The English national team head to the Low Countries, but John Newsome is not convinced that the latest recruits can scale the heights required.
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NETHERLANDS v ENGLAND
Netherlands or Holland host England at The Amsterdam Arena in a friendly International. They have won 7 out of their last 8 games and are now under the guidance of Dutch Legend and former Southampton and Everton Manager Ronald Koeman. After a dismal World Cup Qualifying campaign, they got rid of Dick Advocaat and appointed Koeman. The surprise in that stat of 7/8 is that they failed to qualify for Russia 2018, hence the departure of Advocaat and the appointment of Koeman. In his first squad, he has picked Justin Kluivert son of another Dutch legend Patrick Kluivert. England travel to Amsterdam without the goal threat of Harry Kane who is sidelined for a few weeks. They do have 4 goalkeepers and Jake Livermore though so the Orange should be quaking in their clogs. Jake Livermore… The only thing of note he’s done this season is knick a Taxi in Barcelona and got a Mcflurry. The good thing about Gareth Southgate and his management is…. Is… Is… wait, there must be something, oh yes he’s picked some new hungry players in Alfie Mawson, James Tarkowski, Nick Pope and Lewis Cook, unfortunately, these players are simply not good enough. If they were they would be playing for Top Premier League sides, but they are playing for Swansea, Burnley and Bournemouth. As for Livermore, he’s playing for West Bromwich Albion who are rock bottom of the Premier League. There won’t be many goals in a tight affair.
PORTUGAL v EGYPT
Christiano Ronaldo’s Portugal take on fellow World Cup participants Egypt in Switzerland. They are current European Champions and will want to try and follow up that surprise Tournament win in Russia later on this year. Portugal’s squad also include Besiktas veterans Pepe and Ricardo Quaresma, Manchester City winger Bernardo Silva and Milan striker Andre Silva. Ronaldo is the leading scorer and most capped player for the Portuguese and scores for fun. Egypt are one of the surprise packages in Russia but do have an absolute superstar rivalling Christiano at the moment in Mo Salah. The Liverpool ace grabbed 4 goals in his latest Premier League game and has now scored more goals then Harry Kane this term. Some other notable players for Egypt are Aston Villa’s Ahmed Elmohamady, Arsenal’s Mohammed Elneny, Stoke’s Ramadan Sobhi, West Brom’s Ali Gabr and Wigan’s Sam Morsy. Sam spent the 2016/17 season on loan at Barnsley and the Tykes wanted to sign him but unfortunately were unable to. They will contest this great game on neutral soil and could grab a shock result.
Away Win 1-2
GERMANY v SPAIN
What a cracker of a so-called Friendly fixture this is pitching the 2 previous winners of the World Cup against each other at the Esprit Arena in Dusseldorf. Germany coach Joachim Loew has refused to pick Marco Reus saying it was in the player’s own interest. He missed the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Euros having sustained an injury in friendlies prior to both competitions and Loew doesn’t want this to happen again. Notable players in the squad are Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil, Liverpool’s Emre Can, Chelsea’s Antonio Ruediger and Man City Duo Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gundogan.
Spain are still unbeaten since Julen Lopetegui took over after the 2016 Euros but they will be tested against their fellow 2014 finalists. Notable players are Manchester United’s David De Gea ( best goalkeeper in the world !), Man City’s David Silva and Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta. With Alonso surprisingly getting his first call-up. Another tight game and not many goals.
MEXICO v ICELAND
Mexico take on Iceland at the Levi Stadium in California. At the moment the weathers not too great in California so may suit Iceland. Both teams are heading for Russia and have a number of English based players. Little Pea Chicharito and Giovanni Dos Santos are stars for Mexico, granted Dos Santos no longer plays in England but graced Ipswich and Tottenham. His brother Jonathon also plays with the national team. How excited will Chicharito be to join up with Mexico after the turmoil at West Ham? Iceland are a strange side, they should get beat all the time, but as proved in the 2016 Euros are organised and well drilled. The English based players are Burnley’s Johann Gudmundsson, Aston Villa’s Birkir Bjarnason, Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson and Cardiff’s Aron Gunnarsson, this will be a great game to get both teams in the mood for Russia in June with not many goals. Let’s hope it’s not 501.
