International friendlies preview
The second international break of the 2014/2015 season provides an opportunity for managers to give players who have shone in the early months for their domestic club an opportunity to represent their country. Although numerous countries will be preparing for their fourth Euro 2016 qualifying game, others will have the chance to tinker and try new tactics in challenging friendly matches against strong opposition. They may be considered irrelevant, but international friendlies are treated equally as seriously as qualifying matches by managers who have the opportunity to get their players together in training camps and assess whether they deserve their call-up and a first team start. Several players who featured in the recent Manchester derby will be among those who travel out to represent their country in all four corners of the world, with Brazil, Holland and Argentina among those who are set to play on November 12th.
Turkey v Brazil
Four consecutive victories may have restored the nation’s faith in the Selecao, but Brazil have a long way to go before they can repair the substantial damage caused by their painful 2014 World Cup exit hosted in their own backyard. Dunga has returned for a second spell as national team manager following Felipe Scolari’s resignation, with the former dynamic midfielder selecting a 23-man squad that reflects a bright future for Brazil. Neto, Roberto Firmino and Luiz Adriano have earned their first call-ups following excellent performances for their respective clubs, while Casemiro, Marquinhos and Fred represent exciting inclusions. Neymar, Thiago Silva and Oscar remain the focal points of the Brazil team and may need to be on top form as they are likely to face a hostile reception in Turkey. Facing one of the most prestigious nations in world football should attract a bumper crowd at the Ataturk Olimpiyat Stadi, although Fatih Terim’s side will have to considerably improve if they are to send their fans home happy. Recording just 1 point from a possible 9 has left Turkey bottom of their Euro 2016 qualifying group below Kazakhstan and Latvia, but in Arda Turan, Hakan Calhanoglu and Olcay Sahan they have players who can cause Brazil problems.
Holland v Mexico
A repeat of the 2014 World Cup second round clash is arguably the stand-out friendly as Mexico will look to gain revenge against a Holland team who have struggled since finishing third in Brazil. The loss of Louis Van Gaal to Manchester United has had a detrimental effect, with Guus Hiddink already under pressure following a poor start to his second spell in charge of the national team. Holland have made a habit of qualifying for major tournaments with relative ease in recent years, but 2 defeats in their first 3 games against the Czech Republic and Iceland has left many wondering if Hiddink, at the age of 68, is the right man to replace Van Gaal. The upcoming friendly against Mexico is the ideal test of Holland’s credentials, but may have come at the worst time for a team devoid of confidence and ideas. Mexico, on the other hand, made many friends following their excellent World Cup performances, with Miguel Herrera creating a team packed with youth, speed and vibrancy. They will arrive at the Amsterdam ArenA with no fear, in the knowledge that they have more than enough to trouble Holland who were saved by two late goals, including a 94th minute penalty which broke Mexican hearts.
Argentina v Croatia
The upcoming friendly against Argentina and Croatia will be the first of many that are played in England as part of football’s global appeal to play matches in other parts of the world. Upton Park, the home of West Ham, provides the setting for Lionel Messi to play a starring role for the World Cup runners-up in front of a bumper crowd who will flock to see one of the world’s best players perform. Argentina, under their new manager Gerardo Martino, gained revenge by beating Germany 4-2 in Dusseldorf, without Messi, two months after they lost the Final, but more work will need to be done before critics are convinced they are amongst the most dominant forces in world football. It will be interesting to see how Argentina play outside of their comfort zone at a neutral venue, particularly against a plucky Croatia side who are bang in form. 3 wins from 3 in their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign means Niko Kovac’s side arrive in East London in supreme confidence, although Croatia may opt to experiment and rest the likes of Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric with a crunch qualifying tie against Italy lying in wake four days later.