Big day for Big Sam
Sam Allardyce gets his international debut against Slovakia, a team England recently failed to beat in Euro 2016. Expectations are high with England tipped as favourites to take the lead of a group where Scotland and Slovenia will hope to defy the odds and create an upset. After crashing out of the Euros without pride or honour against Iceland, a revolution within the Three Lions camp was expected but was not delivered. The squad is broadly as expected, with Ross Barkley the only notable absentee and Michael Antonio the sole uncapped entrance. Wayne Rooney has been selected to continue as captain of England and it looks like Wazza will, yet again, take charge of creative duties in the midfield. It’s a fact; not much has changed. Nevertheless, England’s ambition remains as high as popular demand. AG
A new era for la Roja
A new cycle has also begun in Spain after eight years under Vicente Del Bosque. The Spanish national team dominated the international panorama between 2008 and 2012, collecting two European Championships and a World Cup during an unprecedented period of success. However, the recent failure in France precipitated the end of an era amongst a lot of criticism, with some media fiercely attacking Del Bosque’s choices. Lopetegui’s debut went pretty well, with Spain comfortably beating Belgium 2-0. Suddenly, that unifying feeling Spain used to have a while ago is back and confidence levels are sky high ahead of their first match towards Russia 2018. Álvaro Morata picked up an injury against the Belgian Red Devils and he should not be fit to face Liechtenstein, something that won’t be be a major upset, considering the opponent currently sits in position 182 in the FIFA rankings, their lowest status in history. AG
Party is over for the Portuguese
Undoubtedly one of the most interesting matches in this WC qualifying round will take place at St. Jakob Park, Basel, with Portugal taking on Switzerland. The European champions enjoyed a relaxing friendly against Gibraltar last Thursday at Estádio do Bessa, a match where an enthusiastic crow celebrated the Euro 2016 win close to their heroes. João Cancelo and André Silva debuted in style, with the right-back getting his name on the scoresheet and showing Portugal have interesting squad depth. Portugal are devoid of Cristiano Ronaldo, André Gomes and Renato Sanches – all unavailable due to injury – but Switzerland are also missing a big name: Xherdan Shaqiri. Breel Embolo should replace the tiny magician in a match where Switzerland will try hard to cause an upset.