World Cup sides in global warm-ups

  • ​21 games involving Russia 2018 teams taking place on 22, 23 or 24 March

  • There are ten direct head-to-head clashes

  • We select some of the key match-ups

An exciting week awaits in the realm of international football. A tantalising array of friendly matches are set to take place across the globe, with the games representing a final chance for a host of players to stake their claim for a FIFA World Cup™ spot.

With Belgium the only Russia-bound side not to feature in the opening round of friendly fixtures across Thursday, Friday and Saturday's busy schedule, there will be plenty of World Cup hopefuls strutting their stuff in an effort to impress their managers firsthand for those golden tickets to Russia 2018. has you covered with a preview of the matches that matter.

The all-Russia 2018 clashes (all games 23 March unless otherwise stated) Denmark (Group C) v Panama (Group G) - Brondby [22 March] Russia (A) v Brazil (E) - Moscow, Luzhniki Stadium Tunisia (G) v IR Iran (B) - Rades Serbia (E) v Morocco (B) - Turin, Italy Germany (F) v Spain (B) - Dusseldorf Poland (H) v Nigeria (D) - Wroclaw Portugal (B) v Egypt (A) - Zurich, Switzerland France (C) v Colombia (H) - Paris Peru (C) v Croatia (D) - Miami, USA Iceland (D) v Mexico (F) - Santa Clara, USA

Don't miss... Mohamed Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo come face-to-face in Zurich. The Egyptian wizard currently leads the European goalscoring charts with 28 Premier League goals for Liverpool and has oft been compared to Ronaldo's long-time rival for that particular title, Lionel Messi. Two-time The Best FIFA Men's Player - currently on 22 league goals for Real Madrid for 2017/18 - may feel he has a point to prove to the African apprentice.

Brazil head to the Luzhniki in Moscow. The five-time World Cup winners, one of the favourites for this year's crown, will face the 2018 hosts at the venue that will host the World Cup Final. With Neymar currently recovering from injury, who will shine in the absence of A Seleção's star man?

2014 champions Germany host 2010 winners Spain in Dusseldorf. The two longest unbeaten records in international football (Germany: 21 versus Spain: 16) come head-to-head as the winners of the two most recent World Cup editions face off. Spain, of course, defeated Germany 1-0 in the South Africa 2010 semi-final thanks to a thumping Carles Puyol header.

Did you know? 2 of these friendly games could happen as early as the Round of 16 in Russia. Portugal-Egypt (Groups B and A) and Peru-Croatia (Groups C and D) involve teams whose group winners face the other's group runners-up.

15 goals in 15 international matches is the hot streak that Christian Eriksen will be hoping to continue against World Cup newcomers Panama.

71 matches is the identical number of games coached by both Didier Deschamps and Jose Pekerman for their respective sides heading into their meeting in Paris. The similarities don't end there. Both France and Colombia qualified for Russia 2018 on the same day: Tuesday 10 October 2017.

Other Russia 2018 teams in action Uruguay (A) v Czech Republic - Nanning, China PR Japan (H) v Mali - Liege, Belgium Norway v Australia (C) - Oslo Senegal (H) v Uzbekistan - Casablanca, Morocco Greece v Switzerland (E) - Athens Ukraine v Saudi Arabia (A) - Marbella, Spain Italy v Argentina (D) - Manchester, England Netherlands v England (G) - Amsterdam Scotland v Costa Rica (E) - Glasgow Northern Ireland v Korea Republic (F) - Belfast [24 March] Sweden (F) v Chile - Solna [24 March]

Don't miss... Lionel Messi returns to the Etihad Stadium in Manchester. It is a venue that has proved a reasonably happy hunting ground for him with Barcelona. He scored in the 2013/14 Champions League Round of 16 in 2013/14 on the way to a 2-0 win and helped his side to a 2-1 victory there at the same stage in 2014/15. While Barça were defeated in Group C last season, La Pulga did manage to get himself on the scoresheet.

Gareth Southgate looks to fill his final few spots. England head to Amsterdam with "not many" places up for grabs in Southgate's 23 seats on the plane to Russia. Southgate will be hoping to improve the Three Lions' recent record against the Dutch. The former defender himself played in his country's most recent win against the Oranje - eight meetings ago - at UEFA EURO 1996.

Bert van Marwijk leads Australia for the first time. The Aussies are one of the few Russia-bound nations to have changed their manager after qualifying for the global finals, with the switch having come in the wake of Ange Postecoglou resigning in November. Van Marwijk - who himself led Saudi Arabia to Russia before departing that post - will hope to get the better of Lars Lagerback once more; the Norway boss was Sweden coach when Van Marwijk's Netherlands defeated them 3-1 in a friendly back in 2008.

Did you know? 0 Bournemouth players have represented England. FIFA U-20 World Cup-winning captain Lewis Cook will be hoping to alter that particular statistic against the Netherlands, or against Italy next week.

5 out of the other seven World Cup-winning countries (Brazil, Germany, Uruguay, France and Spain) have been played and scored against by Lionel Messi. He can make that six out of seven when La Albiceleste face four-time winners Italy in Manchester. La Pulga has yet to face 1966 champions England.

77.7 per cent of Marcus Berg's Sweden goals have come at home. The Al Ain frontman has grabbed 14 of his 18 international strikes on Swedish soil and will be aiming to boost those stats against Chile.