Preview: Costa Rica hoping to return to winning ways
La Sele have lost all of their last three matches and will be hoping to round off their preparations for the World Cup on a winning note with a positive performance against Paraguay. Costa Rica have failed to score in any of their last three defeats, with their previous encounter against South Korea ending in a 1-0 loss. Their other defeats include a 4-0 hammering at the hands of Chile as well as a 1-0 to Australia who have also successfully qualified for this year’s World Cup to be held in Brazil.
Preview: Herrera to test Mexico's European-based talents
No Joseph Yobo for reigning African champions Nigeria. The captain has been ruled out through injury. This will thus make way for 25-year-old Norwich defender Leon Balogun to make his debut. Speaking about the German-born player, Nigerian official Ben Alaiya was quoted as saying by BBC Sport:
“Balogun has joined the team here in Atlanta. He's very positive and mixing with others players already.
“The game against Mexico is crucial for players like Balogun and others who are keen to make a good impression ahead of the World Cup.”
Preview: English players will be fighting for a spot in Brazil
Wednesday's match against Denmark will be one of two chances for England's players to prove that they deserve a spot at the World Cup. They will take on Peru at the end of May, with Hodgson making his final 23-man selection on June 2nd.
One new face for the hosts will be Luke Shaw, who will go head-to-head with Ashley Cole for a spot in the squad, alongside Leighton Baines of Everton.
The young Southampton left-back has been impressive over the last two years and could be finally set to enter the big stage at the age of 18. With Ashley Cole's role at the club level becoming a question mark, it could be time for Luke Shaw to shine.
Preview: Can Sweden beat the Turks in this prestigious friendly?
The Swedish were in touching distance of the World Cup. They took on Portugal and had a legitimate chance of qualifying as Zlatan Ibrahimovic took control. Unfortunately, at the other end of the pitch, stood the indefatigable Cristiano Ronaldo. Ibrahimovic, many a time PSG’s savior, struck twice but Ronaldo’s goals at the other end more than made up for the two he scored. Nonetheless, the match showcased his excellence. The Swede put in a brilliant showing against Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the UEFA Champions League to once again lift PSG recently as well.
Preview: Ukrainian players will have a lot on their mind
Wednesday’s match will be a stern test for the Ukrainian players. With all that is happening off the field, the sound of their national anthem will provide a very emotional moment for some.
The protests in Crimea have forced officials to move the match from Ukraine to Cyprus. Originally the president of Ukraine’s Football Federation was not interested in taking part in the match, but he quickly changed his mind.
"After announcing our intention to cancel the flight to Cyprus for a friendly against the U.S. soccer team and with regard to the military aggression of Russian Federation in Ukraine's autonomous region of Crimea, I received numerous phone calls from public and football representatives who expressed various views on this decision," Konkov said, according to Reuters.
Preview: Brazil poised to maintain good form
The Seleção have been in terrific form recently having won all of their last six friendly matches and will be hoping to keep their streak going with a win over Bafana Bafana. Luiz Felipe Scolari's men have not played a competitive match since defeating reigning World champions Spain in the Confederations Cup Final, owing to the fact that they are hosting this year’s tournament.
However their next three friendlies including the ones against Panama and Serbia which follow their trip to South Africa will potentially prepare them for the test they are to face at this year’s illustrious event.
Preview: New faces will have to give it their all on Wednesday night
Portugal will welcome two new faces to the squad on Wednesday, with both looking to make a positive first impression. Sporting de Braga’s Rafa and Benfica’s Ivan Cavaleiro were called up for the first time, and they will want to give Paulo Bento a selection headache when it comes to making his final picks for the upcoming World Cup.
Rafa has performed well at the club level this season, despite having only scored three goals in 19 appearances. As for Ivan Cavaleiro, he enjoyed great success with Benfica B, but since breaking into the Lisbon side’s first team, his playing time has been inconsistent.
