Five key international fixtures over the break
>Club football takes a backseat this weekend to the international fixtures and there’s plenty of important games as qualifying for the 2012 European Championships heats up.
Republic of Ireland v Russia Group B’‘Friday, 8.45pm (Central European Time)’’
Russia, who failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, face a major challenge in Group B when they travel to Dublin to face Ireland. Both teams missed out on South Africa in the playoffs and will be desperate to not make the same errors for 2012.
The Irish are on six points from two games so far after wins over minnows Armenia and Andorra, while Russia have three points from their two games following a shock 1-0 home loss to Slovakia. Shay Given admits an Ireland win would give them daylight and it could be a handy early buffer. Therefore, Russia coach Dick Advocaat will be desperate not to lose.
Germany v Turkey Group A’‘Friday, 8.45pm (CET)’’
Group A heats up when the two sides who faced off in the 2008 European Championship semi-final meet again. The match will be played in Berlin and given the large Turkish population in Germany, it’s sure to be a massive occasion.
Both sides have six points from their opening two qualifying fixtures and look in control in this group. Turkey coach Guus Hiddink will be without Arda Turan, while Germany’s key man will be Mesut Ozil who is of Turkish background.
Portugal v Denmark Group H’‘Friday, 9.45pm (CET)’’
Paulo Bento’s debut as Portugal coach couldn’t have been more challenging with the home qualifier against Denmark a must-win for the Portuguese after collecting just one point from their opening two matches. And, of course, Denmark won in Portugal 3-2 during World Cup qualifying in 2008.
Both these sides were at South Africa earlier this year and the Danish proved they are talented and organised but no the finished article. While Portugal won’t have had the time to re-adjust following the sacking of the disastrous Carlos Queiroz last month. Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo insists his side must have ‘trust’.
France v Romania Group D’‘Saturday, 9pm (CET)’’
New France boss Laurent Blanc’s revolution will continue as he tries to revive Les Bleus’ dismal fortunes when they host Romania in Paris. Despite France’s recent woes, capped off by the recent 1-0 home loss to Belarus, the Parisians will be expecting no less than a win here.
Last month’s 2-0 away win to Bosnia has certainly raised expectations but has it reinstated belief. We’ll wait and see, but Florent Malouda, Samir Nasri and Philippe Mexes will be key men. Romania have their own problems after only two points from their first two qualifiers, so they’ll be fighting for a result.
Italy v Serbia Group C’‘Tuesday, 8.50pm (CET)’’
Two nations who disappointed at the 2010 World Cup, finishing bottom in their respective groups, meet one another in qualifying in Genoa on Tuesday.
Italy, who have six points from two matches and meet Northern Ireland away on Saturday, will be favourties while Serbia, who have four points from their two games after a home draw with Slovenia, face Estonia on Saturday. New Juventus hero Milos Krasic could be an important figure, while Antonio Cassano looks re-born under Cesare Prandelli.
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