The Runner Sports

Soccer’s International Break Actually Adding Some Flavor?

I know, I know, the international break is normally a time that soccer fans around the world must grit their teeth and get through, but this particular break could provide storylines that actually prove to be interesting.  There are of course the normal array of boring friendlies, Asian and African qualifiers that are either difficult to find on television or unappealing to watch, but the main attraction will be the Euro qualifying playoff round.  In addition to those important matches, South America will resume their World Cup qualifying process and the USMNT will begin their own journey to the World Cup.

Starting with the Euro qualifying, there are four spots remaining for eight teams meaning there will be some decent teams set to miss out on next summer’s European Championship.  Of the four different two-legged ties taking place, the two most intriguing would have to be the Republic of Ireland against Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sweden against Denmark.

The Ireland match, in particular, boasts two squads with a full complement of recognizable names to fans.  Ireland has the likes of John O’Shea of Sunderland, Jonathan Walters of Stoke City, and seemingly half of Everton’s roster with Seamus Coleman in defense, and Aiden McGeady, James McCarthy, and Darron Gibson in midfield.  Bosnia and Herzegovina also have a number of huge names in their squad including, Edin Dzeko, Asmir Begovic, and Miralem Pjanic.  It is a shame one of these two teams will be heading home, but it should make for an entertaining series.

The other Euro playoff match to keep an eye on is between Sweden and Denmark.  If you don’t know by now, Zlatan Ibrahimovic plays for Sweden and any time he takes the field in a knockout game it is must watch in my opinion.  The man isn’t afraid to try the impossible and often enough succeeds. The top goals that he produces make commentators lose their mind which is entertaining by on its own.  If you need more proof, take a look:

At 34 years old, who knows how many more times we will have the opportunity to see Ibrahimovic in a major international tournament.  Sweden needs to qualify for the Euros if for no other reason than to give Ibrahimovic one last opportunity to do the impossible on a big international stage.

Elsewhere in the world, Argentina and Brazil will be playing Thursday in a World Cup qualifier.  This is one of the fiercest rivalries in the world and as both nations have begun the qualifying process slowly the match takes on an even greater importance.  Unfortunately, Argentina will be without a number of their top players as Messi is still out injured as is Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez.  With 16 matches still to go in the qualifying process for South American nations, there is still plenty of time to recover, but if Argentina drops this match along with a difficult away match next week to Columbia things could get tricky.

Brazil, on the other hand, is as loaded as ever with an in-form Neymar leading the way.  That isn’t to say Brazil are guaranteed to win in this match as they have been struggling in the recent past due to some problems in key positions.  The squad for all their talent lack a true striker and a reliable central defender pairing.  It will be interesting to see the lineup sheet and tactical approach Brazil take in the match away to Argentina.

Finally, we get to the United States.  For a review of the roster check out my deconstruction article from last week.  The USMNT face two opponents Friday and Tuesday that they should have no difficulty walking over, but if the past six months are any indication, it isn’t going to be easy.  The first match against St. Vincent and the Grenadines who, I won’t pretend to know anything about, will be played in St. Louis and while the weather won’t exactly be cold, a cool 50-degree night will feel worse than winter for the Carribean guests.  In this match, I expect Jurgen Klinsmann to experiment with his lineup and let’s hope that doesn’t mean putting players out of position.  Matt Miazga and Darlington Nagbe should receive minutes as this is the easier match to get the two youngsters up to speed.

In the match Tuesday, the USMNT travel to Trinidad and Tobago and this particular match will be much more difficult.  Trinidad is led by the giant Kenwyne Jones at striker who is more than capable of causing the U.S. back line problems.  Trinidad was excellent in this summer’s Gold Cup in winning a group that included Mexico.  They drew against Mexico in the group stage and narrowly lost to third place Panama on penalties in the knockout round.

While this weekend’s slate of matches isn’t the same quality as EPL, La Liga, or MLS fans are accustomed to there are some bright spots.  You won’t have to abandon soccer for the week like the most recent international breaks. et’s just hope the U.S. do well, so I don’t have to write an angry article about Klinsmann again.

John Harbeck

Ohio sports and all things soccer.If you like my writing follow me @JHarbeck5 on twitter

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