Playoffs, Friendlies and Club versus Country: A look at international football
Jordan Henderson and England manager Gareth Southgate share a high five - (Eddie Keogh - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

From European Championship qualifications to weird international friendlies, and heavyweights going head to head, let us take a look at five events that are occurring during this international break.   

  • Two international heavyweights go head to head

Despite a downturn in form in recent years, Germany still remain one of the imperious nations in International football. The 2014 World Cup victory may seem in the past, but Julian Nagelsmann will be hoping to lift this years upcoming EURO competition on home soil. The best way to prepare for it? Play the second highest ranked team in the world.

France, under Didier Deschamps, were one Argentina penalty away from winning back-to-back world cups. With world class stars such as Kylian Mbappe, Eduardo Camavinga and William Saliba, France have the firepower to put up a fight in the European Championships this summer, as they aim to win their third trophy from the competition.

This match may not have any competitive stakes, but the local and historical rivalry between the two nations is still fierce, meaning an exciting match is promised for those who watch. Germany won the last game between the pair, defeating 'Les Blues' 2-1, thanks to goals from Thomas Muller and Leroy Sane.

This will be Nagelsmann's first edition of this fixture as Germany boss, and with the firepower of breakthrough stars Niklas Fullkrug and Jan-Niklas Beste, as well as elite players such as Joshua Kimmich and Kai Havertz, the new era for German football is beginning to come through. A victory over one of the best international sides in the world would be a statement on Nagelsmann's part.

However, Germany will face the force of the French supporters, as they travel away to the Groupama Stadium, home to French side Lyon. This game takes place on Saturday 23rd March, kicking off at 8pm GMT.

  • A blast from the past: England take on Brazil

Gareth Southgate's future as England boss may in question, but after heartbreak in the last two international tournaments, including penalty defeat against Italy in 2021, the Watford-born manager has his preparations for EURO 2024 well underway, as they face Brazil at Wembley Stadium.

"Seleção Canarinha," managed by Dorival Junior, will travel in England to prepare for this years Copa America, which is being held in the United States of America. After suffering heartbreak by losing 1-0 to Argentina in the 2021 edition of the competition, Brazil will be hoping to make a third consecutive final, and there is no better preparation than to face the third highest ranked team in the world.

Brazil are having a squad rebrand of their own. Gone are the days of Neymar and Coutinho, with Real Madrid pair Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior being tasked with causing havoc on the wings instead. Dorival can pick between Tottenham striker Richarlison or wonderkid Endrick for the striker role, and despite having two of the best goalkeepers in the world up for selection, neither Alisson (Liverpool) or Ederson (Manchester City) are present due to injury.

England are armed with Real Madrid sensation Jude Bellingham, and with clinical Bayern Munich striker Harry Kane up front, Southgate will try and take advantage of the elite squad of players he has available. With Declan Rice and James Maddison in midfield, Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden on the wings, and Anthony Gordon and Kobbie Mainoo receiving their first call-ups, the Three Lions are a force to be reckoned with going into summer.

Both teams have something to prove going into this friendly, with a victory for either confirming their intent to go far in their tournaments this summer. This game kicks off at 7pm GMT on Saturday 23rd March.

  • The final fight for the remaining three EURO 2024 spots

The qualifying stages are over, but 12 teams still have the chance to seal their place in EURO 2024, providing they win two matches. Split into three groups based on UEFA ranking, the winners of the semi-finals in each group will take each other on, to see who books their ticket to Germany this summer.

In Group A, Robert Lewandowski will have to help guide his Poland team past Estonia to stand any chance of making, what might be, his final international tournament. With Rob Page's Wales taking on Tapio Kanerva's Finland in Cardiff, the potential final that could occur is mouthwatering, especially when the stakes are so high.

In Group B, Ukraine look to get back on track as they face Bosnia and Herzegovina, who have not made an international tournament since their appearance in the 2014 World Cup. Iceland look to repeat their 2016 Euro success, where they shocked England 2-1, when they take on Israel in Budapest.

In Group C, and former European champions Greece find themselves fighting three other countries who could make it to their first European Championship. The 2004 winners take on Kazakhstan, who shocked Denmark 3-2 in earlier rounds and will be looking to repeat that feat. In the other fixture, Georgia face minnows Luxembourg, who are attempting to show their small size does not limit their ability.

Semi-final fixtures will have already taken place by the time this article is released, but all final match-ups will have been revealed.

  • World Cup 2026 qualification is underway for those in Asia

Whilst the majority of nations are playing for friendlies or match preparation, those in the Asian confederation are preparing for the world cup, which is in more than two years time. With nine groups of four teams, there are multiple fixtures that catch the eye as some teams attempt to make their first World Cup.

Qatar, who are the current Asian Cup holders, sit top of Group A as it stands. Having defeated Afghanistan 8-1, as well as wins over India and Kuwait, the Qataris seem well on their way to their second consecutive appearance. Especially as they now sit a country-record 37th in the FIFA World rankings, showing their growth as a footballing nation.

Asian Cup runners up Jordan are not finding the same success. Their appearance in the final, where they lost 3-0 to Qatar, was a shock to begin with. However, after being drawn in a tough group with Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Pakistan, Jordan find themselves in 3rd and level on points with second. Their next fixture against Pakistan is crucial, as it will either push them up into the next round, or finding themselves with it all to do.

The highest ranked Asian side, Japan, sit top of their group with Myanmar, North Korea and Syria chasing. The Japanese have not yet conceded a goal, and seem like they are coasting into the next round. The nation made headlines when their game against North Korea kicked off at the unique time of 10:23am GMT, but the next fixture between them kicks off at the standard 8am GMT.

Second highest ranked Iran are aiming to make their fourth World Cup in a row, finding themselves tied at the top with Uzbekistan, with Hong Kong and Turkmenistan chasing. A 5-0 win against Turkmenistan ensured they kept up their qualifying chase, but still have it all to play for.

The next round of AFC World Cup qualifying matches take place during Tuesday 26th March.

  • A real-life example of Club vs Country

The debate of club football versus international football is often brought up during the international period, as fans discuss whether it is more exciting to support a local side, or support a nation in an international tournament. However, it is very rare we see the two go head to head.

That is what happened on Thursday 21st March however, when English Championship side Hull City took on Caribbean nation Curacao, whilst playing at Corendon Airlines Park in Antalya, Turkey. Both teams did not have any fixtures lined up for this week, as Hull did not have a Championship match, whilst Curacao do not play international football again until June.

Seeing this as a chance to help give gametime to unused players, Hull City named a weaker side containing English veteran Billy Sharp, former Premier League man Ozan Tufan and new signing Ivor Pandur. On the other hand, Curacao played experienced goalkeeper Eloy RoomBirmingham City midfielder Juninho Bacuna and Leeds cult hero Vurnon Anita

It would be the Caribbean side that came out on top, defeating Hull City 1-0, thanks to striker Rangelo Janga sweeping in a cross from the left hand side. Hull City struggled to get back into the game, having just two shots on target, and having to contain the country as they piled men forward, striking the post.

It was a spectacle for those who travelled to Turkey for the fixture, but it is something that many fans across the world will be hoping to see in the future. This fixture has turned out to be one of the more interesting events that has happened this international break, but there are still many matches to come.

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