The expansion of the international football calendar has placed increased demands on professional footballers across the world.
There are five breaks for international football this year, which leaves clubs concerned about the workload their top stars are asked to undertake.
Read on as we look at the impact international football has on players, how they train and what they need to be ready for matchday.
Managing the physical demands
Many of the top clubs worldwide will lose a dozen or more players during international breaks, which can be a major distraction over the course of the season.
Watching the players pack their football bag and embark on trips to far-flung corners of the world can leave club managers enduring sleepless nights.
The issue is accentuated during a World Cup year, with players desperate to ensure they safely navigate through the season so they can perform on the biggest international stage.
Clubs employ a plethora of support staff to monitor each player’s mental and physical condition to ensure they can perform at their best.
However, their primary focus is on ensuring they can cope with the rigours of club football, meaning international football becomes something of an afterthought.
When players report for international duty, they undergo an individual assessment to determine what level of training they can cope with.
Someone who has played a lot may be given time to rest and recuperate, while those who have played less will be put through their paces more vigorously.
Players who are fatigued will undergo treatments such as sports massages or cryotherapy, each of which are designed to speed up recovery.
Getting ready for matchday
Several studies have shown that modern football is now much faster and more physically demanding than was previously the case.
The risk of injury is much greater, with high-speed collisions and movement at sprint speeds putting players in greater danger.
Interestingly, the number of injuries suffered by players has dropped during the 21st century – a factor attributed to improved training methods and stricter controls on foul play.
A key part of the preparation for fixtures during international breaks is undoubtedly ensuring that players are in the right frame of mind to perform.
One of the most challenging aspects of international football is it generally requires players to be away from family and friends for an extended period.
Some players often struggle to cope with this, which can lead to them failing to live up to expectations when the action gets underway.
In-season international breaks can be particularly tricky to navigate, with players unlikely to be allowed to spend time away from the squad during this period.
Many teams have addressed this issue when major international tournaments are staged by ensuring players can meet up with family members in between games.
Preparing for international fixtures – the final word
Despite meeting up with their squads several times a year, international managers have a limited window in which they can work with players.
Unlike club managers, their primary focus is on the physical and mental wellbeing of their players rather than implementing lengthy tactical sessions.
Players are bombarded with tactics at the club level, meaning they generally understand what is required of them in their particular position.
International managers have the luxury of being able to keep things simple tactically and can concentrate on fostering a positive team spirit.
This ethos worked wonders for the Republic of Ireland under Jack Charlton and still has plenty of merit on the international stage today.