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World Cup Qualifying: 5 Games You Absolutely Can't Miss This Week

Dan TalintyreSenior Analyst IIMarch 19, 2013

World Cup Qualifying: 5 Games You Absolutely Can't Miss This Week

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    International football takes over this week as both the 2014 World Cup qualifiers and a host of international friendlies are set to take place across the world.

    And with a plethora of matches to choose from, it can be a little daunting in deciding which fixtures are worthy of your attention this week and which are not.

    That's why we've tracked the top-five games this week for you to watch—five games that you simply cannot afford to miss this week in international football.

    Read on to see which games they are and when they'll be taking place.

Croatia vs. Serbia

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    Friday, March 22, at 1 p.m. ET

    The relationship between Croatia and Serbia is certainly not the best, with the two countries in complete opposition to each other due to various geographical and political factors.

    That means that every time they take the sporting field together, there's plenty of tension and aggression involved, and look for the same to take place again here.

    Away fans have been banned from their two respective World Cup qualifiers, so Croatia will have a huge advantage playing at home here. And given the context of this game within their group, that advantage could turn out to be a crucial factor in this match.

    The Croats (second place) are currently six points clear of third-placed Serbia and could solidify that margin with a win here.However, as the qualifiers wear on, Serbia will be looking for three points here to close the gap against the top teams in Croatia and Belgium.

    But it is hard to go against the home side here given their sheer home-ground advantage and the talent they have displayed throughout the competition.

    Prediction: Croatia 1, Serbia 0

Sweden vs. Republic of Ireland

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    Friday, March 22, at 3:45 p.m. ET

    With Germany dominating Group C, both Sweden and the Republic of Ireland are seemingly battling it out for second place—something that Sweden can surely secure with victory here.

    Sweden managed to hold the Germans to a stunning 4-4 draw most recently, whilst Ireland were demolished 6-1 in their encounter earlier in the competition. And if both sides bring those respective forms to the table, then we should expect another comfortable victory for the Swedes.

    But Ireland cannot be counted out here, and will look to utilize the wings well against Sweden. They have a dynamic midfield at their best, and will certainly push the home side.

    But anytime Zlatan Ibrahimovic takes the field, it's hard to count him out. Look for the PSG striker to once again prove his international worth with a big goal here.

    Prediction: Sweden 2, Rep. of Ireland 0

Israel vs. Portugal

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    Friday, March 22, at 9:45 a.m. ET

    Portugal are seriously struggling in Group F this year and need to get a win if they are eventually going to progress through to the 2014 World Cup. They're currently five points behind Russia and tied for second place with Israel—making this game a crucial one for both teams to come out on top of.

    Led by Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal certainly have a depth of talent that should be able to get the job done here against Israel. But given their performances so far in the tournament, the home side certainly can't be counted out and should put up a strong showing in front of their home fans here.

    I'd say Portugal finally come out on top after a very close match—giving them a crucial, momentum-building victory and three points to boost their WC qualifying stock.

    Prediction: Israel 1, Portugal 2

Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. Greece

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    Friday, March 22, at 3:45 p.m. ET

    Few would have predicted that Bosnia-Herzegovina would be top of their World Cup qualifying group, but after four games—there they are. They currently sit on 10 points (undefeated) with an impressive goal record that boasts 15 scored and just two against in four games.

    They'll face their biggest test here, however, when they take on Greece.

    Greece, too, are undefeated in the tournament on 10 points and have conceded just one goal through their four matches to date. They are a very tough team to break down defensively, and playing away from home, will be looking to consolidate their backline rather than playing an exciting brand of attacking football like their opponents may be willing to do.

    Hard to see too many goals being scored in this one, and whilst Bosnia-Herzegovina are on a roll, it's difficult to see them getting past Greece's defense either.

    Shared points on the night, with both teams remaining undefeated still.

    Prediction: Bosnia-Herzegovina 0, Greece 0

San Marino vs. England

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    Friday, March 22, at 5 p.m. ET

    One final World Cup qualifying match you've got to see this week is England, playing away from home, but against one of the worst sides in San Marino.

    In their four games so far, San Marino have been beaten in all four, have conceded 16 goals throughout and hasn't managed to score a goal at the other end of the field. 

    England, by comparison, are undefeated and have scored 12 goals, with just two coming against.

    Those numbers point toward a very strong win for the Three Lions here, which could in fact make this match enjoyable for the viewer. At their best, England can be a free-flowing team that moves the ball brilliantly through their midfield, and you can expect them to do the same again here.

    Sometimes, watching one team dominate the other can make for good viewing—as bad as you might feel for the other team afterwards. But hey, that's life, and the Three Lions should be expected to enforce another big loss on San Marino in this one.

    Prediction: San Marino 0, England 4

     

    What World Cup qualifiers are you most looking forward to this week?

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