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The international friendlies to look forward to this week

Michel Platini, with this week of football you’re really spoiling us.

Image: Hassan Ammar

BEFORE GETTING DOWN to the serious business of the Euro 2016 qualifiers, there are a plethora of international friendlies to be played out around the globe over the coming days, many of which could provide a useful indicator as to whether some country’s World Cup performances were a flash in the pan or an unfortunate anomaly.

Germany v Argentina

Espirit Arena, Dusseldorf.

Tomorrow, 7 45 pm

How fitting that this will be the sides’ first international game since Germany’s last-gasp triumph at the World Cup final in Rio. Mario Gotze’s spectacular extra-time winner decided what was one of the most engaging, tightly-contested finals in recent memory, and no doubt still stings the Argentine psyche.

There has been considerable change in both camps in the interim, most noticeably Gerardo Martino replacing Alejandro Sabella at the helm for Argentina, and Philipp Lahm-the man who captained Germany to their first piece of silverware since 1996-retiring from international football.

Unsurprisingly, midfield totem and Bayern teammate Bastian Schweinsteiger has succeeded Lahm as captain, for at least the next two years. Both teams will be unable to field some of their marquee names; Lionel Messi, Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng have all withdrawn due to injury. However, absentees from the World Cup final such as Marco Reus and Angel Di Maria should feature. So, too, a fully fit Sergio Aguero.

Germany’s performance will be of particular interest to Irish fans, given the Boys in Green must face Joachim Low’s charges on 14 October, for Euro 2016 Group D qualifier.

What the bookies think: Germany 5/6; Draw 5/2; Argentina 16/5.

Source: Matthew O/YouTube

France v. Spain

Stade de France, Paris.

Thursday, 8 00 pm.

France were undoubtedly one of the surprise packages in Brazil, marching all the way to the quarter-finals before being marginally beaten Germany, thanks to Mats Hummels’ headed winner. Didier Deschamps’ team look like one on the rise, ready to make a serious dent in international football.

Spain, on the other hand, suffered a complete and utter capitulation, failing to launch any sort of defence of their title; finishing third in Group B having been soundly beaten by Holland and Chile, before earning a meaningless victory over Australia.

As a collective, they looked jaded and unable to adopt to the dynamic and physical assault of both Holland and Chile. Their ignominious exit from the tournament felt not just like the end of an era, but an empire. Winning four consecutive competitions was a stretch too far.

Despite this, Vincent Del Bosque remains as manager, but he now must plan without midfield stalwarts Xabi and Xabi Alonso, both of whom have retired. The matter is further compounded in the short term by Andres Iniesta being unable to face France or Macedonia, in their opening Euro 2016 qualifier on Monday.

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Source: LiveYourDreams/YouTube

Having said that, can any side with guile of Cesc Fabregas, David Silva, Juan Mata and Santi Cazorla really gripe about their midfield reserves? France, too, are no joke in that department, with likes of Paul Pogba, Yohan Cabaye and Matthew Valbuena. Though, they will be without Olivier Giroud and Franck Ribery on Thursday.

It’ll be interesting to see if the now fully fit Diego Costa can impress in an international jersey, and whether Del Bosque accepts Iker Casillas is past his prime, and gives David De Gea a fair crack of the whip. A victory, albeit in a friendly, could go a long way  to restoringwhat must be a shattered Spanish confidence.

What the bookies think: France 7/5; Draw 11/5; Spain 2/1.

Italy v. Holland, San Nicola da Bari, Bari. Thursday, Kick off 7 45 pm.

Another case of two nations who had contrasting fortunes this summer. Holland, now under the stewardship of Guus Hiddink, managed to make waves in Brazil and narrowly missed out on the final, after losing on penalties to Argentina in the penultimate round.

Of course, it was the Louis van Gaal’s nous that got such a fantastic return from what was a decidedly average group and his leadership which galvanised what has traditionally been a fractured camp, but Hiddink is no slouch.

Italy, despite starting positively with a victory over England in Group D, would go no futher after abject losses to Coata Rica and Uruguay, leading Cesare Prandelli to follow the time old Italian managerial tradition of falling on his sword. Enter Antonio Conte, the man who led Juventus to three Serie A titles in a row.

His first major call; the exclusion of Mario Balotelli in his initial squad, with Ciro Immobile the only remaining striker from the Wolrd Cup squad. The Dutch will be without perennially injured captain Robin Van Persie, but keep an eye out for new QPR recruit Leroy Fer.

What the bookies think: Italy 5/4; Draw 11/5; Holland 11/5.

Brazil v Colombia

Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens,

Saturday, 2.00am.

Manchester United’s new striker Radamel Falcao returns to the international fold for Colombia to take on a Brazil side most-likely still reeling from their humiliating World Cup semi-final hammering at the hands of Germany.

He will join James Rodriguez and new Aston Villa signing Carlos Sanchez, as they look to avenge their quarter-final loss to Brazil, who will now be hoping Dunga can breathe new life into them, and repair the damage done over the summer.

What the bookies think: Brazil 11/10; Draw 23/10; Colombia 23/10

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About the author:

Tom Rooney

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