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Crucial Week Ahead For These Six Countries

Club football takes a backseat over the next two weeks as the first international football of the year takes place across the world.

For some countries the latest round of important qualification matches for the 2018 World Cup in Russia have become must-win games, while for some countries they can all but lock up a place in Russia next summer with ins.

Here is a look at the highlights of the upcoming round of international games.

1: Four Points A Must For USA

It has been a tough week for USA head coach Bruce Arena, who has seen 3 potential starters for the upcoming matches against Honduras (March 24, home) and Panama (March 28, away) drop our due to injury.

Arena and the US find themselves with their backs against the wall, bottom of the group after failing to win either of their opening two matches. The Americans find themselves already four points behind third place Panama, a gap that they cannot allow to grow any larger this week.

2: Decisive World Cup qualifying meeting in Dublin

As we approach the mid-way point on the road to Russia, there’s plenty to play for at the Aviva Stadium as the Republic of Ireland take on Wales under the Friday night lights.

Wales may have taken the neutrals’ vote as they stormed to the semi-finals at Euro 2016, but they have begun their World Cup qualifying campaign sluggishly, with three frustrating draws from their opening four matches.

By contrast, Ireland top qualifying Group D, having taken maximum points from three games and drawn another in Serbia. A win over Wales would see them take a firm grip on the group.

The visitors are boosted by news that talisman Gareth Bale is fit again following an ankle injury and the Real Madrid star is motivated as he closes in on Ian Rush’s 28-goal record for Wales.

3: Last hope for Scotland’s World Cup hopes

It’s been the same old story for the Tartan Army in this qualifying campaign, with heavy away losses to England and Slovakia, and a dire home draw with Lithuania, leaving them off the pace in Group F.

Realistically, in order to stand any chance of reaching the play-offs, they need to beat Slovenia – currently in second place behind England – at Hampden Park on Sunday night.

First, Scotland warm up for that important occasion with an Easter Road friendly with Canada on Wednesday night, though their chances in both have been affected by injury withdrawals of Matt Phillips, James McArthur and Grant Hanley.

West Brom’s James Morrison is also a doubt for the first of their double-header, while manager Gordon Strachan is worried by the facts none of his striker have started many games lately.

It’ll be a very long remainder of the year for Scotland if they don’t take three points against Slovenia.

4: Work to do for Ronaldo and his Portuguese company

They may have recorded thumping 6-0 wins over both Andorra and the Faroe Islands – and beaten Latvia 4-1 – but free-scoring Portugal sit second in Group B and with work to do.

That’s because of their 2-0 loss to leaders Switzerland in Basle at the start of the campaign back in September.

As holders of the European Championship, it’s unthinkable that Portugal won’t be at the World Cup and they can afford no slip-ups when they host Hungary on Saturday night.

These two teams played out a thrilling 3-3 draw at Euro 2016, but Portugal – for whom Ronaldo will win a 137th cap – would settle for a nice and easy win in Lisbon.

5: Argentina need to get their act together

It really wouldn’t be a World Cup without Argentina there, but they are running the risk of not making it following an inconsistent qualification campaign.

They currently sit in fifth in South America’s marathon group phase, on course for an inter-confederation play-off with someone from Oceania, but with Colombia and Paraguay breathing down their necks.

The World Cup without Lionel Messi? Unthinkable. With six matches remaining, their games with Chile in Buenos Aires on Thursday and Bolivia in La Paz on Tuesday take on enormous significance.

6: But Brazil are pretty much on the plane!

Brazil’s qualifying campaign has been much less turbulent and, with a four-point lead over Uruguay at the top of the CONMEBOL standings, they’re pretty much over the line.

A 2-0 defeat in Chile in their opening qualifier has so far been the only blip and they’ve efficiently moved up through the gears to take control of the group.

Their 3-0 win over old rivals Argentina in Belo Horizonte back in November has been the highlight and this time they head to their nearest challengers Uruguay before hosting Paraguay.

Win both of those and they can book the tickets for that very long flight over to Moscow.

{ 40 comments… add one }
  • Raymond L. February 27, 2015, 5:11 am

    I have nothing against FIFA choosing Qatar as hosts of 2022 World Cup—it’ll certainly be historically significant being the first World Cup tournament to be held in the Middle East. However, did any of the FIFA officials thought about the temperatures there when they gave the country the privilege to host the planet’s biggest sporting event?

  • eric June 23, 2010, 12:48 pm

    Will see Germany today. Usa now had a strike of luck.

    I want Brazil to win, or argentina.

  • gewinnspiel June 8, 2010, 3:00 pm

    I think Spain will win the soccer World Champions title in South Africa. They are in a real good shape right now and won’t be stopped.

  • Jose January 6, 2010, 11:26 am

    Hi, boys, Brazil is not in a “dead group”. Please wait and see what happens to France when meeting Uruguay, jaja! You know little about football.

  • Victoriano June 24, 2009, 4:41 pm

    Busco entradas de la copa confederacion de futbol, de cualquier partido de 1ª fase, 2ª fase, semmif. y final, las quiero para coleccion, muchas gracias de anticipadas:
    Victoriano Gonzalez Hdez.

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