League action takes a short break for the upcoming international friendlies, Euro 2012 qualifiers and Africa Nations Cup 2012 qualifiers. Most leagues across Europe have only just begun and this untimely break could be a blessing in disguise for some teams or a breaking point for others.
Across Europe’s major leagues, this could provide coaches and teams who did not have the best of starts to the season with some much needed space to analyse their campaigns for the season before things get really out of hand and it could also cut the momentum gained by some teams.
Last night, a Yossi Benayoun inspired Israel beat Malta 3-1 to put their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign off to a flying start. The Chelsea forward scored all three goals to send the blues and whites to the top spot in Group F.
Today, the remaining 4 nations in the group will face off. Latvia host Croatia while Georgia make the short trip to Mediterranean neighbours Greece. Although winners of this tournament 6 years ago, the Greeks have struggled to stamp their dominance on the world stage with many believing their success in Portugal was merely a fluke.
The just concluded World Cup in South Africa did in fact prove their critics right as they failed to make it out of Group B. The Positive however was that they recorded their first ever victory in a World Cup. Otto Rehhagel their Euro winning coach subsequently resigned from his post after failing in his bi too get the Greeks to the Second round.
A total of 19 matches will be played today with the highlight matches being Belgium v Germany, Greece v Georiga and England v Bulgaria. Joachim Loew finally selected Michael Ballack as the German captain after public outbursts between him and fellow team mate Philip Lahm threatened to ruin the mood in the team camp.
Not a traditionally strong side, Belgium however cannot be underestimated. Belgium almost defeated Brazil in the Group stages of the 2002 World Cup when they saw a clear victory snatched from them by poor referring decisions.
With notable players like Everton’s Marouane Fellaini, Fulham’s Moussa Dembelea, Bayern Munich’s Daniel Van Buyten, Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen and longstanding Vincent Kompany, Belgium can spring the surprise of the night.
England host Bulgaria at the Wembley in what should be a comback match for Fabio Capello. The Italian has endured mounting pressure from critics and the FA to vacate the England job after a horrendous World Cup in South Africa.
Capello has however stuck to his guns and opted for youth in squad to face the Bulgarians. Leaving out key players Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand and Joe Cole, Capello is hoping that his new players can get the job done.
Bulgaria are equally strong even with their record scoring captain and Manchester Untied star player Dmitar Berbatov having retired. Valeri Bojinov is expected to lead the Bulgarian charge upfront with the Petrov’s assissting from midfield.
Photo Credit: from Tomasz J