Featured Matches
Previous
Valencia
Malaga
8:00 PM GMT
Game Details
FC Augsburg
Borussia Dortmund
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Marseille
Nice
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Sporting Kansas City
Houston Dynamo
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Getafe
Almeria
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Sporting Kansas City
Houston Dynamo
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Getafe
Almeria
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Valencia
Malaga
8:00 PM GMT
Game Details
FC Augsburg
Borussia Dortmund
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Marseille
Nice
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Go Ahead Eagles
Willem II Tilburg
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Queretaro
Monterrey
12:30 AM GMT
Game Details
Tijuana
U. de G.
2:30 AM GMT
Game Details
Academica de Coimbra
Vitoria Setubal
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Ural Sverdlovsk Oblast
Terek Grozny
0
1
FT
Game Details
Balikesirspor
Akhisar Belediye
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Caykur Rizespor
Genclerbirligi
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
KAA Gent
KV Kortrijk
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Perugia
Bologna
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
FC Union Berlin
Nurnberg
4:30 PM GMT
Game Details
FSV Frankfurt
RB Leipzig
4:30 PM GMT
Game Details
VfR Aalen
Kaiserslautern
4:30 PM GMT
Game Details
AJ Auxerre
Valenciennes
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Ajaccio GFCO
Troyes
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Chateauroux
Orléans
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Le Havre AC
Créteil
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Nimes
Arles
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Niort
Clermont Foot
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Sochaux
Dijon FCO
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Stade Laval
AC Ajaccio
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Achilles '29
Fortuna Sittard
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
FC Den Bosch
Jong Ajax
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Helmond Sport
NEC Nijmegen
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Jong PSV
FC Eindhoven
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
RKC Waalwijk
Jong FC Twente
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
SC Stormvogels Telstar
Almere City
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Sparta Rotterdam
FC Volendam
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
VVV Venlo
FC Emmen VV
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Helsingborg
Halmstad
5:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Orebro SK
Brommapojkarna
5:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Athlone Town FC
Cork
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Bray
UCD
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Derry City
St Patricks
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Dundalk
Bohemians
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Limerick FC
Drogheda Utd
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Shamrock
Sligo
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Glenavon
Ballymena
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Coleraine
Portadown
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Aberystwyth
Bangor City
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Carmarthen
Port Talbot
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Newi Cefn Druids
Connah's Quay
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Airbus UK
Newtown
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
T.N.S.
Rhyl
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Arica
Palestino
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
12 de Octubre
Nacional
Postp
Game Details
Joinville
Oeste
11:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Sampaio Correa-MA
América Mineiro
11:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Santa Cruz FC
Goianiense
11:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Atlante
At. San Luis
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Coras Tepic
Lobos BUAP
1:30 AM GMT
Game Details
Independiente Rivadavia
Atlético Tucumán
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Unión de Santa Fe
Crucero del Norte
7:15 PM GMT
Game Details
Huracán
Patronato
11:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Instituto de Córdoba
Ferro Carril Oeste
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Temperley
Sp. Belgrano
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Gimnasia y Esgrima de Jujuy
San Martín de San Juan
12:30 AM GMT
Game Details
Bidvest Wits
Moroka Swallows
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Chippa United
Ajax Cape Town
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Next
John Brewin profile picture Posted by John Brewin
Jul 17, 2014

Winter break answer to fatigue issues

FC's Steve Nicol and Craig Burley react to Ashley Cole's comments regarding English players needing to play in Europe.

Lionel Messi ran out of gas and missed destiny's call. Cristiano Ronaldo was carrying an injury and could not carry Portugal. Spain's team finally showed the wear and tear of not having a proper summer off since 2007. While England's problems ran deeper than mere energy levels, they were leggy in each game, and especially after trying to play a high-tempo game in the Amazon.

Fatigue is little aid to invention. The ability required to pull off winning strategies and deliver key moments is best met when fresh. Mario Gotze's World Cup-winning goal was delivered by energetic legs and mind.

"We are empty," said Javier Mascherano post-match at the Maracana. Argentina, a blend of players largely from the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A, retreated into tired shells in extra time. Germany pushed on eventually for Gotze's golden goal.

Javier Mascherano, right, was exhausted after the World Cup. The Germans were not. What was the difference?

What was the difference? Europe's best-performing teams were Germany and Netherlands. Can there be coincidence in that each of their domestic leagues, from which a sizeable proportion of World Cup players derived, there is a winter break? A chance to recharge batteries, and regroup before rejoining a helter-skelter towards the domestic season's climax does seem to have helped both of ahead a tournament in which preparation was always going to be vital.

Brazil was no place to turn up with tiredness in the body, and the hosts themselves were definitely harmed by relying on so many players who had endured hard seasons in Europe, with Neymar leading the list after his inaugural campaign at Barcelona. In Pele's day, the Selecao would spend months in training camps, something not possible for the modern Euro star.

The winter break has had plenty of advocates in English football, including Sir Alex Ferguson, who made it such a hobbyhorse that anyone asking about it at his meagre-rationed weekly news conferences would receive death stares from the other Manchester-pack hacks; Ferguson would fill his allotted time with his beliefs in its benefits. Ferguson, no lover of the England team, or particularly hopeful for Scotland, instead suggested that a break in January would mean that English teams -- i.e., Manchester United -- would be better set to challenge for the Champions League.

Meanwhile, in 2014, club football's most coveted trophy looks to have had an unhappy residual effect on the participants in its final on May 24. Diego Costa was supposed to be the new prong to extend defending champions Spain's reign as a continuing force. Instead, he arrived wracked by the same thigh injury that was recklessly risked by Diego Simeone in last season's Champions League final. In fact, few of Atletico's and Real Madrid's stars particularly shone in Brazil. Diego Godin played well against England and Italy for Uruguay, but was torn apart by the James Rodriguez show in the quarterfinals.

He who carried best from Lisbon's final to the Maracana looked to be Sami Khedira, who only made his return to Real Madrid's team in the closing weeks of the season after making a six-month recovery from a cruciate rupture. Then he too succumbed, missing the final after suffering a calf strain in the warm-up for the final. May 24 was clearly too close for players to be able to sustain form on an entirely different continent. Angel Di Maria, the match winner that night for Real, had looked as if he were capable of bucking the trend, only to suffer his own muscle injury against Belgium in the quarterfinals, thus robbing Messi of his most reliable foil.

Messi's Barcelona do get something of a break but not enough considering La Liga went down to the very last match. Last season they did not play from Dec. 22 to Jan. 5, the type of time off a British office worker takes over Christmas, but of the Argentina players, only Mascherano could sustain himself throughout the campaign. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, who supplied the greater number of members of the Germany squad, were able to enjoy a gap from action from Dec. 21 through to Jan. 21. Equally, the German title race was wrapped up in record time.

Experts have said it for years, but maybe World Cup woe will make England consider a winter break during the domestic club season.

In the post-World Cup afterglow of trying to follow the German model, then English clubs might consider that mid-season part of the world champions' success. Traditionalists who want their Christmas fixtures to be followed by January's FA Cup third round need not be robbed. January could be when legs are rested, pitches recover, in the three weeks between the third and fourth rounds, with two Premier League matches in between kicked later on.

It is worth mentioning that the Bundesliga has only 18 teams at this point, which the Premier League's 1992 original blueprint contained, only for turkeys to refuse to vote for Christmas -- or a break.

At the heart of such debate remains the clubs' attitude to their international adjunct. The multinationals that elite outfits have become cannot ignore the World Cup, and benefit hugely from the limelight their players receive. Yet at present, only Germany and the Netherlands are doing much to aid international success.

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.