The Impact of the International Break

The International break means two weeks off for the major European leagues. Some welcome it, while others despise it. There is a theory that clubs tend to underperform after the interruption of an international break during the domestic season, the ‘FIFA virus’ as it is called in Spain. The key causes thought to be exhaustion, fatigue and injury to players (or just general disruption). However, is the ‘FIFA virus’ just a myth?

A review of the matches taken place after an international break in the Big 5 European leagues suggests it just might be. Looking at the statistics, top-four finishers in these leagues actually perform better after an international break, with a win percentage of 61% in their first matches after the breaks in September, October and November since 2002/03. This compares to a season average of 58%.

Backing a top-four finisher against a non top-four finisher directly after the international breaks in September-November, at average odds since 2002/03, would have yielded an impressive ROI of 13.5% from 431 matches, including 16.4% at home and 10.7% on the road. This is with a 65% win rate.

If you look at top-four finishers against non top-four finishers in their other games there is just a 6.1% ROI and a win percentage of 61% so we can clearly see they show an improvement after the break. There is obviously an assumption here that we know the top-four finishers, but replacing finishing position with current position at the time of the match also produces a profit.

There is therefore opportunity to profit as bookmakers may overestimate the impact of an international break on the big teams.

Looking throughout the league it seems that the international break does not have too much of a significant impact to domestic competition. The rest of the teams in the ‘Big 5’ leagues have extremely similar win, draw, and loss rates before and after previous International breaks, and there is no pattern to suggest that teams look set to underperform.

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