Part 2 of our 4-part guide to the Interlull. We choose three fixtures taking place today: one intra-British Euro2012 qualifier and two international friendlies–including one taking place this evening in New Jersey, featuring the best player in the world:
Saturday, March 26
Wales-England in Cardiff (11amET, ESPN3.com): This game got less interesting once Gareth Bale went down with an injury in the Welsh training camp. We’re not too familiar with the rest of Wales’ current squad–a few Premier League players, but mostly guys playing at the Championship level (including striker Craig Bellamy). We will be looking for young Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey, likely facing off against his club teammate Jack Wilshere.
The latter’s stock has risen to new heights after Arsenal’s battles with Barcelona in the Champions League–one even heard the phrase “the English Xavi” being tossed about. Capello did a wonderful job managing expectations before England’s last match in December–after telling the press he would essentially be building the English side around Wilshere, Capello compared him to a few other midfielders he’s managed–Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini, and Raul! Nice job Fabio..
Capello’s come under increasing criticism for the way he’s handling the England squad–the latest kerfuffle involved who will wear that all-important piece of cloth on their arm today. Listen to this past week’s Guardian Football Weekly (Extraaah!) pod for a discussion of whether Capello is “hopefully inept and phoning it in for the money”, including some mention of a north-south/Terry vs Ferdinand divide in the English squad which Capello has failed to address.
Portugal-Chile in Leiria (5pmET, ESPN Deportes): Chile was one of the more exciting teams in South Africa last summer; unfortunately they recently parted ways with the brilliant enigmatic Argentinian Marcelo Bielsa who had managed them since 2007 (interestingly, Bielsa and the USSF are now talking about bring him to the US as technical director for the USMNT. On Chile’s squad, look for Udinese’s starlet striker Alexis Sánchez. Portugal will be without their supernova CR7, but will still boast a high-profile lineup: Carvalho and Pepe of Real Madrid, Raul Meireles (Liverpool), Nani (Man U).
USA-Argentina in the Meadowlands, NJ (7pmET, ESPN2 & Univision): see our senior USMNT analyst’s preview of the USA squad. For La Albiceleste, quite a few the stars have flown in to Jersey: Messi and Mascherano from Barcelona, di Maria from Madrid, Zanetti and Cambiasso from Milan. Watch also for youngster Javier Pastore who has been starring for Palermo in Serie A, but may be sold off to the highest bidder this summer, with the usual suspects interested–though he has said he’s in no rush to leave Palermo.