I’ve never been a great fan of friendlies and the ones just before a major tournament can be an especially mixed bag.
Some players will be going through a last minute audition for places by giving it everything they have got but most will be playing at 60-70 percent as they desperately try to avoid picking up a knock.
The outcome of these warm ups can be almost impossible to predict – you only have to look at some of the games in the last few weeks to understand how meaningless the results can be. Take Germany slumping to a 3-1 defeat to Slovakia on Sunday, for a prime example. On the other hand, Spain looked fantastic against South Korea. The Spaniards had put the game to bed by half-time before cruising to a 6-1 victory.
The fixtures can be frustrating for coaches – just look at Roy Keane’s reaction to Republic of Ireland’s 2-1 loss to Belarus.
Martin O’Neill’s assistant said he wanted to ‘kill a few of them’ when assessing his team’s display. His comments caused a bit of a storm, but that’s just Roy being Roy, and he was clearly unhappy with the team’s performance. However, he might secretly not mind all that much – it gave him the opportunity to let the players know exactly what standards are required of them, and it’s better to have a game like that before, rather than at, the tournament.
England complete their preparations this evening against Portugal at Wembley and it’s another difficult one to call.
Ronaldo will be on a beach somewhere so Portugal won’t be at full strength, whereas I expect Roy Hodgson will give us plenty of clues about his likely starting XI for the Russia game.
I’d imagine he’ll go with what he thinks is his best team, so England should be strong enough to win, and I can see them doing so 2-1.