It’s International football time! As the world’s biggest teams and players take a break from club action, it’s the national teams that have called upon their best crop of personnel for some competitive as well as non-competitive footballing action. The two weeks of International Football starts with countries plying their trade in some friendlies, after which the focus turns to the UEFA Nations League for the European teams and the African Cup of Nations Qualifiers for their African counterparts. Not to forget, there are some Euro 2021 qualifiers as well.
This break from club football comes in the times of a turmoil. While fans and supporters around the world criticize the mobility of players from one part of the earth to another, football has certainly put the fears of COVID-19 on the back-seat. Some countries like England and Switzerland have begun stage two of their nationwide lockdowns, but apparently — World Football knows no limits.
As the footballing stars risk their lives, there is only one winner from these contests — The Fans! International football calls for the biggest giants in European football clashing with one another as each nation strives for glory — and also an upgrade in their FIFA rankings. Another important factor is the ongoing Nations League tournament which adds a competitive aspect to the usually non-competitive International football as the European nations have a straight ticket to the Euro 2021 by their performance in this very competition.
On the other hand, with most of the top European leagues being dominated by African football stars like Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Riyad Mahrez — the African Cup of Nations, fondly known as the AFCON, is also searching for its top seeded teams. The final stages of the competition are supposed to be held in mid-2021 as the qualifiers pit some real giants of African football together to fight for their place in the biggest footballing event of Africa.
Without much ado, today we take a look at the top five games this week from our magazine of International Footballing fixtures!
#5 Netherlands vs Spain (11-Nov-2020)
What a way to kick-off the two weeks of International football! The Oranje take on La Furia Roja in the Dutch countryside. The epic clash of these two historical European clubs in the 2010 FIFA World Cup is still fresh in the memories of the footballing fraternity worldwide. A late Andres Iniesta winner sealed Spain’s date with their first ever FIFA World Cup trophy back in the early part of the last decade.
But their Dutch counterparts duly delivered a revenge at the world’s biggest stage in the next edition of the FIFA World Cup in 2014, when they thrashed Spain 5–1 in the group stages. It was an iconic event which shook the world and had such a big impact on the Spanish side that the then-reigning World Champions bowed out of the competition before the knock-out rounds even began.
Since that day, Netherlands are unbeaten against Spain in all competitions and playing at home on Wednesday night, they have a good chance to make it a 4-game unbeaten run against the Reds from Espana.
But a new era of young blood has boosted the morale of the Spanish camp big time. The arrival of Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres in the squad has added the much needed freshness to the team’s build-up play and is beginning to gel the whole team into favourites for next year’s European Championship. Though Ansu Fati is injured, Ferran Torres is expected to start as he is joined by his Manchester City compatriot Rodri and Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos to take the game to the Netherlands.
Holland, on the other hand, will be without their captain and arguably the best player — Virgil Van Dijk. It’s a big blow for the Dutch side that Van Dijk is serving a long term injury and might miss out on next year’s Euro 2021 too. Nevertheless, this is the first game in a long time where Van Dijk will not be a part of the defensive line for the home side on Wednesday and that will surely impact their chances in the game.
Nevertheless, it will be a very entertaining game as some of the most flashiest names in world football will take the pitch on Wednesday evening.
#4 Colombia vs Uruguay (13-Nov-2020)
We talked about Netherlands ripping apart Spain in that incredible 5–1 win in 2014, but that year was also a career-best period for many South American nations as well as their players. The 2014 World Cup saw many young players announce themselves to the world, notably James Rodriguez from Colombia.
The midfielder, who now plays at Everton in Merseyside, England, erupted in the World Cup knockout rounds as two of his goals were named as some of the best in the history of football. Despite the exit to hosts Brazil, James Rodriguez ensured that it was not the last of what was seen of the Colombian as he secured a high profile move to Real Madrid in the ensuing summer.
Another giant of the game, though already popular, who had a successful World Cup campaign that year was Uruguay’s Luis Suarez. Alongside the free-firing Edinson Cavani, Suarez was absolutely ruthless in front of the goal. The pair was also instrumental in knocking out England from the contest as Suarez lit up the English back-line with his pace and superb finishing.
Well, it’s James vs Suarez again this Friday as Colombia host Uruguay in an International Friendly. Colombia also boasts the likes of Juan Cuadrado in the right-back position. Cuadrado, who started off as a winger in his young days, has become Italian Champions Juventus’ first-choice right-back now as he repeatedly is involved in both the offensive and defensive passages of play for both his club and country.
