Five things to look out for during football’s international break

The time has arrived for a fresh round of international fixtures in the football world – with a great range of talking points arising as a result.

With several nations gearing up for the ever-encroaching European Championships in Germany next year, permutations are of increasing importance as many sides vie for automatic qualification to the tournament.

Another matter worthy of discussion is the return to action of hosts Germany, seeking stability following the chaos of sacked Head Coach Hansi Flick’s ill-fated reign – with a trip to the USA first on the cards.

In turn, there is much to discuss – and Mancunian Matters has selected the best of the bunch.

England v Australia: potential for an upset?

Friday 13th is notorious for being surrounded by misfortune and concern. As Australia – ranked 27th in the world – visit Wembley for the first time, how better to celebrate the occasion than with a historic victory against the Three Lions?

The friendly is to be a sold-out affair, with Kangaroos’ Manager Graham Arnold using the opportunity to inspire his side towards new heights against Harry Kane & co.

A speech from predecessor and current Tottenham Hotspur manager Ange Postecoglou has been recorded for the squad, with the key message being to play for the pride of those watching on the other side of the world.

Another source of motivation may come from the well-recorded sporting rivalry held between the two nations, who often wage war in the arenas of cricket and rugby in an effort to establish much-wanted superiority.

This isn’t to say, however, that Gareth Southgate and his side are resting on their laurels.

The former Middlesbrough man has said he is ensuring his team remain focused on their immediate opponents – despite a prospective Euro 2024 qualification decider against Italy in a few days’ time.

Nevertheless, this occasion may be ideal for some form of experimentation within the squad as the likes of Levi Colwill, Ollie Watkins, Jarrod Bowen, and Eddie Nketiah look to fight for a more permanent place in the England picture.

Norway v Spain: the Scottish inquisition

In more normal times of the international schedule, this fixture would be a bog-standard watch for those seeking silky play from a resurgent Spain.

Yet, Sunday’s match will likely bring a new viewing contingent pursuing a different interest: Scotland’s qualification for next summer’s tournament.

After last night’s heart aching 2-0 defeat in Seville, Scotland are placing their qualification hopes and dreams on Norway failing to beat Luis de la Fuente’s side – with such a result meaning the table-topping Tartan Army will be swapping haggis for schnitzel next June.

Erling Haaland & co. will, however, be looking to spoil that party against their Mediterranean counterparts, in a game that is set to be scintillating from the start.

If Spain continue their current rich vein of form – as they are widely expected to do – no such concerns will matter come Monday morning.

USA v Germany: the start of a new era

Germany’s build up to hosting Euro 2024 has been ravaged by chaos.

Unexpected defeats, poor performances, and disappointed supporters have characterised Die Mannschaft’s preparations for this tournament – for which they have automatically qualified as hosts.

This madness led to last month’s sacking of former Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick – the first head coach of Germany to be let go since the role’s creation in 1926.

In turn, 36-year-old Julian Nagelsmann was appointed as his replacement on a contract running until July 2024 – with his first game coming this weekend away to the USA.

A lot, therefore, is riding on there being a solid performance by Germany in Cincinnati as a new dawn is welcomed by the four-time World Champions.

Republic of Ireland v Greece: in search of a miracle

Stephen Kenny’s Republic of Ireland side are another team currently in dire straits on the international stage.

Three points from five games in Group B means the Boys in Green are praying for a miracle tonight at home to Euro 2004 winners Greece.

Anything but a victory for the fourth placed side will result in their fate being in the hands of others – namely The Netherlands, who must not beat France in their own match.

Kenny is hopeful of a miracle that will send his nation to Germany.

A depleted squad does not bode well for upcoming fixtures, but stranger things have happened in the game.

Wales v Croatia: high hopes of groundhog day

Wales are facing the prospect of having to repeat the near impossible in order to qualify for Germany 2024.

Their remaining three Group D matches must each be one for the side to have any realistic chance of reaching the likes of Berlin and Munich next summer – anything less will not bode well for Robert Page’s squad.

First on the list is a tough game at home to World Cup semi-finalists Croatia on Sunday.

The Dragons attained two successive victories after a challenging qualification campaign for Euro 2020 to reach the tournament last time out, with clutch goals from the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey.

With both stalwart players being unavailable for the side this time out – due to retirement and injury problems, respectively – the hurdles Page’s team must jump to reach the Championships have significantly grown in stature.

Hope, however, remains.

Featured image credit: Mark Healey via Flickr

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