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Here are previews to tonight’s international friendlies

Ireland’s Group C opponents Germany are in Holland, while Italy take on France and world champions Spain play Panama.

Robin van Persie and Germany Holger Badstuber.
Robin van Persie and Germany Holger Badstuber.
Image: EMPICS Sport/EMPICS Sport

The Netherlands v Germany

TWO OF EUROPE’S best teams – the Netherlands and Germany – will face off in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam Arena will be the venue for the match and a host of big names will be in action for both sides.

The Netherlands – currently ranked seventh in the latest FIFA rankings – have included Manchester United star Robin van Persie in their squad, while Bayern Munich ace Arjen Robben has also been named and is expected to feature.

Injuries will prevent Bayern Munich trio Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos and Jerome Boateng as well as Borussia Dortmund’s Marcel Schmelzer from playing, but German manager Joachim Loew still has plenty of talent at his disposal.

Veterans Lukas Podolski (Arsenal) and Miroslav Klose (Lazio) are expected to lead the line, while the regular names of Mesut Oezil (Real Madrid), Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich) and Per Mertesacker (Arsenal) are all in Loew’s squad.

Competition for spots is always an issue in the German side, especially when they are in a battle to qualify directly for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.

The Germans currently occupy top spot in their World Cup qualifying group, but have Sweden snapping at their heels and ready to pounce should they slip up when matches get underway again next year.

Sweden are only three points behind Germany and also have the luxury of a game in hand, so Loew’s side will need to continue winning if they want to book their spot in the 2014 tournament.

The Netherlands are in a better position in their World Cup group, yet to drop a point through four qualifying matches.

Louis van Gaal’s side have 12 points from four games, with Hungary (nine) and Romania (nine) their only challengers for the direct qualification position.

So while there is only bragging rights up for grabs in Amsterdam, expect both teams to want to get a positive result from the match.

And the Netherlands will have an extra incentive to triumph, given it was Germany that beat them at the European Championships in Kharkiv earlier this year that ultimately led to them not qualifying for the knockout stages of the tournament.

The Netherlands have endured some inconsistent results since that loss, but we all know they are one of the most talented teams in the world when they get it together on the pitch.

Italy v France

French players Patrice Evra, Mathieu Valbuena, Franck Ribery and Adil Rami train on Monday. Credit: Christophe Ena/AP/Press Association Images

France manager Didier Deschamps is determined to reshape the culture of the team when they travel for the friendly against Italy.

Deschamps, who has guided France to two wins, two draws and one loss since his appointment in July, believes his charges are undisciplined and spoilt.

“What is lacking in the French players? Order, respect, rules? All of this. In France, players have too much freedom,” he told Tuttosport.

“The clubs must be stronger, as in Italy, the great teams like Juventus and AC Milan have always done that.”

His outburst came just days after winger Franck Ribery told Sky Sports that his Bundesliga club Bayern Munich is more important to him than playing for France.

I have been at Bayern for six years,” he said. “Here it is always good, here I am happy and here it’s fun. That is more important for me than the national team.”

Italy, on the other hand, must adhere to a strict disciplinary code under manager Cesare Prandelli.

Daniele De Rossi scored in Italy’s last two World Cup qualifiers but was dropped for disciplinary reasons after being sent off for punching Lazio’s Stefano Mauri in Roma’s 3-2 Serie A loss on Sunday.

De Rossi apologised to Mauri after the match but was left out in favour of fellow midfielder Alessandro Florenzi, who has been called up for the first time.

Deschamps has made few changes to the squad that earned a 1-1 draw in last month’s World Cup qualifier against Spain.

Lyon playmaker Yoann Gourcuff and Lille winger Dimitri Payet have been recalled, though Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri was overlooked once again for the clash in Parma.

Panama v Spain

Juan Mata. Credit: EMPICS Sport/EMPICS Sport

Chelsea forward Juan Mata is among the inclusions for Spain’s marathon journey to Panama for an international friendly on Wednesday.

The world and European champions have also recalled Barcelona defender Martin Montoya and Real Betis midfielder Benat, while Athletic Bilbao winger Markel Susaeta is in line to make his international debut.

Montoya is one of eight Barca players in the squad, though playmaker Xavi has been rested along with Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso.

Spain, unbeaten in their past 16 games in all competitions, are on top of Group A in European World Cup qualifying with two wins and a draw from their opening three fixtures.

Their campaign continues at home to Finland on March 22, before taking on France in Paris four days later.

Spain are visiting Panama for the first time on the back of trips to former colonies including Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica.

The trip to Panama is part of a commitment by our country with other Spanish-speaking nations and, in sporting terms, allows us to prepare for upcoming matches,” coach Vicente del Bosque said.

While Panama are 45 places below Spain in the FIFA rankings, the Central American side are expected to provide tough opposition.

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Panama have reached the fourth and final round of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying competition, where they will face the likes of Mexico, the United States and Honduras for one of three automatic berths at Brazil 2014.

Their campaign resumes at home to Costa Rica on February 6, before travelling to Jamaica on March 22.

Best of the rest

Capello gives out instructions. Credit: Ivan Sekretarev/AP/Press Association Images

Fabio Capello’s Russia will take on USA for the first time in 12 years on Wednesday in a friendly in Krasnodar without Andrei Arshavin.

The former captain was left out of Capello’s 26-man squad with under-21 regulars Denis Cheryshev (Russia) and Fyodor Smolov (loaned to Anzhi Makhachkala) given first call-ups.

Reading’s Pavel Pogrebnyak and former Tottenham striker Roman Pavlyuchenko have also been frozen out for the clash against Juergen Klinsmann’s USA side, who have only defeated Russia once.

Russia have started their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign perfectly with four wins from as many games.

Two of the world’s most sought after strikers, Neymar and Radamel Falcao, will go head to head when Brazil hosts Colombia in America.

Colombia have won their past four matches and are now three spots above Brazil in the world rankings in eighth place.

Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain will miss Argentina’s friendly with Saudi Arabia in Riyadh with former Barcelona boss, now coach of the Arab nation, Frank Rijkaard set to reunite with Lionel Messi for the clash.

Resurgent Belgium take on Romania in Bucharest having moved up to 20th in the world with the best record in Group A of their World Cup qualifying campaign.

Holger Osieck’s Australia take on South Korea in Hwaseong with both sides still with plenty of work to do to qualify for Brazil.

Portugal head to oil-rich Gabon while Scotland, under caretaker coach Billy Stark, travel to play Luxembourg.

Chile’s clash with Serbia holds plenty of intrigue as does Uruguay’s trip to face Poland and Turkey versus Denmark.

Bulgaria welcome bordering Ukraine to the capital of Sofia and the Czech Republic play Slovakia. Tunisia take on Switzerland, Hungary play Norway, Austria welcome the Ivory Coast, who will be without Arsenal winger Gervinho, and Algeria play Bosnia.

In other clashes, South Africa host Zambia, Albania take on Cameroon, Puerto Rico tackle Paraguay, Honduras entertain Peru and Nigeria head to Venezuela.

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