5 International Friendlies to Watch This Week
It's international friendly week, and the schedule boasts a number of intriguing matchups across the globe.
None of these matches can equal the intensity of a World Cup qualifier, but several should produce high drama anyway.
Whether you're a USMNT fanboy, a Lionel Messi enthusiast or anything in between, you should be able to find an entertaining friendly to watch this week.
Here are five we're looking forward to watching.
Brazil vs. Colombia
Details: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. ET, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
(NOTE: All matches are scheduled for Wednesday. All times listed are Eastern.)
Why to watch: Well, let's put it this way. If you don't want to watch this match, there's a pretty good chance you just don't like the sport.
Brazil will host the World Cup in 2014. The roster for this match won't have Hulk and Adriano (Associated Press via Sports Illustrated), but it's still packed with talent.
Neymar, a 20-year-old forward, is one of the world's most exciting young players. He also figures to be one of the most sought-after transfer prospects in the world once he decides to leave Santos.
Beyond Neymar, there's Leandro Damiao, Oscar, Lucas Moura and Kaká, now a grizzled veteran at the age of 30.
Across the pitch, Colombia will counter with Radamel Falcao, the Atletico Madrid striker who has been lighting up Europe at an alarming rate over the past few seasons.
If Neymar is the most sought-after transfer prospect currently playing outside Europe, Falcao is almost certainly the most wanted transfer target already there. Like Neymar, the 26-year-old Falcao has the resume to back up the hype.
With so many big names set to play, this one might just be a must-watch.
Russia vs. United States
Details: 10 a.m. ET, Kuban Stadium, Krasnodar, Russia
Why to watch: Decades of geopolitical intrigue are now in the past, but both these nations often play unpredictable, highly watchable football.
Russia currently lead Group F in UEFA World Cup qualifying after beating Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo. Alan Dzagoev, the young forward who impressed at Euro 2012, is in the squad but former captain Andrey Arshavin is not (via New York Times' Goal Blog).
Timmy Chandler is back in the U.S. squad for the first time in 2012, but Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey will both miss out. Jozy Altidore, who scored this goal over the weekend, is back after being snubbed for the team's final semifinal-round World Cup qualifier.
The Jurgen Klinsmann era has been an up-and-down experience for the U.S., but their travels have produced unprecedented success. The Yanks upset Italy in Italy last February and then picked up their first-ever win in Mexico in August.
Will the next big Klinsmann win come against America's former Cold War rival?
Netherlands vs. Germany
Details: 2:30 p.m., Amsterdam Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Why to watch: This is a classic European rivalry, and it doesn't matter that there's nothing on the line or that some of the big names won't play. This one should still produce fireworks.
Netherlands striker Robin van Persie will miss the match (via BBC Sport), but that means we could see Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, the guy who scored 48 goals in all competitions last season for Schalke.
The Dutch melted down at Euro 2012, so every match these days is a chance to start something new. Germany, meanwhile, have been one of Europe's most exciting teams the past few year.
Joachim Low's German squad will be without Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Jerome Boateng (via Fox Sports). Even so, there's enough talent left over to make most of their European rivals jealous.
Italy vs. France
Details: 2:50 p.m., Stadio Ennio Tardini, Parma, Italy
Why to watch: It's another classic European rivalry. Plus, Mario Balotelli's presence on the Italian roster means anything can happen.
Really, that should be enough. If it's not, there's still the fact that both teams boast solid rosters.
France's includes keeper Hugo Lloris, midfielders Yohan Cabaye, Franck Ribery and Yoann Gourcuff and suddenly hot Arsenal forward Olivier Giroud.
Italy will be without midfielder Daniele De Rossi after he lost his mind over the weekend (via Reuters), but Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo and, of course, Balotelli have all been called up.
Saudi Arabia vs. Argentina
Details: Noon, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Why to watch: Lionel Messi is playing.
Messi, 25, recently surpassed some dude called Pelé in the record books for scoring in a single calendar year (via ESPN.co.uk). So we would say that he's on a hot streak, but hot streaks don't generally stretch out for years.
In Riyadh, he'll come up against Frank Rijkaard, his former coach at Barcelona (via Marca). Even though Messi probably won't play the whole match, it's almost certain he'll do something memorable.
How many goals do you think he'll score?