International Round-Up

Almost 16 years ago England earned a shock 5-1 victory over Germany in the 2002 World Cup qualifiers. Qualifiers are often easy to forget but England fans still remember that night in Munich. Tomorrow the two nations face each other again in a friendly, but it will likely feel like more than that as the English love beating the Germans.

With the World Cup just over a year away, the international break will be good chance to see some of the favourites face off, as well as some crucial qualifiers.

The world champions will probably look better than England on paper, but the last time the two faced England came back from two goals down to win 3-2 just before the Euros. Barring a major disaster, both nations will be at the World Cup in Russia and Germany are likely to go into the tournament as favourites again.

Lahm, Schweinsteiger and Podolski will have all left international duty, but the Germany squad is like a conveyor belt of talent and the next generation is starting to come through. Players like Leroy Sane and Timo Werner will join the experienced leaders like Neuer, Muller, Kroos and Hummels.

The standout game of the friendlies is France vs Spain. Both these powerhouses top their qualifying groups and will be hoping to show their dominance ahead of the World Cup where they will be among the favourites. France have got so much depth and talent, with the engine man Kante in midfield alongside Pogba and Griezmann. France were disappointed not to lift the Euro Cup after losing to Portugal in the final last year so will be hungry to redeem themselves at the World Cup.

You can never count out Spain who have got quality all over the pitch, from David de Gea in goal and Sergio Ramos at the back, to David Silva in midfield and Diego Costa up front.

Brazil will also be in the mix as favourites to lift the cup next year. They will have to put their shock 7-1 defeat to Germany on home soil in the last World Cup behind them, and the stars like Neymar, David Luiz and Coutinho will need to shine. Gabriel Jesus could also be one to watch in Russia after making an exciting first impression in the Premier League before his injury.

It will be Messi’s last chance to win the World Cup, but it’s not certain that Argentina will even make the plane to Russia! They are 5th in the South American qualifying group and if the stay there they would have to win a playoff against the first-place team from Oceania to secure their place. They’re one point from automatic qualification, but also just one point from not qualifying at all so it’s crunch time for the Argentinians. They face Chile on Thursday and still have Uruguay and Ecuador to play, and will ideally need to pick up 6 points.

Holland missed out on a big tournament last year, and it was strange not seeing them at the Euros so missing them again in 2018 would be a big loss.

I’ve missed out as a player myself so I know how it feels, and even now looking back I think it’s one of the biggest disappointments. We are known as a nation that produces a lot of great talent and as a small nation that only has around 17m people we have players at the best teams in Europe. Our great style of playing is mastered by the Spanish and sometimes feels like it is copied from the Brazilians: Keep the ball so the other team can’t score and when they’re tired you score.

I think it is time to go back to basics and realise that the beautiful game sometimes has to wait. The focus needs to be on winning so that the confidence comes back the beautiful game will follow.

The World Cup is the best competition to watch, with the excitement of the smaller nations punching above their weight and powerhouses going face to face.