Antoine Greizmann

FIFA Friendlies: Top teams and their key aspects ahead of the World Cup

WhatsApp Image 2018-03-23 at 2.11.12 PM

XtraTime Web Desk: Football fans to have a gala night as the top nations across the globe will do stage rehearsals ahead of the much awaited FIFA World Cup in Russia. Here goes the main talking points of the top teams which will play tonight.

Ronaldo vs Salah

Portugal vs Egypt

Portugal to face Egypt but may, at least, afford Fifa bigwigs the opportunity to pop out of the office and watch two of the players they hope will offer good news stories at their tournament. Mohamed Salah has, on numerous occasions during a remarkable season with Liverpool, looked the nearest thing the Premier League has seen to Cristiano Ronaldo since the latter joined Real Madrid in 2009; Ronaldo has modified his game now but this is still a welcome chance to see them spar. There are broader similarities, too, in how their national teams rely on them: until Euro 2016 Ronaldo’s eminence sometimes verged on a curse for Portugal and, while that is not quite the case for Egypt, their hopes of a run to the latter stages this summer would be starkly reduced were it not for the Salah’s influence.

Wissam Ben Yedder

Ben

The new force: Ben Yedder's two goals for Sevilla at Old Trafford not only drove José Mourinho to a long and weird reflection on football heritage but also convinced Didier Deschamps to give the striker a first senior call-up at the age of 27. Les Bleus are not exactly lacking offensive options but Ben Yedder, a wriggly predator, offers different qualities to other central strikers such as Antoine Greizmann and Olivier Giroud.

England without Kane

England v Portugal - International Friendly

This would be a worthwhile time for England, who have scored twice in their past four games, to show they are good for a goal or two but Harry Kane’s absence complicates that and Gareth Southgate is left with a squad that looks rather thin. Most of the interest, since his selection for the Holland and Italy friendlies, has been in more defensive areas. If James Tarkowski and Alfie Mawson are welcome – and deserved – call-ups it still looked a bold move to dispense with Gary Cahill despite his lack of action at Chelsea. Cahill would have been obvious warrior material in Russia but his hopes now hang by a thread. It shows that Southgate is committed to developing England’s style of play and underlines the thought that a realistic aim for this summer may be to keep building for the future.

Neymar-less Brazil against the hosts

neymar-brazil-hero-in-world-cup-debut-against-croatia

Victory for Russia against a Neymar-less Brazil would not exactly be a panacea for the various problems that beset the country but it might at least perk up the narrative around their World Cup chances. Yet their manager, Stanislav Cherchesov, appears cursed: he had already seen defenders Viktor Vasin and Georgi Dzhikiya sustain cruciate ligament injuries when, a week ago, forward Aleksandr Kokorin was afflicted similarly during Zenit ’s defeat to RB Leipzig. All three will probably miss this summer’s tournament and Kokorin’s case is particularly damaging.

Messi vs The Italian defence

Messi

Argentina face Italy at the Etihad Stadium for the first round of International friendlies.

Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup this summer, and so their national team rebuild will start in Manchester on Friday night.

Meanwhile Argentina, the 2014 World Cup runners up, will be one of the favorites to win the competition in Russia. This summer could be the final throw of the dice for Lionel Messi, who is yet to win a major competition with his country.

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