Five weeks after the Final of the FIFA World Cup™, the holidays are already over for the national teams. There are 35 friendly encounters on the agenda for the 15 and 16 August, as well as eleven Asian Cup qualifying clashes and three more for UEFA EURO 2008.

For many countries, these games will mark the start of a new era, due to debuts for several new national coaches and an historic first official fixture against the Czech Republic in Prague for Serbia, still associated with Montenegro at Germany 2006.

Certain ties are sure to be used for experimentation ahead of the qualifying match marathon. The new Italian coach Roberto Donadoni, for example, has opted to give many of the FIFA World Cup-winning heroes a rest, calling up seven uncapped players for the Azzurri's first day back against Croatia.

To take on a Sweden side now seeking a replacement for the retired Henrik Larsson, Jurgen Klinsmann's successor at the helm of the German side, Joachin Low,  has kept faith in the group  of players which finished third at the recent FIFA World Cup on home soil. But as well as having to make do without the departed Oliver Kahn, he will also be deprived of central defensive pillars Per Mertesacker and Robert Huth. Consequently, Low has taken the opportunity to take another look at 26-year-old Manuel Friedrich, who was first capped last spring.  

Changes for England
Also making a first foray in international football waters is the English coach Steve McClaren, who has opted to face the Greek European champions without David Beckham, Sol Campbell and David James, while Michael Owen is still injured. In place of these erstwhile stalwarts, McClaren has called upon six players not included in the squad taken to Germany, four of whom have never been capped (Ben Foster, Chris Kirkland, Michael Dawson and Dean Ashton). Otto Rehhagel, meanwhile, has not made any changes to his team, which is still led by the indefatigable Theodoros Zagorakis (age 34).

In Reykjavik, the Spanish captain Raul should join the elite group of players to pass the 100-cap mark. Among his team-mates, there will be few changes. Hostilities having not yet resumed in la Liga, Luis Aragones is limiting himself to a look at Celta Vigo midfielder Borja Oubina.

To meet the Republic of Ireland, however, Marco van Basten has decided to place the accent even more firmly on youth by offering a first cap to 22-year-old Klaas Jan Huntelaar, fresh from his European U-21 triumph in Portugal. The  latest "victims" of this renewal policy are Ruud van Nistelrooy and Mark van Bommel, while the veteran Philipp Cocu has hung up his international boots.

For Raymond Domenech and Les Bleus, the post-Zidane era begins with a trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina. The coach of the world runners-up will also be without Lilian Thuram who, having not yet made any definitive pronouncement on his international future, is left at Barcelona's disposal, as well as the clubless Fabien Barthez and the newly retired Claude Makelele. A sole neophyte, Bordeaux's Julien Faubert, figures on Domenech's list, although the coach has called up several young players already tested at the highest level.

Other noteworthy fixtures include Brazil's preparatory game in Norway and the first in a long line of friendlies for EURO 2008 co-hosts (with Austria) Switzerland against Liechtenstein. Their Belgian neighbours, in contrast, face an early start to their qualifying campaign against Kazakhstan, while the Faroe Islands and Estonia also set out on the long road to Austria & Switzerland against Georgia and Macedonia respectively.

Full programme

Tuesday 15 August
Cameroon - Guinea
Algeria - Gabon
Ukraine - Azerbaijan
Slovakia - Malta
Slovenia - Israel
Ghana - Togo
Wales - Bulgaria
Iceland - Spain

Wednesday 16 August
Norway - Brazil
Czech Republic - Serbia
Liechtenstein - Switzerland
Austria - Hungry
Republic of Ireland - Netherlands
Germany - Sweden
Italy - Croatia
Bosnia-Herzegovina - France
England - Greece
Guatemala - Haiti
San Marino - Albania
Libya - Uganda
Tunisia - Mali
Finland - Northern Ireland
Moldova - Lithuania
Namibia - South Africa
Russia - Latvia
Morocco - Burkina Faso
Romania - Cyprus
Belarus - Andorra
Denmark - Poland
Egypt - Uruguay
Côte d'Ivoire - Senegal
Luxembourg - Turkey
Chile - Colombia
Peru - Panama
Venezuela - Honduras