Preview: Black Stars prepare for upcoming World Cup in a friendly test with unknown opponents
Placed in what has been described as this year's "Group of Death" alongside European heavyweights Germany and Portugal as well as familiar foe United States, Ghana will certainly have a tough task ahead to qualify for the knockout stages in their third World Cup appearance.
Hence, in order to prepare for the eagerly anticipated tournament, the Black Stars will be taking on several European and South American teams over the next few months so as to get a feel of what to expect once in Brazil.
Preview: A good rehearsal for both teams, staged in Barcelona
Tunisia emphatically failed to reach Brazil 2014 last November. The goalless result of the first leg against Cameroon in the playoffs left them hopeful. However, the Indomitable Lions played with a lot of hunger back home and dismantled their opponents 4-1.
For the Tunisians, the 2014 FIFA World Cup will have to be followed on TV but Wednesday will offer them the opportunity to come up against a qualified team, Colombia.
The South Americans had a rather smooth World Cup qualification campaign. To prepare for their clash against African giants Cote d’Ivoire in Group C, Los Cafeteros will want to beat Tunisia without the help of injured striker Radamel Falcao.
Preview: Socceroos to take field without captain Lucas Neill
Despite of signing a short term contract with English side Watford, the 34 year old has failed to make it to Ange Postecoglou’s 23 man squad to face Ecuador. The former Everton man had been without a club after Japanese side Omiya Ardija refused to offer him a contract extension, with incoming manager Ange Postecoglou making his intentions of only including players who feature regularly for their clubs loud and clear.
Apart from the veteran who was axed from the squad, there were some surprise inclusions with all of Curtis Good (Dundee United), Chris Herd (Aston Villa), Massimo Luongo (Swindon Town) and Ben Halloran (Fortuna Dusseldorf) in contention to make their international debuts.
Preview: Can Löw’s charges beat Chile?
Germany does not have a good track record when it comes to friendlies. They just do not seem to take friendlies too seriously. Joachim Löw, the man charged with leading the Germans to their first international trophy since Euro 1996, has chosen four debutants. Matthias Ginter of SC Freiburg is one of them. Andre Hahn of FC Augsburg is another.
Pierre-Michel Lasogga has been named as one of only two strikers in the squad alongside veteran Miroslav Klose. His performances have been impressive despite the overall performance of his fledgling team, Hamburger SV. The more surprising pick is perhaps Skhodran Mustafi considering that rarely does a German who does not feature in the Bundesliga get picked in the national side. The youngster features for UC Sampdoria in Italy’s Serie A.
Preview: Can Austria silence Luis Suarez’s Uruguay?
The Austrian squad has a distinctive Bundesliga flavor to it. Some of its leading men ply their trade in Germany, none so less than David Alaba. Alaba plays a midfield role for the national side but features as a left back for his club. He runs the midfield with power and energy; whereas, he is usually seen motoring down the left for Bayern, he is found calm and composed for country, ready to drive forward when needed.
His supporting cast includes the captain and ex Bundesliga star, Andreas Ivanschitz. Ivanschitz currently plies his trade in Spain where he features for Levante. Christian Fuchs, Schalke’s marauding defender, also features for Austria. Emmanuel Pogatetz, Zlatko Junuzovic and Sebastian Prödl are three more Bundesliga stars who are part of the Austrian setup. Martin Harnik helps Austria get some goals whenever he can. Marko Arnautovic, who used to feature for Bremen and now features for Stoke, shows up with a big performance when he wants to.
Preview: Sabella looking to finalize squad for World Cup
Wednesday’s fixture will allow coach Alejandro Sabella to take a final look at all his players before he decides as to who will make the trip to Brazil for the mega event. One player who is expected to not make the squad is Juventus forward Carlos Tevez.
The former Man City striker last featured for La Albiceleste in the 2011 Copa America quarterfinal and has been overlooked for the national team since the arrival of Sabella in August 2011.
