The last dress rehearsal
© AFP

Wednesday's hectic programme of friendlies gives a host of teams one last chance to tune up for next year's crucial 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifiers. There are 45 games on the card in all, including four appetising duels between South America and Europe: Brazil-Portugal, Scotland-Argentina, France-Uruguay and Spain-Chile. And featuring high among the other meetings are Germany-England, Netherlands-Sweden, Colombia-Nigeria and Italy-Greece.

The big match
Scotland-Argentina, Hampden Park, Glasgow, Wednesday 20.00 (local time)

Hampden Park provides the setting for Diego Maradona's eagerly awaited debut in charge of the Albiceleste. Deprived of the services of the rested Lionel Messi and Juan Roman Riquelme, the Mexico 1986 winner has selected a side packed with Europe-based stars, with Sergio Aguero the main attraction and Napoli star Ezequiel Lavezzi poised for a run-out.

Scotland coach George Burley should not have too much trouble motivating his troops. While glad to welcome back midfield general Barry Ferguson and right-back Alan Hutton, Burley will have to make do without Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher, who misses out with a knee injury.

The other matches
Joachim Low is set to try out a new-look defence against England, having called up Marcel Schafer of Wolfsburg and Marvin Compper of Hoffenheim. Compper's club colleague Tobias Weis will be anxious to impress up front in the absence of several first-choice players, among them Michael Ballack and Torsten Frings. Opposite number Fabio Capello has left David Beckham out of the squad due to a lack of match action, and will have to compensate for the absences of Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Joe and Ashley Cole. Captain John Terry is also an injury doubt.

Vicente del Bosque rewarded Valencia's Juan Mata and Athletic Bilbao's Fernando Llorente for their recent fine form by calling them up for Spain's meeting with Chile. While the European champions remain unchanged elsewhere, Marcelo Bielsa is banking on Chile's European contingent to earn a first win over the Spanish. Joining the strike duo formed by Udinese's Alexis Sanchez and Villarreal's Matias Fernandez is Real Sociedad goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.

Carlos Queiroz has put together an experimental Portugal squad for the game against Brazil, drafting in Braga winger Cesar Peixoto and defender Rolando of Porto. Seleção coach Dunga has named a typically strong line-up, with Ronaldinho the only notable absentee.

Italy have continued their makeover by bringing in Udinese's 26-year-old playmaker Gaetano d'Agostino, who has been attracting comparisons with a certain Andrea Pirlo. Marcello Lippi has decided to leave Alessandro Del Piero at home, however, despite the veteran's excellent start to the season.

Raymond Domenech could hand Steve Savidan his first cap against Uruguay. The 30-year-old forward has caught the eye this season, scoring seven goals so far. Mikael Silvestre and Julien Escude return in defence, while captain Patrick Vieira will be patrolling the midfield once more.

And although his side face a testing trip to the Netherlands, Sweden coach Lars Lagerback has bowed to Inter Milan's request to keep the inspirational Zlatan Ibrahimovic fresh for this weekend's crunch encounter with Juventus.

Player to watch

Adriano (BRA)
Out of favour with Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho, who has used him only five times all season, the powerful striker will be hoping Dunga gives him the opportunity to show his finishing skills remain intact when Brazil take on Portugal.

The stat
31 -
The number of matches Javier Clemente and Alfio Basile went unbeaten when they were in charge of Spain and Argentina respectively, a record Italy coach Marcello Lippi will equal should the world champions avoid defeat in Greece.

What they said
"After four consecutive wins in the World Cup qualifiers, I think we are ready for a match of this importance. The players have confidence in themselves now and in their potential," England coach Fabio Capello looks ahead to Wednesday's trip to Germany.

Have Your Say
Will Maradona enjoy a successful debut? Can Capello continue his impressive form as England coach against their fierce rivals? Click on 'Add your comment' to have your say on the upcoming international friendlies.