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Monday, 2 September, 2002, 11:12 GMT 12:12 UK
A worthwhile exercise?
England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson
England draw 1-1 with Portugal in the friendly match at Villa Park.

Will Sven-Goran Eriksson's side have gained anything from the match? Or was it an unnecessary fixture for the England players?


Alan Smith scored his first international goal to give England the lead after latching on to a right-wing cross from Leeds team-mate Lee Bowyer.

But substitute Rodriguez Costinha headed a late equaliser for the visitors, who made 11 substitutions in the match.

Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to withdraw Paul Scholes from the England squad only to play him in a subsequent club match has caused some to question whether the fixture was necessary in the first place.

Will Eriksson have learnt anything new? And was the friendly a worthwhile exercise for England fans?


This debate is now closed


If Wenger, Ferguson, et al managed to devalue the once loved English Cup competitions by fielding reserve teams, then surely Sven must be allowed to try a few new players in a friendly. By finding out just how good our fringe players are is a valuable lesson. Turning up to the game expecting anything less is naive to say the least.
Dave Binghamd, England

I feel sorry for Joe Cole. What is the point in sending him out every time after wholesale changes? Is he a second half show-pony? If Eriksson doesn't think he's ready - and he should be told Zidane doesn't back-heel just to get applause - then he shouldn't be played. Otherwise give him a decent platform.
Nick, England

So Sven says he 'won't be making 11 changes at half time'. To be fair he was right - he only made eight. What's the point? I've had enough of Sven making pointless changes.

He's had friendlies, World Cup qualification and a World Cup tournament and still he persists on these ridiculous changes. How much can you learn from a player in 45 minutes - nothing? I'm really starting to lose patience watching my beloved country, but it's getting to the point where I'll stop all together. Sven, play a first choice 11 or resign.
Pete, England


You won't learn anything from wholesale second-half changes
Alan, England

He is a tough, competitive player who works hard for the team. He may not have the skills of Beckham or the class of Owen but he is a great player and offers a new dimension to any team he plays in - that's right, power and pace.

I bet if you surveyed all the defenders in the Premiership as to which player they least enjoy playing against, "Bruno" would be right up there at the top. Keep it up Emile!
James, UK

Friendlies should be replaced with 'ranking matches' between countries close together in the Fifa rankings. That would add some competition to the matches, and provide the opportunity to test players against different styles of football.

This idea has already been raised more than once, and would also prevent teams' ratings from being static (in the current situation, better teams get weaker opposition, and so on).
Andrew, England (Wales originally)

England lack a true playmaker such as Zidane, Valeron or Rui Costa. The only player we have with the right potential is Joe Cole. But every time he plays for England he seems to come on as sub 15 minutes into the second half, into a team full of second rate players.

Come on Sven. Give Joe a chance from the start in a midfield line up alongside Beckham, Scholes and Gerrard and with Michael Owen up front. That's what these friendlies are all about. A chance to introduce one or two players into the mainframe of the team (you might unearth another Alan Smith).

You won't learn anything from wholesale second-half changes such as those seen in recent times.
Alan, England

I can see some people's point about this friendly but you have to understand; Sven wanted to try out new people and he did that to an extent, he didn't have to make as many changes in the second half.


It proved the worth of Smith and Bowyer, and proved how useless Heskey, James and Hargreaves are
Kye, England

That was what cost us the win, it just confused everyone and the first half players played really well so there wasn't a need to do it so soon into the second half.

It was a good opportunity to see the likes of Bowyer and Smith who were two of our best players. I went to the game and I enjoyed it, as I am sure many others did. So I don't think it was a pointless match.
Kayleigh, England

It was good in the fact that it proved the worth of Smith and Bowyer, and proved how useless Heskey, James and Hargreaves are. Heskey is just a big lumbering dolt, James is in cuckoo land half of the time, and Hargreaves just sprints about making people think he has talent.

If you look again at the game yesterday, he cost us dearly nearly every time he had the ball. Sven should bin these three straight away.
Kye, England

I don't think it was a waste of time. Players like Bowyer and Smith could actually prove their worth in this game. But the worrying factor is the way England didn't capitalise on a below-par Portugal side.

It was just a plain indication of how they missed Campbell, Beckham and Seaman. I also reckon Smith or Defoe should be paired up with Michael Owen up front. Emile Heskey as usual remains totally unimpressive.