Preview: An excellent warm-up ahead of Brazil 2014
The Elephants flopped at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. Four years later, they were keen to improve but it was never going to be easy to qualify into the knockout stages with Portugal and powerhouse Brazil completing the ‘Group of Death’. Not even the spirit of the African soil offered luck to the Ivoirians.
This time, the World Cup fiesta will take place on the land of the most successful footballing nation. During the draw last year, the West Africans fell into Group C with Colombia, Greece and Japan. Cote d’Ivoire stand a good chance of finally getting third time lucky.
Preview: A lot of new faces, but neither side will want to lose
Carson, California will be the setting for an international friendly between the USA and Korea. The StubHub Center will welcome Korean coach Hong Myung-Bo for the first time, since he announced his retirement in 2004.
Neither side will have their usual lot of players available for this match.
The visitors arrive with a number of players who are employed in the domestic South Korean K-League. Myung-Bo has also called on three players who play in the Japanese J-League, and one other player who represents Chinese club Beijing Guoan.
Preview: Another Ibra-Ronaldo showdown on the cards
Last time the two men were on the same pitch the match ended in a five goal thriller and both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo scored all of their side’s goals as Portugal beat Sweden 3-2 in the second leg of the WCQ play-off to secure a place in the last 32.
This time when the two men face one another, the match will be played in the context of a friendly match but there is no denying that it promises to be a spectacle given the number of world class players which are present on either side.
The match is scheduled to take place at the Toyota Stadium in Texas on January 31, 2014. The home crowd will be looking forward to another terrific display from USA’s female soccer stars. The last meeting between the two rivals produced a 3-0 result with Sydney Leroux and Alex Morgan getting the goals.
The Canadians have bad memories of their last international game at Toyota Stadium. That was back in May 2007 when they succumbed to a 6-2 loss to the United States. Neutrals will be hoping for a much closer contest this time round although records recall that the hosts have won all games in Texas.
However, odds are totally against Canada who have lost 46 out of 54 encounters against the USWNT. Tom Sermanni’s ladies are flying high with a year-long unbeaten record (13W-3D-0L). The coach told the press:
Preview: Brazil face stiff Chile test in international friendly
Both Brazil and Chile have performed admirably in the recent past, having scored easy victories over Honduras and England respectively. Brazil scored an emphatic 5-0 victory over the Central Americans whereas Chile humbled the three lions 2-0 at Wembley.
Tuesday’s match will be an interesting encounter between two South American teams who have caught a few eyes. Brazil have been mesmerizing in 2013, having just lost twice under the tutelage of Luiz Felipe Scolari. The Samba giants have won all their last five matches in terrific fashion and Scolari has lauded his players for performing commendably as a unit.
Preview: Austria will be a tough test, after a scoreless draw in Scotland
Austria came up just short in Group C, as they finished three points behind Sweden. With 17 points from 10 matches, the Austrians will not have been too upset, considering they had Germany, Sweden and even the Republic of Ireland in their group.
Having to turn the page and look at their future beyond next year's World Cup, Austria has failed to qualify for a World Cup since 1998. They will now need to put all their focus on the upcoming European Championship in 2016, which will be held in France.
Preview: Much more than just a friendly between two rivals
The German camp is currently trying to fully absorb the loss of one of their own to an ACL injury. Sami Khedira is set to miss the next six months of competitive football and might not be match fit ahead of the World Cup. Joachim Löw, while unhappy, is not too worried. He sent both Philipp Lahm and Manuel Neuer home from the camp to Bayern so as to experiment with the rest of the squad members.
The defensive midfield combination he will try will thus be devoid of both the stalwarts from the past three years, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira. Löw has also sent Mesut Özil back to Arsenal. He has been criticized for favoring the Bayern players ahead of Dortmund’s players as he has allowed the Bayern players additional rest by sending two of them back before the crunch fixture against BVB on Saturday. Löw replied in a rather straightforward manner. This is what he had to say according to ESPN: