Tracking Every World Cup Qualifier and Major International Friendly

Dan Talintyre@@dantalintyreSenior Analyst IIFebruary 6, 2013

Tracking Every World Cup Qualifier and Major International Friendly

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    Domestic action will take a backseat this week as World Cup qualifying matches and international friendlies take center stage in world football.

    Right across the globe, over 30 matches will take place in the next few days or so that will have huge ramifications for various leagues and teams.

    The Americas and their World Cup qualifiers; Europe and it's abundance of international friendlies that, in reality, aren't really that friendly at all—all carry enormous significance and importance for the respective teams involved this week.

    Read on to see which countries will be in the winners' circle and which will be left to rue a missed opportunity in the top international matches this week.

Netherlands vs. Italy

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    Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 2:30 p.m. ET

    The Netherlands come into this international friendly as one of the more potent sides in world football, but missing several of their big stars in this one.

    Their midfield is severely depleted with Kevin Strootman accounting for 15 of the 20 international performances to date; something that doesn't seem to bode well with their chances here—especially not against the experience in midfield that Italy possess.

    Andrea Pirlo is having a stellar year for Juventus, and with the attacking brilliance of Stephan El Shaarawy and Mario Balotelli ahead of him, should lead the Azzurri to a strong win here.

    Holland don't have their strongest team on hand, and even if they did, you'd still back the fourth-best team in international football to get the job done.

    Prediction: Netherlands 0, Italy 3

    Final score: Netherlands 1, Italy 1

Mexico vs. Jamaica

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    Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 9:30 p.m. ET

    Jamaica have shocked many just to make it this far in the CONACAF qualification process, but don't look like beating Mexico here in this one.

    The Caribbean-based nation shocked Mexico with a 1-0 in qualification for the 2010 World Cup; something that they'll be desperately hanging on to here, as well as their incredible home victory over the United States last year.

    However, against a Mexican team that has improved dramatically in the past few years and beat heavy favorites Brazil to the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics, they will prove to be in a different class. Mexico have talent right across the pitch and a deadly attack that could run riot in the end.

    They haven't lost at home in a World Cup qualifier in over 12 years, and don't look like breaking that trend against Jamaica here.

    Prediction: Mexico 4, Jamaica 0

    Final score: Mexico 0, Jamaica 0

Argentina vs. Sweden

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    Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 2:30 p.m. ET

    World footballing maestro Lionel Messi will take on attacking wizard Zlatan Ibrahimovic as Argentina clash with Sweden in their international friendly this weekend.

    Both players will no doubt be the talk of the match, but the truth is that incredible talent is on hand for both teams outside of these two—particularly when it comes to the South American giants.

    Their attacking depth includes both Manchester City strikers Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez as well as Angel Di Maria—oh, and then there's Messi to consider also.

    Sweden did put up a strong showing at the 2012 European Championships, playing better than many perhaps expected them to, but simply lack the attacking firepower outside of Ibrahimovic to truly threaten the South American side here.

    Argentina are the third-ranked team in the world for a reason, and they'll prove it with a strong win here.

    Prediction: Argentina 3, Sweden 1

    Final score: Argentina 3, Sweden 2

France vs. Germany

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    Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 3:00 p.m. ET

    France and Germany is shaping as one of the more intriguing matchups to take place this week as the two European superpowers face off for ultimate bragging rights.

    Les Bleus stunned the Germans last time they met, and will be looking to do the same here, but given the current form of several of Joachim Low's men, you'd have to say they will be hard pressed to do so.

    Germany do look to have a number of players absent here, but even still, the likes of Lukas Podolski, Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller and Mario Gomez should be enough to get the job done.

    They are, after all, the second-best team in the world.

    And given they have plenty to play for here—having not beaten France for 25 years—Germany might just fall over the line and break their hoodoo this week.

    Prediction: France 2, Germany 3

    Final score: France 1, Germany 2

Honduras vs. United States

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    Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 4:00 p.m. ET

    The United States will be looking to get the job done away from home here when they take on Honduras—a match that many will expect them to cruise through with ease.

    Yet the reality is that they haven't been playing as well of late—especially in attack—and do tend to struggle when playing away from home. Furthermore, Honduras have been deceptively strong throughout the hexagonal matches so far and look to be a real challenger here for Jürgen Klinsmann's side.

    Clint Dempsey will seemingly need to deliver one of his finest performances if the USMNT are going to get anything out of this one at all—a role that the Tottenham Hotspur-based player will no doubt thrive in.

    But can he get the job done at the San Pedro Sula?

