you lose all 3 group matches
In the meantime, I look forward to listening to the friendly matches or if lucky watching one of the matches. We have to support the team and hope that it helps in the overall improvement of the team. It would be sad to see the players getting false hopes of improvement through a win or draw and then lose all three group matches at the world cup in Brazil this year.

Obioma Aguocha
Self Publisher:The Guide to being the Best (Paperback) 2007 & Sporting Success Simplified (E-book) 2012


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