By FRANCO PANIZO
The upcoming FIFA fixture date will be the final time national teams across the globe are tested and tried before their rosters for the World Cup are released, and for soccer fans everywhere that means there are plenty of intriguing matches on tap.
From Germany-Argentina, to France-Spain, to the United States-Netherlands, the final FIFA fixture date is loaded with high-profile matches that should provide one last taste of quality international soccer before the big show in June. There will also be several interesting storylines to follow, such as how England copes with the John Terry scandal against Egypt.
Here is a closer look at some of Wednesday's bigger friendlies, as well as the full list of games:
GERMANY vs. ARGENTINA
A rematch of a 2006 World Cup quarterfinal will pit Germany and Argentina against one another, but both teams enter the match looking for solutions to unique situations.
Argentina enters the match trying to erase the memories of a difficult qualifying campaign, and head coach Diego Maradona has yet to figure out how to get reigning World Player of the Year Leo Messi to perform at the same level he does with Barcelona. The friendly will not only give Maradona one more chance to solve the Messi dilemma, it will also hand him another opportunity to convince Argentine fans that the albiceleste have what it takes to make it far this summer.
Germany isn't reeling from a string of poor performance like Argentina, but is still dealing with the loss of starting goalkeeper Robert Enke, who committed suicide back in November. Rene Adler and Manuel Neuer are fighting for the top spot, but if their inexperience at the international level (they have ten caps combined) proves to be too much of a liability against Argentina, Die Mannschaft might be left scrambling for another 'keeper.
ENGLAND vs. EGYPT
Just how will England deal with the John Terry scandal that won't go away? The Three Lions' friendly against Egypt might reveal the answer.
Along with having to deal with the Terry issue, and the media hoopla that will surely come with it, England has other problems to solve. Left back is an area of concern for manager Fabio Capello, as incumbent Ashley Cole is out with a broken ankle and Wayne Bridge has rejected a call-up because of the Terry situation. Goalkeeper is also a position that needs addressing, as no English netminder in this cycle has cemented a starting role.
While the friendly won't mean as much to Egypt due to its failure to qualify for the World Cup, the Pharoahs are coming off winning their third consecutive African Cup of Nations, and is capable of pulling off the upset at Wembley Stadium. Forwards Mohamed Zidan and Amr Zaki should prove to be a handful for England's defenders, but stopping red-hot Wayne Rooney may prove to be too difficult a task.
FRANCE vs. SPAIN
Nicolas Anelka vs. Carles Puyol. Franck Ribery and Florent Malouda vs. Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Fernando Torres vs. Bacary Sagna.
Those are just some of the quality match-ups that will likely be on display when France and Spain face off in arguably the biggest match of the FIFA date. Both teams boast quality at nearly every position, but France needs a convincing performance over Spain, which has lost only once in its past 44 matches, to ease some of the pressure on manager Raymond Domenech.
Here is the full slate of international matches:
Brazil vs. Ireland
Macedonia vs. Montenegro Switzerland vs. Uruguay Cyprus vs. Iceland Austria vs. Denmark Ivory Coast vs. South Korea Poland vs. Bulgaria Armenia vs. Belarus Albania vs. Northern Ireland Georgia vs. Estonia Belgium vs. Croatia Greece vs. Senegal Germany vs. Argentina Angola vs. Latvia Italy vs. Cameroon Nigeria vs. Congo DR Netherlands vs. United States Slovakia vs. Norway Slovenia vs. Qatar Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. Ghana Wales vs. Sweden Moldova vs. Kazakhstan England vs. Egypt Malta vs. Finland France vs. Spain Turkey vs. Honduras Scotland vs. Czech Republic Algeria vs. Serbia Portugal vs. China Hungary vs. Russia Venezuela vs. Panama South Africa vs. Namibia El Salvador vs. Guatemala Romania vs. Israel New Zealand vs. Mexico Luxembourg vs. Azerbaijan
Which matches are you most looking forward to? Any particular match-ups you're keen on watching? What excuse will you be using to call in sick to work?
Share your thoughts below.