International Friendlies Beyond the Big Tournaments

International Friendlies the world of football thrums with the excitement of major tournaments like the World Cup and the Euros. However, amidst the quadrennial extravaganzas and continental clashes lies another avenue for international football: friendly matches. Often overshadowed by the high-stakes drama of major competitions, international friendlies hold a unique charm and purpose within the footballing ecosystem.

What are International Friendlies?

Their are football matches played between national teams that fall outside the framework of official competitions like World Cup qualifiers, continental championships, or the Nations League. These games are primarily arranged to achieve various objectives, including:

Team Building and Experimentation: National team coaches can use friendlies to assess new players, experiment with tactics, and build team chemistry in preparation for upcoming qualifiers or tournaments.

Ranking Points: Friendlies contribute points to the FIFA World Rankings, which determine seeding positions in major competitions. Victories against higher-ranked teams can significantly boost a nation’s ranking.

Financial Gains: Hosting high-profile friendlies can generate significant revenue for national federations, particularly when attracting major teams with large fan bases.

Fan Engagement: Friendlies offer fans a chance to witness their national heroes in action outside the pressure cooker of major tournaments. These games often take place in venues around the world, allowing fans who might not be able to travel to major tournaments to see their team play.

Why Do People Watch International Friendlies?

While friendlies might not have the same weight as competitive matches, they offer a distinct viewing experience for several reasons:

Rare Match-Ups: Friendlies can pit international teams from different continents against each other, creating unique encounters that wouldn’t be possible during qualifiers or regional tournaments.

The Rise of Underdogs: Friendlies can provide a platform for emerging nations to test themselves against established footballing giants. Upsets and thrilling encounters often occur in these games, making them exciting to watch.

Trial Runs for Major Tournaments: Friendlies leading up to major competitions allow fans to gauge their team’s form, witness tactical tweaks, and see new players integrate into the squad.

Farewell Tributes and Milestones: Friendlies can be used to celebrate the careers of retiring players or mark special milestones for national teams.

Types of International Friendlies

It can be broadly categorized into two types:

Traditional Friendlies: These are one-off matches arranged between national teams based on mutual agreement.

Tournament Friendlies: Some tournaments, like the Kirin Cup in Japan or the SheBelieves Cup in the United States, are specifically designed for national teams to play multiple friendlies against each other within a short period.

Criticisms of International Friendlies

Despite their allure, they are not without criticism. Here are some common concerns:

Disruption to Domestic Leagues: Frequent friendlies can disrupt the schedules of domestic leagues, leading to player fatigue and fixture congestion.

Lack of Meaningful Stakes: The absence of points or qualification implications can lead to a less competitive atmosphere compared to official tournaments.

Travel and Fatigue: The international travel involved in friendlies can put a strain on players, especially if they juggle club and international commitments.

The Future of International Friendlies

While concerns exist, they are likely to remain a fixture in the footballing calendar. Here are some potential advancements:

Double-Header Friendlies: Hosting double-header friendlies where two national teams play back-to-back matches could reduce travel fatigue for teams playing multiple friendlies.

Strategic Scheduling: Scheduling friendlies during international breaks or windows allocated specifically for these matches could minimize disruption to domestic leagues.

Focus on Meaningful Match-Ups: National federations might prioritize arranging friendlies against teams with similar ranking points or playing styles to create a more competitive environment.

Conclusion: A Valuable Stepping Stone

International friendlies, despite their limitations, serve a vital role in the international football landscape. They provide a platform for team development, experimentation, and fan engagement. As the sport evolves, expect these matches to adapt and continue offering a valuable stepping stone for national teams on their quest for international glory.


What are international friendlies?

They are exhibition matches played between national football (or soccer) teams. Unlike competitive tournaments or qualifiers, these games don’t affect a team’s ranking or qualification for other events.

What is the purpose of international friendlies?

Here are some key reasons for international friendlies:

Practice and experimentation: Teams can use friendlies to try out new tactics, formations, and players in a game environment before important competitions.

Team building and chemistry: Friendlies offer opportunities for players to gel and build team spirit.

Revenue generation: Ticket sales and sponsorships from friendlies can be a source of income for national football associations.

Entertainment for fans: Fans get to see their national teams play and potentially witness new talents.

When are international friendlies played?

They are typically played outside of major tournament schedules. This often falls during FIFA international windows in March, September, October, and November. These windows allow national teams to call up players who might be busy with club commitments during the regular season.

Where can I find information about upcoming international friendlies?

Here are some resources:

FIFA website:

Websites of National Football Associations: Most national football associations will list upcoming friendlies on their websites.

Sports news websites and apps: Many sports news websites and apps have sections dedicated to international football, including upcoming friendlies.

Do international friendlies matter?

While they don’t affect official rankings or qualifications directly, international friendlies can still be important for teams and fans. They provide valuable preparation for major tournaments, a chance to see new players, and a fun way to support your national team.

Are there different grades of international friendlies?

Yes, FIFA categorizes friendlies as Grade A or Tier 1 matches, which have a slight impact on the FIFA World Rankings. These matches typically involve teams from similar rankings playing each other. Lower-grade friendlies have minimal impact on rankings.

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