After the entertaining start to the new Premier League season, the weekend of September 8/9 represents the first international break.
GMF looks at the international matches that will divert our attention this weekend as the road to Rio de Janiero begins. (The country’s FIFA ranking is in brackets.)
European World Cup Qualifying:
Moldova (141) vs ENGLAND (3)
England start their World Cup campaign in Moldova on Friday night, with Roy Hodgson’s men hopeful of a positive start to qualifying. The English have been hampered by a host of injury problems in the build-up to the match with nine players ruled out of the contest – Andy Carroll, Ashley Cole, Wayne Rooney and Scott Parker amongst the casualties.
However, England are still strongly expected the win the match, with Jermain Defoe and Danny Welbeck in competition for a starting place. There could be a start for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the midfield as England crave the pace and creativity that ‘The Ox’ could deliver.
Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard could start together in an England midfield, although this famous partnership has struggled to develop throughout both players’ international careers. Could Hodgson be the man to ignite this pairing?
Finland (96) vs FRANCE (15)
France are a team full of Premier League talent with Arsenal alone having three representatives in the French national squad – Olivier Giroud, Abou Diaby and Laurent Koscielny. Gunners fans will have a keen eye on Giroud to monitor his progress as his Arsenal career is yet to sparkle.
Arsenal rivals Tottenham Hotspur also have an stake in this fixture as new £12 million-signing Hugo Lloris is expected to start. Other Premier League talent includes; Newcastle’s Yohan Cabaye, Manchester City’s Gael Clichy and Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.
GERMANY (2) vs Faroe Islands (154)
On paper, this fixture looks ominous for the men from the Faroe Islands – with 152 places between them in the FIFA rankings.
Germany have a winning pedigree and it isn’t expected to change here. Arsenal are the only side to have representatives in the German squad with defender Per Mertesacker and new signing Lukas Podolski included. Gunners will be especially focused on the forward as he will look to build on his first Premier League goal against Liverpool last weekend.
NETHERLANDS (8) vs Turkey (35)
Netherlands are coming off the back of a disappointing European Championships in Ukraine and Poland – Turkey should be fearful. The Netherlands squads boasts a host of top Premier League talent, including the new talisman at Manchester United – Robin van Persie.
His hat-trick last weekend will surely encourage him to continue in this vein in his next fixture. The other Premier League talent in the squad consists of goalkeepers Tim Krul and Michel Vorm, of Newcastle and Swansea respectively, Everton’s John Heitinga and Ron Vlaar of Aston Villa.
Bulgaria (89) vs ITALY (6)
The Italians were unlucky in the European Championships, coming up short to Spain in the final. Italy no doubt possess an array of talent, however Liverpool’s new signing Fabio Borini is the only Premier League ambassador for Cesare Prandelli’s squad.
Luxembourg (106) vs PORTUGAL (4)
There will be renewed eyes on this match following Cristiano Ronaldo’s comments this week over his Real Madrid future. Ronaldo leads a strong Portuguese side which includes Nani from Manchester United. Expect a convincing Portugal victory as Luxembourg will find it extremely difficult to handle Ronaldo on full throttle surging down the left-flank.
ARGENTINA (7) vs Paraguay (29)
Argentina has arguably the best player that ever lived in Lionel Messi, however Paraguay are a strong team and have been known to turn over either of the big two – Brazil and Argentina - on plenty of occasions.
Notable international friendlies:
BRAZIL (12) vs South Africa (74)
The hosts of the 2014 World Cup against the hosts of the 2010 World Cup. This match-up between entertainers should prove to be a good watch. Brazil’s sensation Neymar will look to present what the European clubs continue to crave as he will no doubt attack the South African defence with blistering pace and flair. Sandro, David Luiz and Ramires represent the Premier League in this encounter.
SPAIN (1) vs Saudi Arabia (105)
The world and European champions take on Saudi Arabia here, all be it a friendly. Vicente Del Bosque has chosen a squad entailing various Premier League stars; Jose Reina, Santi Cazorla, David Silva and Fernando Torres. Torres will surely be looking to continue his goal-scoring form from his club, Chelsea, plus his country since his strikes in Euro 2012.