The Refreshing Chaos of International Football

As the summer of football continues to unfold, we’ve seen a mass amount of chaos throughout both the Copa America and EURO tournaments. But the frantic play and stunning results are refreshing compared to the hyper-refined style that has come to dominate the club game. 

The comparison of international football and club football has been rolling on for years on end. Some people hate internationals, especially during breaks in the club season. But the majority of fans absolutely love a major international tournament, such as the World Cup or EUROs. But the differences in the games, from how they are structured, to managers’ approaches, to the actual gameplay itself, are stark and interesting to study.

I’ve been engrossed in EURO 2024. So far, it’s been a wonderful tournament full of twists and turns, last-minute goals and the odd bit of chaos (I’m looking at you, Turkiye and Georgia). Watching it got me thinking, though, about how international play seems to typically take a more frantic approach than club football, unless, of course, you are England, in which everything is rigid and conservative beyond belief.

Tournament football brings out a bit of madness. The games feel more disorderly and less structured. On the club side, players are conditioned by their managers, who are able to mold them day-to-day into a complex system they want to play. When it comes time for international duty, a player’s role may change, and they’ll be shoehorned into a different system.

The lack of time and continuity in the international game affects the way managers plan their tactical approach, meaning they most likely have to strip it back from their ideal. Due to this lack of tactical investment and tinkering from national team managers, the systems are more flawed and open, thus leading to more frantic games and moments we all love.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to every single team. England, for example, have shown that, despite seeming to lack any sort of system, they are one of the most boring sides in the tournament. Many teams throughout history have also been labelled notoriously defensive or stubborn, limiting the amount of chaos unleashed.

The beauty of international football, more specifically international tournaments, is the chaotic edge it brings. It’s why we all love sitting down at 2 p.m. on an afternoon and watching Croatia play Albania or Georgia take on Czechia.

There’s always a feeling that something wonderful is about to explode and quite often, it does just that. It’s refreshing when it happens, too. Yes, the quality of a World Cup or European Championships is now much less than your UEFA Champions League or the Premier League, but what it lacks for in quality, it makes up for in fun.

“This is what football was before Pep Guardiola,” has been pedaled around social media following the entertainment Turkiye and Georgia gave us when the former won 3-1 in what was, still, the game of the tournament for me. And while this is your typical social media commentary on a wider issue at hand, it’s that thought that perfectly illustrates the difference between the two.

If you’re a romantic like me, the removal of the tactical over-analyzation that goes beyond perfectionism adds a much-needed bit of spice to a game that has lost a big chunk of soul in recent years. Long live international tournaments and for goodness sake, can those in charge of them not drastically change them so much that it ruins our fun forever?

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