International Friendlies Preview: Rome awaits former world champs, Portugal host Netherlands
By Football News
Former world champions Italy and Argentina face off for the first time in 12 years in the pick of Wednesday's international friendly action.
The match in Rome will give Cesare Prandelli's men an opportunity to continue to strengthen against tough opposition after finishing third in the FIFA Confederations Cup in June.
But with their last international outing going to penalties after ending 2-2 against Uruguay, Italy will be hoping for a more convincing result against Argentina and have a strong squad to achieve it.
Among the players returning to the Italy set-up are controversial strikers Pablo Osvaldo and Mario Balotelli, with the former netting 16 goals in 29 Serie A appearances for Roma last season.
Two more eye-catching friendlies scheduled for midweek will see Portugal and England host Netherlands and Scotland respectively.
While the fixture at the Estadio Algarve will see new captain Robin van Persie, last season’s top scorer in the Premier League, continue to lead the visitors, England could freshen up with a new recruit.
Hosts England welcome Scotland to Wembley and, like many of their international rivals, may opt to use a friendly as an opportunity to experiment with their starting XI in preparation for their upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Southampton striker Rickie Lambert, 31, has been handed his first call-up after being the joint-top English scorer in his first season in the Premier League thanks to 15 goals in 38 appearances.
England are not the only team to make changes as World Cup hosts Brazil, although remaining virtually completely unaltered from the side that won the Confederations Cup, have called up Maxwell.
Like Lambert, Paris Saint-Germain defender Maxwell is no youngster, but the 31-year-old finally has the chance to represent the senior side with Real Madrid’s Marcelo still not completely fit.
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men will look to continue an 11-match unbeaten run when they take on Switzerland in Basel, but their hosts will relish the chance to pit themselves against the 2002 World Cup winners.
Current World Cup holders Spain are also in action and had not lost a fixture since November 2011 before being beaten by Brazil in the Confederations Cup final in July.
Spain will be looking to bounce back against Ecuador and boast a strong side, with Thiago Alcantara one of the five Under-21 players set to make the step up to the senior ranks for the encounter.
France and Germany take on Belgium and Paraguay respectively.
Didier Deschamps has opted to call Eric Abidal and Samir Nasri back for France's trip to Brussels, while Germany are without promising youngster Julian Draxler due to a heel injury.
There are also a large number of other matches set to take place on Wednesday, including Japan against Uruguay, Sweden playing host to Norway and Austria entertaining Greece, while Poland and Romania welcome Denmark and Slovakia respectively.
Turkey's trip to Uzbekistan, meanwhile, has been called off due to extreme heat.