March 2019: Top five matches to look out for in the International break
Written by: Waseem Zaidi
There are a lot of interesting matches to look forward to in the upcoming international break.
Time has come for yet another international break. The break in March will mark the beginning of the qualification process for the Euro 2020 and also has a few notable friendlies to keep an eye on, away from the European limelight.
For the first time ever, the Euro Cup will not be hosted by one nation, instead the games will be hosted in different European cities such as Amsterdam; Baku in Azerbaijan; Bilbao in Spain; Bucharest in Romania; Budapest in Hungary; Copenhagen in Denmark; Dublin and Glasgow in Scotland; Munich in Germany; Rome in Italy; and Saint Petersburg in Russia.
The semi-finals and the final will be played in Wembley Stadium in London. There will be no automatic qualification since there is no particular host nation and the 55 national teams of Europe will be divided into 10 groups out of which top two will advance into the Euro 2020.
Therefore, we have compiled the list of top-five matches to look out for in the next few days.
5. USA vs Chile - Wednesday, 27 March 2019
The friendly fixture will see the United States of America host the defending Copa America champions, Chile. The fixture is seen as an important preparatory occasion for the Chileans, who will be defending their 2015 title in June. Due to the massive dip in form of their star-player Alexis Sanchez, and Arturo Vidal having lost his regular starting place, the squad selection has been an uncertain area for the La Roja.
It will be interesting to see how the Chile squad lines up and it will serve as a window to their preparations ahead of the 2019 Copa America slated to be held in Brazil in just 3 months now.
As for the U.S.A, they are not participating in this year’s Copa America as none of the CONCACAF teams were invited. It will be an occasion for the head coach Gregg Berhalter to test his relatively young squad against a tough opposition. Few notable names have impressed in the Bundesliga recently, such as Christian Pulisic for Borussia Dortmund and Weston Mckennie for FC Schalke 04 and will prove to be constant threats.
4. Japan vs Colombia - Friday, 22 March 2019
The upcoming friendly between Japan and Colombia will be a good opportunity for both nations to finalise their squads ahead of the 2019 Copa America. Japan took part in the recent AFC Asian Cup 2019 dropping players like Shinji Okazaki and Shinji Kagawa in an attempt to give exposure to players such as Ritsu Doan and Koya Kitagawa.
They reached the finals but failed on the final hurdle to Qatar who won the tournament. Incidentally, both finalist Asian teams are participating in the upcoming Copa America as the guest teams. It will be interesting to see if the head coach, Hajime Moriyasu, continues to put his faith in the young blood or if Shinji Kagawa’s call-up suggests a return for the senior players.
Colombia head coach, Carlos Queiroz, has a tough task in-hand to regain the faith of the fans after a disappointing end to their World Cup outing. Colombia are co-hosting Copa America 2020 with Argentina and the recent call-up for the Ranger’s striker Alfredo Morelos suggests an inclination towards fielding a young squad in preparation for the next year’s edition. Colombia will also have revenge on their minds as Japan won their last meeting 1-2 at the World Cup in Russia.
3. Belgium vs Russia - Friday, 22 March 2019
The Red Devils will begin their Euro 2020 qualification journey against the host nation of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Russia. Belgium are currently the number one ranked team in the FIFA Men’s ranking and will be looking to start off their qualifying campaign on a positive note. After having gotten knocked out in the quarter-finals in the previous campaign, Roberto Martinez will hope to take his team further in the competition. While Kevin De Bruyne is out due to injury, Eden Hazard will be the main threat for the opposition.
Russia were among the most surprising teams in the World Cup. Against all odds, the Sbornaya managed to march till the quarters and eliminated Spain in the Round of 16. Russia will be the underdogs going into the fixture and will hope their star player, Denis Cheryshev emulates his performances from the World Cup.
2. England vs Czech Republic - Saturday, 23 March 2019
The Three Lions are undefeated in their last five fixtures with impressive victories against teams like Spain, Croatia and Switzerland allowing them to qualify for the finals of the UEFA Nations League. England will open their Euro 2020 Qualification against the Czech Republic and Gareth Southgate could field surprise call-ups Declan Rice and Tom Heaton who are having decent domestic seasons.
Declan Rice could make his debut for England
Czech Republic are the underdogs heading into this game considering their mixed form. Patrik Schick and Matej Vydra are central to their team and the head coach Jaroslav Šilhavý will hope his side can cause an upset and take an early step towards Euro 2020 qualification.
1. The Netherlands vs Germany - Monday, 25 March 2019
Germany were unceremoniously dumped out of the World Cup 2018 in group stages and since then, fans have been calling for systematic changes to the national squad. The gaffer, Joachim Low dropped a bombshell recently when he announced that players like Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and Thomas Muller will never feature for the Die Mannschaft again.
Their Euro 2020 qualification will start with a tough clash against a Netherlands team which humbled the 2014 World Cup winners 3-0 last time these two played in the Dutch backyard. Their last meeting resulted in a 2-2 draw which ensured Germany’s relegation after finishing at the bottom of their UEFA Nations League group without a victory.
Virgil van Dijk has scored in each of the last two meetings against Germany
On the other hand, the Netherlands are looking strong with only one defeat in their last nine matches. Players like Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt are having sensational seasons and the head coach, Ronald Koeman has got the Oranje playing aggressive, attacking and quintessential Dutch-style football. It will be an encounter that will attract attention from the neutral fans as well since both teams are favorites to qualify from their qualifying group.
Published: Wed Mar 20, 2019 07:02 PM IST