Sven has completely devalued friendlies over the past year
Darren Wilkins, UK

If England don't improve on their current form, I don't see them going very far in the Euro 2004 competition.
Vivek Partheeban, Australia

Who did the player ratings on this site? Because I think David James should be insulted with his 5/10. His throw-out created our goal, and he certainly cannot be entirely blamed for conceding one. Watch Owen Hargreaves' positioning for that one.
Ash, England

Sven has completely devalued friendlies over the past year. Does anybody bother to watch these games anymore. Being selected for England used to be a badge of honour, but even the players seem to treat it with contempt. Give me a Premiership Saturday every time.
Darren Wilkins, UK

I've just read the comments page, and as usual typically English. Has no one anything positive to say? The team did great, Portugal are no pushovers, it shows we can play good sensible football without the prima donnas.

Support the team, don't rip them to pieces if they don't win substantially. And as for these games tiring the poor players out - rubbish, they get paid loads of money and work three/four days a week, if they worked as hard as most ordinary people they might have cause for complaint. WELL DONE ENGLAND.
Nigel Walton, Sweden

England need more of these friendlies so that Sven isn't forced to use all of his subs at half time. Having one match between a World Cup and a Euro qualifier is ridiculous. Also, this match has surely proven that Heskey just isn't good enough for international level.
James Dennison, England


I can understand two or maybe three subs during a game, but eight or nine is total madness
Russell Ould, England

I do support the idea of friendlies but I don't like Sven's habit of mass substitutions during a game. How can players inter-relate and understand each other's game as a team during the first half if it is going to be totally dismantled with new blood in the second?

I can understand two or maybe three subs during a game, but eight or nine is total madness and just devalues the game, cheats the fans, makes club managers angry and the players themselves feel under-valued.

Stick with friendlies by all means, Sven, but have the guts to have a proper game plan and give the best players some level of confidence without fear of being swapped every few minutes.
Russell Ould, England

What a difference nine months make. After the Leeds and Cardiff game the media were slating Alan Smith, now everyone is kissing his backside. Just shows how fickle the football press are. Leeds fans have always known how good he is.
Paul, UK

A complete waste of time, and an unnecessary interruption to what has been a great start to the Premiership season. If Uefa or the FA really wanted to reduce the number of matches players play, they would scrap these friendlies.


This is a match of such significance it could have been played with jumpers for goalposts
John, England

In fact, Uefa should go further and pre-qualify the top 12 European countries for Euro 2008, and only hold qualifying matches for the last four places amongst the smaller nations. Then they could leave the Champions League - the world's premier football competition - alone, and in its present format.
John, England

What's the point of having this friendly if the team that started on Saturday probably won't be the team that starts for England in the qualifiers? That's probably why Eriksson decided to change so many players in the end, although he had promised he wouldn't.

Portugal rarely threatened, yet England weren't able to win. This match only confirms that England really need Campbell, Scholes & Beckham back and Heskey remains an incompetent player.
Joan, Singapore

I hope that the England Sunday papers give Mr Eriksson a very hard time for the way he managed the game against Portugal. When will that man understand that Heskey is a complete failure, Bridges is more reliable than the overrated Cole and that Robinson should play ahead of the comical James?

I could not believe that Sven replaced world-class players like Gerrard and Rio at half-time. Is a friendly not meant to cement a harmonious playing pattern? The only positive aspect of the game was the mind blowing performance of young Smith. That man is the epitome of the complete modern striker!
Nuvin Balloo, Mauritius


Smith and Bowyer showed why they will be truly valuable additions to the squad in future years
Ashley, UK

What does it matter? This is a match of such significance it could have been played with jumpers for goalposts. Why has the FA interrupted a brilliant start to a new season by wasting a whole weekend with such a pointless match?

As for United, Sir Alex is absolutely justified in putting Eriksson in his place. No-one in the FA has any right to tell the United manager what position Becks should play. Beyond that, rushing a partially-fit Beckham into World Cup action could have put his recovery back for months, so how could the FA be trusted with Paul Scholes?
John, England

The match against Portugal was, on the whole, a valueless experience. Although everybody loves to see England in action, the experience was ruined by the useless selection made by the manager. We know what most of the team is capable of, so this was a chance to let new faces into the team.

Not only did Sven give them little time on the pitch, he some how also managed to miss out Paul Robinson - perhaps the most needed of all the new players. If these matches are to be of full benefit, players need to be given more extended runs in the team whilst being supported by a few of the more experienced players.

Even so, the new players - especially Smith and Bowyer - showed why they will be truly valuable additions to the squad in future years.
Ashley, UK

I think after another so-so performance by England. We can have no doubt that friendlies are extremely important. The England team obviously need all the practice together that they can get. I don't even think England had a good first half it was just better than the second. Only good thing was we didn't draw we the Faroe Islands.
Jon, Ex Pat

I've got to agree with Alex Ferguson on friendlies - when the whole team is being changed around at half time what's the point in them? It's just a pain for Premiership clubs with it being so close to the start of the season - it simply tires players out more than they already are.
Mike Addison, England

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