Five things to look for during international week

19 Mar 2019
  • Big finale brewing in Africa, Concacaf region

  • European qualifiers set to get rolling

  • New coaches forging tournament battle plans

As stars of the game travel the world to congregate amongst their compatriots for another week of international football, this is no time to play catch-up, with business very much at hand.

With so much football across the globe, gives you five things to keep your eyes across in a busy seven days of action.

Last stands in Africa, Concacaf region

Either side of the Atlantic there are ten places apiece up for grabs at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations and Concacaf Gold Cup, with both races almost impossible to call.

In Africa, no fewer than seven of those places are wrapped up in winner-takes-all encounters across Friday and Saturday, with both of Group G and Group K’s tickets still on the table. There are 21 teams still harbouring dreams of appearing in Egypt, though the likes of Cameroon and South Africa are still to secure their spots.

However, even more have their heart set on a place at the Gold Cup. A massive 25 sides are all technically in with a shot at snapping up the ten vacant spots via the Concacaf Nations League qualification. While the likes of table leaders Curacao, Haiti, Canada and Cuba having goal difference on their side, should they slip up, no one is certain of a spot at the continental finals amid the 34-strong league.

New coaches' tournament tune-ups

With the Copa America also on the horizon in what is set to be a packed June and July for international football fans, this is the last chance for African, North and South American coaches to test their squads before deciding who will be joining them for the tournaments.

This could be no more pressing for those taking the reins for the first time. Carlos Queiroz is at Colombia’s helm, leading them into a 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ reunion against Japan.

Meanwhile, expect plenty of testing of the water when new arrivals Eduardo Berizzo and Gerardo 'Tata' Martino meet up as coaches of Paraguay and Mexico respectively.

World Cup sides meet on EURO path

The race for UEFA EURO 2020 kicks off on Thursday, with the 55 European nations in action. While there are plenty of games that catch the eye, there’s set to be some intriguing encounters between sides we saw at Russia 2018.

While holders France will take on Iceland, bronze medalists Belgium and quarter-finalists Russia lock horns with hopes of keeping the good World Cup vibes rolling into 2019. Meanwhile, Portugal will host Serbia, with both finishing last year on a high by topping their UEFA Nations League groups and looking to carry that momentum forward.

Can Germany bounce back?

When it comes to momentum, Germany are distinctly lacking that after their worst international year in recent memory. Having crashed out of Russia 2018 bottom of their group, then suffered relegation in the Nations League, they are hoping it will be ‘new year, new you’.

Joachim Low has opted for a mini-revolution to do so, declaring Brazil 2014 winners Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels and Thomas Muller as surplus to requirements. A meeting with Ronald Koeman's Netherlands presents a strong opportunity to show they are turning things around, after a defeat and draw with the Oranje in the Nations League sealed their slide into League B.

Big-name returns

After questions were raised over the international futures of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, with neither pulling on their respective Argentina and Portugal jerseys since the last 16 of Russia 2018, they're back and ready for action.

Both are of course now into their 30s, but neither star seems to be waning. Messi has clocked up 60 goals and assists so far for Barcelona this season, with Ronaldo bagging 36 since donning a Juventus shirt; nice additions to recall if you have the option.