POLAND v NIGERIA
This game takes place in Wroclaw Stadium, Wroclaw. Both nations will use the game as part of their preparations for this year’s World Cup finals in Russia. These 2 have never met in International Football before but the contrasting styles of both teams mean for an entertaining game. The main man for Poland, Robert Lewandowski is in fine form for both Bayern Munich and Poland and has helped Bayern into the later stages of the Champions League. He scored 16 goals in the qualifying campaign and will be a force in Russia. Nigeria were the first side from Africa to reach Russia, they continue their impressive run of appearances at the finals, only missing out recently in 2006. They have a lot of British based players such as Chelsea’s Victor Moses, Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi, Leicester’s Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi, Hull’s Ola Aina and Aberdeen’s Chidiebere Nwakali. They will be a strong force in Russia and with this being a friendly, anything can happen but with home advantage, Poland should just edge this.
Home Win 2-1
SENEGAL v UZBEKISTAN
Senegal will play Uzbekistan at the Stade Mohammed V which is in Morrocco, in a friendly international ahead of the World Cup in Russia later this year. They have English based players in Everton’s Idrissa Gueye, West Ham’s Cheik Kouyate, Wolves Alfred N’Diaye and Stoke’s Papa Ndiaye and have won 4 out of their last 5 games. Uzbekistan are not at the 2018 World Cup. Which is a shame really as geographically they are pretty close to Russia. They only beat teams like Thailand and Qatar so this will be an easy win for The Lions.
Home Win 4-0
TUNISIA v IRAN
Tunisia has been hit by a terrible terrorist situation over the past few years but they are slowly fighting back and are trying to get holidaymakers to visit this fine country once again. They successfully made the finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia and play this friendly against Iran at the superbly named Stade 7 Novembre de Rade. Superbly named because this is the Birthday of a superb woman Joan Wall, born 7th November 1943 and died 13th May 2008 coming up 10 years. Love you always Joan. They have met once before and played out a 2-2 draw back in 2002. Tunisia are in England’s group in Russia so all eyes will be on this one. Iran are in with Portugal and Spain in Russia as well as Morocco and with Tunisia not being far from Morocco this is an ideal tester. Iran have English interest in Nottingham Forest’s Ashkan Dejagah but will find it hard in Tunisia and in Russia.
Home Win 3-0
UKRAINE v SAUDI ARABIA
This game takes place, surprisingly in Marbella, Spain at the Estadio Municipal. Ukraine’s main man Andriy Yarmolenko is the big threat and scored in the 2-1 win against Slovakia. The other goal scored by Schalke’s Evgen Konoplyanka. They didn’t qualify for neighbouring Russia so this will be practice for Suadi Arabia. Saudi play in the opening. game of Russia 2018 against.. Russia. They played Iraq a couple of weeks back and lost heavily 4-1. They will enjoy the trip but ultimately Ukraine will be too strong.
Home Win 3-0
SERBIA v MOROCCO
This game takes place at the Stadio Olimpico Di Torino in Turin, Italy. Serbia play Costa Rica, Switzerland and the mighty Brazil in the group stages of Russia 2018 and have chosen fellow World Cup participants Morocco as an ideal warm-up game for the competition. They have Fulham star Aleksander Mitrovic who has hit a bit of form in the English Championship and will be hoping he can fire Fulham to the Premier League. Southampton’s Dusan Tadic, Ex Chelsea star Branislav Ivanovic captains the Serbs and Ex Man City left-back Alexander Kolarov all will be trying to make the squad. Morocco are on a 13 game unbeaten run stretching back to June 2017. They have been put in a tough group in Russia and play the 3rd game of the Tournament against Iran. They then come up against 2 of the pre-tournament favourites Portugal and Spain. They don’t have any English based players but are managed by Frenchman Herve Renard who briefly managed Cambridge United back in 2004. This will be a tough game for both sides and being at a neutral venue Morocco could get a surprise win.
Away Win 1-2
RUSSIA v BRAZIL
World Cup 2018 hosts Russia welcome one of the pre Tournament favourites Brazil to the chilly Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow for a warm-up friendly. Russia have no English based players in their squad probably because it’s too cold for them. They played in a 3-3 draw with Spain back in November with 2 goals from Fedor Smolov and 1 from Aleksey Miranchuk both in this weeks squad and will want to try and find the net again to cement their place for the summer. Brazil have won the World Cup 5 times but were unable to win the tournament on home soil back in 2014 and were famously beaten in the semi-final 7-1 by eventual winners Germany. They are without star striker Neymar who as a broken foot and faces a race to be fit for the Tournament in June. However, Brazil do have some other superstars who need to step up to the plate and cover for Neymar. Chelsea’s Willian, Man City’s Ederson, Gabriel Jesus and Fernandhino will be on show as well as Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino and ex Liverpool star Philip Coutinho. There will be goals in an entertaining draw.
Contact John Newsome, with your own predictions, requests and feedback, at this address: email@example.com