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March 3rd International Friendly Preview

March 3, 2010

100 days away from the start of the World Cup, national team managers finally have a week off to prep and test their teams against worthy opposition which will be crucial in final preparations for the tournament in June. In a day packed full of exhibition matches, the World’s top teams will be in action, some against each other, and some against lesser opposition that will be good practice nonetheless. Pubs all around New York City will be packed with eager soccer fans who have waited since the last international break in mid-November to see their teams play. Without further ado, here are the biggest games on tap for today.

Wayne Rooney and David Beckham

England's Wayne Rooney and David Beckham


England vs Egypt: Wembley Stadium London, England- Kickoff 3PM ET
The first test for Fabio Capello’s England squad comes up against the recent African Cup of Nations winners Egypt whose record three African Cups in a row solidify them as the best team on the continent. England will be looking to face a team that greatly resembles their Group C rivals Algeria, who actually beat Egypt in a last chance playoff to qualify for the World Cup. For Egypt, the game will be played for pride only as they will not play in a significant tournament again for another three years. Still, the game will be a competitive contest that features the best player in the World at the moment, Wayne Rooney, and the highly underrated Egyptian side who are out to prove that they belong in the World Cup. Prediction: 2-1 England (Wayne Rooney x2) (Ahmed Hassan)

Lionel Messi

Argentina's Lionel Messi


Argentina vs Germany: Allianz Arena Munich, Germany- Kickoff 2:45PM ET
In one of the biggest matches of 2010 thus far, Joachim Loew’s Germany takes on Diego Maradona’s Argentina in what will guarantee to be one of the most exciting matches of the day. Both teams feature numerous world class players playing for top clubs all over Europe. FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi will receive the most attention as he attempts to replicate the play he shows for FC Barcelona into the Argentina jersey. Critics have said that he never performs for Argentina the way he shreds through defenders in the Spanish league and today will be another tough test for the young Argentine because the German defense is one of the best in the world. On the German side, captain Michael Ballack will look to add more offensive ability to the German team who have been relying on their strong defensive ability to win many of their matches lately. Strikers Mario Gomez, Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski form one of the world’s premier attacking fronts but as with any team, they need support and supply from the midfield or else it could be a boring day for the forwards. This one is extremely tough to call.
Prediction: 2-2 (Klose, Podolski) (Tevez, Messi)
Fan Predictions: Donal, Ireland supporter from New York City predicts “2-0, Germany defeat an all star Argentinian side and their clueless manager”
Phillip, England supporter from New York City predicts “Germany win, too much turmoil in Argentinian ranks.”

Fernando Torres

Spain striker Fernando Torres


Spain vs France: Stade de France Paris, France- Kickoff 3PM ET
Without doubt the biggest game of the day, European Cup Champions Spain vs World Cup 2006 runner-up France, being played at the site of the 1998 World Cup final, the Stade de France in Paris. Somehow, someway, embattled French coach Raymond Domenech remains in charge of France even after a brutal showing in the 2008 European championship and a poor World Cup qualifying campaign. The sheer talent on the French roster is incredible and one has to think that with a more qualified coach that the French team would be one of the World’s best right now. However, they still are struggling to play together, and remain a team full of stars and egos that has not gelled like others in the World, especially Spain. The Spanish team came together and blew away the competition at Euro 2008 and since have only been defeated once, by the United States at the Confederations Cup. Spain is well-coached, has arguably the most talented roster of players, and has incredible confidence which makes them a top 3 favorite at the World Cup. In this match, look for Spanish midfield trio of Cesc Fabregas, Xavi Hernandez, and Andreas Iniesta to run circles around the French midfield and send through balls to strikers Fernando Torres and David Villa all day. If France wants any chance of beating the Spanish team today, they must have confidence in their attacks, and keep possession of the ball for as long as they can with no mental errors, because once you give the ball away to Spain, you may not get it back for a long time. It will also be interesting to see what trio of forwards France uses as Karim Benzema and Andre-Pierre Gignac have both been left out of the squad. It may just be time to see Panathinaikos striker Djibril Cisse back in the mix after a lengthy absence, we’ll just have to wait and see. The best battle of the day will be Xavi Henandez vs Lassana Diarra in the midfield. It isn’t everyday that soccer fans get to see such a huge game in a friendly.
Prediction: Spain 2-0 (Villa x2)
Fan predictions: Phillip, England supporter from New York City predicts “Draw, as Spain and France do not care much for friendlies. They are here for the big dog.”

Arjen Robben of Holland
U.S.A vs Netherlands: PSV Stadium Eindhoven, Holland- Kickoff 2:45PM ET
Probably the most interesting match-up of the day simply because the American team can beat anyone on any given day as they proved in the Confederations Cup in the summer when they ended Spain’s 40 plus game unbeaten run. Still, the favorites are definitely the Dutch who boast more World Class players playing for bigger clubs and tougher competition on a consistent basis. Leading the line for the Dutch will be Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben and A.C Milan striker Klaas Jan-Huntelaar who will be filling in for the injured Robin Van Persie. Expect to see one of these two on the score sheet today as the Dutch playing in front of a home crowd will be looking to bombard the American defense all day long. Still, if the Americans can withstand the attacks of the Dutch and work their World renowned counter-attack led by speedster Landon Donovan, there could be some serious surprises in this one, and the main point to remember is never count the American team out, ever. It will be a big day in goal for American Tim Howard, one of the best goalkeepers in the World, but we should still expect one or two goals today from a stronger Dutch team.
Prediction: 2-0 Netherlands (Robben, Huntelaar)
Fan Predictions: Donal, Ireland supporter from New York City predicts “0-4 Depends on what U.S team plays but the one I saw face El Salvador last week were rubbish.”
Phillip, England supporter from New York City predicts “Netherlands win. USA have an inferior team as they are only using foreign based players.”

All in all, an exciting day for soccer fans everywhere. The best places to catch the matches in New York City are Nevada Smith’s south of Union Square and Baker St. Pub at 61st and 1st. For American fans looking to see the U.S-Netherlands game, any bar with ESPN2 will be playing it as well.

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