The International break, usually two weeks, is considered the most boring phase in the football calendar. The EURO qualifiers and World Cup qualifiers are on paper one-sided with the major European powers getting an easy path to the tournament proper. On the other hand, CONMEBOL qualifiers are much more interesting due to a lesser number of teams and the league system which makes the qualification path tougher to superior countries. However, CONMEBOL qualifiers due to take place in the next two weeks have been cancelled due to COVID-19 issues. World Cup qualifiers in Europe will proceed as of now and there are a few interesting match-ups in the next 14 days. Here we look at five exciting International fixtures in the upcoming days,
5. Turkey vs Netherlands
Ever since Koeman’s exit, the men in orange have been struggling to create an identity on the pitch. Dutch manager Frank de Boer will be aiming to create more attacking opportunities with the likes of Frenkie De Jong, Donny Van de Beek and Georginio Wijnaldum. The exclusion of in-form Wout Weghorst will raise a few eyebrows and the pressure is on Luuk de Jong to prove his value to the national team.
Turkey ranked 32 in FIFA rankings have steadily progressed in recent years and a win against an established footballing nation such as the Netherlands will give them a confidence boost. They have a solid backline consisting of Soyuncu, Ozan Kabak and Merih Demiral but their hopes will rest on the shoulders of veteran Hakan Calhanoglu.
4. Belgium vs Wales
Ranked number 1 by FIFA, Belgium have just lost 2 of their 25 games since the 2018 World Cup. In Roberto Martinez, they have a truly world-class manager whose vision has made Belgium a fearsome outfit. The only concern is the fitness of Eden Hazard who has played very little football in the past two years.
Under Ryan Giggs, Wales are notching up vital victories, but they keep coming up short against top teams in Europe. With Bale and Daniel James performing well for their respective clubs, Giggs will be hoping that both of them can replicate their form against Belgium.
3. Serbia vs Portugal
Portugal’s wealth of attacking talents have been the talk of Europe for the past year or so. Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Diogo Jota, Joao Felix and Andre Silva are all in fine form and match winners on their day. The development of Ruben Dias into one of the best defenders in Europe is the most pleasing news for Santos as it will allow him to field an attacking formation against top teams.
Their opponents Serbia are known for their pragmatic approach and have lost just three games in the past two years. If they manage to eke out a draw against the champions of Europe, the performance will get a lot of adulation from the fans as well as the manager.
2. England vs Poland
In the qualifying tournament for the 2018 World Cup, Poland captain Robert Lewandowski finished as the top scorer with 16 goals. However, due to a mandatory quarantine protocol, the prolific striker could miss the trip to Wembley.
Poland still have a decent bunch of players who are capable of surprising Southgate’s men. England could field an experimental line-up as they have a solid replacement for every player in their first choice 11.
1. France vs Ukraine
The World champions have a stern test in the form of Ukraine as they begin their campaign to reach World Cup 2022. France have a full-strength squad and are bound to go with their best eleven against a well organized Ukraine side.
France’s midfield diamond is likely to be composed of Kante, Pogba, Rabiot and Griezmann. Zouma and Varane are expected to pair-up in defence, with the only selection dilemma being the left-back position. Ukraine will depend heavily on their defence and Ruslan Malinovskyi’s creative ability to get a point out of this game.