Three new coaches, a potential 100th cap for Ashley Cole and a 150th anniversary are among the highlights on a busy night of international friendlies on Wednesday.
With FIFA World Cup qualifying resuming across Europe next month, Wednesday’s international friendlies represent a welcome chance to tinker with tactics and ponder personnel ahead of the push to reach Brazil 2014.
The hosts are involved in one of the most eye-catching games, travelling to Wembley to face England as part of the English Football Association’s (FA) ongoing 150th anniversary celebrations. It marks a repeat of England’s first game at the new Wembley in 2007, which ended in a 1-1 draw.
It could prove an especially memorable evening for Chelsea FC defender Ashley Cole, who is in line to become just the seventh Englishman to win a century of caps for his country. “I must say it is an achievement we shouldn’t be underestimating,” said manager Roy Hodgson.
While Hodgson has held the reins for nine months, three of his European counterparts are readying themselves for their first games in charge. Just north of the border, Gordon Strachan was appointed Scotland boss earlier this month and is now preparing to welcome Estonia to Aberdeen FC’s Pittodrie, the ground where he made his name as a player.
Elsewhere, Mykhailo Fomenko last year succeeded Oleh Blokhin at the Ukraine helm and begins his new job against Norway. Also starting afresh, albeit in a more familiar role, is Srećko Katanec, who opens his second stint in charge of Slovenia – a decade after his first – against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
While Bosnia and Herzegovina are one of the more surprising group leaders in FIFA World Cup qualifying, two of the more predictable pacesetters, the Netherlands and Italy, meet in Amsterdam. That is not the only heavyweight clash of the evening, with France and Germany playing in Paris less than a year after Les Bleus beat Joachim Löw’s side 2-1 in Bremen.
World and European champions Space face testing opponents in the shape of Uruguay, while another South American powerhouse, Argentina, tackle Sweden in Solna. Meanwhile, the likes of Belgium, Switzerland and Russia, all leading the way in their respective qualifying groups, will look to maintain their own momentum at the expense of Slovakia, Greece and Iceland respectively.
International friendlies (Wednesday 6 February unless stated) Albania v Georgia Azerbaijan v Liechtenstein Belgium v Slovakia Croatia v South Korea Cyprus v Serbia betting tip England v Brazil France v Germany FYROM v Denmark Greece v Switzerland Hungary v Belarus Iceland v Russia Israel v Finland Japan v Latvia Kazakhstan v Moldova Luxembourg v Armenia (Tuesday) Malta v Northern Ireland Netherlands v Italy Norway v Ukraine Portugal v Ecuador Republic of Ireland v Poland Romania v Australia Scotland v Estonia Slovenia v Bosnia and Herzegovina Spain v Uruguay Sweden v Argentina Turkey v Czech Republic Wales v Austria betting tip