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World’s best squaring off in high-profile friendlies

Maicon Brazil 1 (Getty Images) 
  
by FRANCO PANIZO

With the World Cup in sight, most of this weekend's attention will be towards the remaining qualifiers, but there are a few high-profile friendlies on tap today that might be just as exciting.

England-Brazil is one of those matches, as the Three Lions will took to topple Brazil for the first time since 1990, a stretch of seven games that includes a 2-1 loss in the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup.

If Fabio Capello's men are to put an end to that streak they will have to do so with a depleted roster. England will be without some of their top players, including Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand, who are all unavailable due to injury. Throw in David Beckham's omission due to MLS playoff duty, and England does not look as strong as the team that soared through qualifying.

Brazil, on the other hand, enters the match relatively healthy. Kaka, Maicon, Felipe Melo and Julio Cesar headline a loaded team that finished first in CONMEBOL qualifying. Dunga's Seleccao also heads into Saturday's match in Doha, Qatar riding the confidence of winning the Confederations Cup earlier this year.

Here is a look at some of this weekend's other intriguing friendlies:

Spain-Argentina

If you are a fan of quick passing and technically-savvy players, you are in for a treat when Argentina faces Spain.

Boasting a roster that includes stars Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and Carles Puyol, Spain remains one of the world's top teams, demonstrating a beautiful brand of soccer while continuously churning out results. Over the past three years – a span of 42 games - Spain has only lost once, falling 2-0 at the hands of the United States in this summer's Confederations Cup.

Argentina will look to hand them their second defeat, but head coach Diego Maradona has called on attacker Lionel Messi to display the same brilliance he constantly shows with FC Barcelona in order for that to happen. Messi has had some lackluster performances with the albiceleste, but an impressive showing against the Spaniards could silence his and Argentina's critics.

Italy-Netherlands

Both Italy and the Netherlands breezed through qualifying, and both national teams will have a better test to gauge themselves against this weekend.

The Dutch won their group convincingly, claiming Group 9 en route to becoming the first European team to clinch their spot in South Africa. However, Robin van Persie, Dirk Kuyt and company need a tougher foe to judge where exactly the team stands, and they will get that against the reigning World Cup champions.

The Azzurri also went undefeated in qualifying, winning seven games and drawing three in UEFA's Group 8, but the group rarely tested Italy. The Italians will not only be looking for a bigger challenge at home against the Netherlands, they will also be looking for revenge. It was in Euro 2008 that Italy embarassingly opened up their tournament against the Netherlands, losing 3-0 to the Oranje.

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What do you think of these high-profile friendlies? Do you see England beating Brazil? Will Maradona and Argentina shock Spain? Think the Netherlands will defeat Italy?

Share your thoughts below.

Comments

  1. don’t know where to post this….did anyone catch dolo drag himself off the pitch (holding his knee) at the end of the USA match?? Ives, any word if he is seriously injured?

    Reply
  2. I agree on Bornstein, Casey, and Klejstan not going and would add a few more.

    I don’t understand England and Slovakia playing so defensive conservative soccer in friendlies. To me it doesn’t make sense.

    Reply
  3. Doesn’t it seem like the USA should be producing athletic, serviceable players like James Milner in spades? He’s not a world-beater by any means (who just missed an open net against Brazil), but he’s a strong, hard-working player who fits right into any game plan. Instead, we can hardly find a decent replacement when our first choice at any position can’t go. I find it mind-boggling that Bornstein, Casey, and Klejstan are the best we can send to the World Cup.

    Ah, well. Let’s all pray Donovan is ready to go. If we lost him we’d be in dire straits.

    Reply
  4. British announcers insist on calling Kak√° “KA-kuh.” Would it really take much effort to get it right?

    Dunga is still sporting that pale yellow shirt….the kind some 70-year-old man would donate to a second-hand shop.

    Reply

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