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Italy and Spain top bill in international week

09 Aug 2011 04:30:05

Italy and Spain top bill in international week

With a vital set of European Championship qualifiers to come next month, this midweek's card of friendly fixtures offers a chance for coaches across the continent to do some fine-tuning.

It may be early in the season, but there are plenty of potentially exciting games on Wednesday, in particular the visit of reigning World and European champions Spain to Italy.

Vicente Del Bosque's side have a perfect record in Euro 2012 qualifying group I, and with their presence at next year's finals in Poland and Ukraine all but guaranteed, the match in Bari is a chance for some of those on the fringes of the first team to stake a claim for a regular place.

Spain make the journey minus several members of the side that triumphed in South Africa last year, with Carles Puyol, Joan Capdevila, Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Ramos all either injured or short of fitness.

In addition, Xavi Hernandez withdrew on Monday citing a calf injury, but his Barcelona teammate Thiago Alcantara has been rewarded for a stunning pre-season with a first call-up, and Malaga left-back Nacho Monreal is also named.

Italy, who can themselves seal qualification for the European Championship finals next month, are rebuilding just now, but Giuseppe Rossi insists that they have what it takes to beat the best the world has to offer.

"Of course we can beat them," the Villarreal striker told Italian media.

"We are a new group, we still have to improve, but we have already shown that we have quality.

"They are strong, the best in the world, but this is a chance for us to prove that we can compete with the best."

Tipped by many to be Spain's biggest rivals in Ukraine and Poland, Germany's promising young side play host to Brazil at a sold-out Mercedes-Benz Arena in Stuttgart.

Joachim Loew's squad for the match contains eight Bayern Munich players, while Borussia Dortmund summer signing Ilkay Gundogan is poised for his debut against a Brazil side seeking redemption after a poor showing at the Copa America last month.

France also play host to South American opposition, with Chile the visitors to Montpellier.

Coach Laurent Blanc may see the game as something of a homecoming after making his name as a player with Montpellier two decades ago, but this encounter will also enable "Le President" to clear any selection issues ahead of next month's qualifying double-header away to Albania and Romania.

England still have work to do before clinching their finals place, and the visit of a Netherlands side who have won every match in qualifying so far should prove to be a good test of their credentials.

Fabio Capello's squad for the Wembley encounter is a mixture of familiar names and young faces, such as Manchester United duo Tom Cleverley and Danny Wellbeck, and Tottenham's Kyle Walker.

Russia and the Republic of Ireland clash in a huge game in qualifying group B on September 6, but before that Dick Advocaat's side host Serbia on Wednesday while Ireland face Croatia in Dublin.

Elsewhere, qualifying group F leaders Greece travel to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Portugal host Liechtenstein, Norway face the Czech Republic, Ukraine meet Sweden, and Scotland entertain Denmark at Hampden.

Romania's planned friendly with Argentina in Bucharest was cancelled after the Argentines withdrew in the wake of coach Sergio Batista's sacking last month.


AFP

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