    Honduras posted Canada 8-1 there earlier in the qualification process—a team that the Americans could not even score a goal against in their most recent match.

    They should have the talent to hold out at the back here against the Central American side, but I can't see them getting anything more than a draw from this one. They're simply not as good away from home—especially when the road trips are as tough as this one.

    Prediction: Honduras 1, United States 1

    Final score: Honduras 2, United States 1 

Spain vs. Uruguay

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    Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 1:00 p.m. ET

    Spain are without doubt the best team in international football, and they'll look to assert their dominance once more when they take on Uruguay this week.

    La Furia Roja's possession-based, pressing attack will be without some key players here, but even then, surely they still have enough talent to beat the 16th best team in international football.

    And they will.

    Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani will lead the South American side well in attack here and will threaten the European champions in this one—potentially even finding the back of the net in the process. But against the might that is Spain (as well as in their current form), it's simply too big of an ask for Uruguay to topple Vincente del Bosque's side here.

    Prediction: Spain 2, Uruguay 1

    Final score: Spain 3, Uruguay 1

Panama vs. Costa Rica

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    Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 9:00 p.m. ET

    This one is shaping as boys playing against men as Costa Rica seek to try and gain some sort of credibility again in their CONACAF qualification hexagonal matches.

    They've been poor throughout the tournament in matches that they really should have offered more in and, now playing away from home, look to be unlikely to pull of anything special here.

    Panama's incredible win against Honduras showed just what they're capable of in 2013, and having the home ground advantage this time around should further enhance their dominance in this one.

    They haven't lost at home in their last 10 competitive matches; expect Panama to extend that streak to 11 with a solid win against Costa Rica here.

    Prediction: Panama 2, Costa Rica 0

    Final score: Panama 2, Costa Rica 2

Portugal vs. Ecuador

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    Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 3:45 p.m. ET

    Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking to end a four-game scoreless streak for Portugal when the European powerhouse take on Ecuador this week in their international friendly.

    Portugal haven't won in their past three matches, and will certainly have their work cut out for them here against the 12th best team in international football.

    Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia will hold a key role in both attack and defense here for the South Americans—especially if he can shut down the Madrid superstar.

    Whilst Portugal hasn't won an international match since September 2012, Ecuador remain undefeated since even longer than that, and will no doubt be a genuine chance here. They probably lack the final punch to truly punish the European side here, but should be good enough to at least extent Portugal's winless streak for another match.

    Prediction: Portugal 2, Ecuador 2

    Final score: Portugal 2, Ecuador 3

Slovenia vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina

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    Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. ET

    They might not be attracting the headlines like other teams in European football, but Bosnia-Herzegovina are playing some brilliant football at the moment against top international teams.

    Currently ranked as the 26th best international team, Bosnia are shockingly on top of Group G after their four World Cup qualifying matches. What's more, they haven't lost a single match in that time also, netting 15 goals at one end and allowing just two goals in that time period as well.

    They truly are playing some solid football right now and will look to extend that streak when they take on lowly Slovenia here, who don't look like offering a great deal in response.

    Manager Srecko Katanec is back coaching the team after a decade-long hiatus, which has given them some increased self-belief and performance, but they'll be hard-pressed to stop a side that is flying high with their momentum and belief right now.

    Expect Bosnia to extent their undefeated streak with another win here.

    Prediction: Slovenia 0, Bosnia-Herzegovina 1

    Final score: Slovenia 0, Bosnia-Herzegovina 3

England vs. Brazil

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    Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 2:30 p.m. ET

    Easily the most anticipated of all fixtures this week has to be that of England and Brazil, which will take place at the iconic Wembley Stadium.

    The Three Lions rank significantly higher than the South American giants at the moment, but that's simply due to the fact that Brazil have a free ride to the 2014 World Cup because they're the hosts. In reality, they're significantly stronger than that, and will prove just how dominant they can be in midfield against England in this one.

    England are without a number of players, but will still line up a relatively strong squad for this one. This one will be played in the 150th year celebration of the FA and will mark the 100th career game for defender Ashley Cole as well, so theyll no doubt be looking for a solid performance here.

    It is hard to go against the might of Brazil in midfield dominating Tom Cleverley and Steven Gerrard at times given how brilliant we know they can be in attack. But the Three Lions have more to play for here in an otherwise meaningless international friendly, and will not disappoint against one of the top teams in international football.

    Can they go all the way and get a victory? As nice as it might be, probably not, but they'll certainly come close to finishing off the Pentacampeos here. Close, but not quite.

    Prediction: England 1, Brazil 1

    Final score: England 2, Brazil 1

    What are your predictions for the international matches this week?

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