Though it is just a friendly in the South region of America, the continent is known for producing some serious talent and they never take a loss as an answer — even in a non-competitive game. So, expect some fireworks here.
#3 Portugal vs France (14-Nov-2020)
It’s a week of remembrances and historical meetings as another pair — who are very much linked with an important event in world footall — meet on Saturday. Portugal take on France in a Nations League encounter which could be crucial after the sides played out a draw last month.
Now this brings back a lot of bad memories for France. When the Euro 2016 was held in the French countryside, a new generation of ballers had risen and everyone expected France to win the tournament — especially with the competition being in their own country. And France nearly did not disappoint. Nearly.
The Frenchmen cruised to the final of the competition — romping upon every possible opponent on their way. In the final they met this Saturday’s counterparts Portugal. Now why this was interesting was because the Portuguese camp had just somehow scraped through their group stages and the eventual knockout stages with unimpressive efforts to reach the final. It was supposed to be a walkover.
But destiny had other plans. As the game went to extra time, much to the surprise of the Frenchmen, Portugal grabbed a late winner in the additional phase of play to beat France in their own backyard and win the Euro 2016 under their noses. Since then France has never looked the same against Portugal ever.
Will the past come to haunt the French away from home on Saturday night? Or will Mbappe and co fight their ghosts from 2016 to claim a victory? Will Cristiano Ronaldo continue his scoring form after recovering from COVID? Or will the Portuguese fail to contain the World Champions at home?
All these questions have huge uncertain answers. But the only certainty lies in the fact that this will be a game where you could miss a lot even at the blink of an eye.
#2 Germany vs Ukraine (14-Nov-2020)
What may seem to be a low-key event on the face of it, might turn out to be a very important fixture in the course of the UEFA Nations League, as Germany take on Ukraine on the same night as Portugal and France lock horns at the other end of Europe.
What makes this tie a very essential event of ninety minutes is a number of reasons. The first and foremost being that Germany, one of the most successful nations in the history of football, are yet to win a single game at home in the entirety of 2020. The last time they won a game on German soil was exactly a year ago in the 6–1 win over Northern Ireland.
Another important talking point ahead of this game is Ukraine’s fabulous 1–0 win over Spain. After a run of three poor defeats, it was apparent that Ukraine were all set to succumb to another defeat on the visit of La Furia Roja. But a hearty performance where each and every player gave his best on the pitch led to Andriy Shevchenko’s side clinch a memorable 1–0 victory over Spain.
With the Germans being under pressure due to their shambolic home form, it is totally Ukraine’s game from a psychological point of view. They just have to contain the German attack which can be dangerous every couple of minutes in the game and try to attack the hosts on the counter.
On the flip side of the coin, Joachim Loew’s Germany also has an excellent chance to silence all the critics by getting a big win in this one which will also mark their first win at home in 2020. Nevertheless, this game shall either be a multi-goal German rout of a golden goal win by Ukraine where the visitors sit on the negative end of all the statistics. Tactically, one of the best games to watch this weekend.
#1 Belgium vs England (15-Nov-2020)
The Oscar for the best football match not only this weekend, but this entire International Break goes to…..! The topmost ranked side in world football Belgium take on the most popular side England at home this Sunday.
There has been a lot of talk over Belgium being ‘the most unattractive side to be ever ranked number 1 on the FIFA rankings’. These acquisitions have come on the back of captain Eden Hazard missing almost every game due to injury and star players like Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Axel Witsel hitting their worst forms for the Red Devils. In fact, many pundits have even claimed that Belgium wouldn’t be at the top of the rankings if 2020 had seen many games unlike the current scenario of the year being hit by Coronavirus.
This Super Sunday witnesses Belgium not only standing a chance to banish all the acquisitions but also facing a huge test as an in-form English side take a trip to their homeland. With an insane squad depth at disposal, Gareth Southgate has a lot of options in formations and players to choose from. So much that even 16-year-old Jude Bellingham has been involved in the trip to Belgium this week.
The two nations have a decent amount of history too with their recent exchange being in the 2018 World Cup group stage where the Red Devils led by Eden Hazard totally destroyed their English counterparts in two games with not a single goals conceded. With Harry Kane leading the attacking Three Lions this time, Belgium may just not only finally concede goals but lose the game at home too.
Nevertheless, with all the 22-men on the field being recognized stars of European footballing scene, Belgium vs England is going to be the highlight of this International Break for sure.
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