England vs Côte d’Ivoire
Will England continue their unbeaten run?
On Saturday evening, the Three Lions came from a goal down to beat Switzerland in a friendly at Wembley.
Luke Shaw’s thunderbolt levelled things up in first half stoppage time before Harry Kane fired home the winner from the penalty spot.
This means Gareth Southgate’s side are now unbeaten in 21 internationals (excluding penalty shootouts) dating back to November 2020.
After this, they’ve got just six Nations League games in June and September before kicking off the World Cup in Qatar in late-November.
Côte d’Ivoire meanwhile will not be at that tournament having been eliminated in the second round of African qualifying by Cameroon.
Les Éléphants appeared at all three World Cups between 2006 and 2014 but have not failed to qualify for back-to-back editions.
However, given that the Ivory Coast host the next Africa Cup of Nations in June 2023, there’s still plenty for Patrice Beaumelle’s to look forward to.
On Friday night, Côte d’Ivoire faced another European side who ranked in the top-five in the world by FIFA: France.
Nicolas Pépé actually gave his side a shock lead at Stade Vélodrome but France fought back to win 2-1 thanks to a 93rd minute strike.
Will England be too strong here?
Netherlands vs Germany
Two great rivals go head-to-head in a friendly that is unlikely to live up to that subdued billing.
These two have met eight times in major tournaments with Germany notably winning the 1974 World Cup Final on home soil.
More recently, they met in Euro 2020 qualifying with the two encounters producing 11 goals and a pair of away wins.
Who will win as they meet again in Amsterdam?
Netherlands missed back-to-back tournaments not so long ago, in 2016 and 2018, but have put those qualification woes firmly behind them.
Louis van Gaal returned for a third stint as Head Coach in the summer, guiding his team to five wins out of seven in qualifying, booking their place in Qatar.
To start 2022, Oranje beat Denmark 4-2 on Saturday with Steven Bergwijn bagging a brace while Nathan Aké and Memphis also scored.
Meanwhile, over at Rhein-Neckar-Arena, Germany were beating Israel 2-0 with Chelsea duo Kai Havertz and Timo Werner both on target.
This means die Mannschaft have won all eight matches under Hansi Flick, scoring 33 times and conceding just four.
This is their longest winning run for 42 years, a streak that saw them win Euro 1980, beating Holland en route.
Can the Dutch end Germany’s winning streak at Johan Cruijff ArenA?
Turkey vs Italy
Another World Cup is coming up this year but it’ll be another one that does not feature Italy, European Champions no less.
On Thursday, Gli Azzurri welcomed North Macedonia to Palermo for a play-off semi-final that absolutely everybody expected them to win.
However, Italy did not take any of their numerous chances and then came the sucker-punch, in the 92nd minute, with North Macedonia snatching the win.
So, as was the case five years ago, Italy have been beaten in the World Cup play-offs, so will miss back-to-back tournaments, despite being at every edition since 1958 before this.
They’re the fourth European Champions to miss the next World Cup after Czechoslovakia in 1978, Denmark in 1994 and Greece in 2006.
Nevertheless, this has never happened to a traditional giant before and Thursday’s defeat remains a huge shock, even days later.
So, how on earth does Roberto Mancini motivate his players to perform in this friendly?
However, Turkey are in the same boat after their dreams of a first World Cup appearance for two decades were shattered simultaneously over in Porto.
The Crescent-Stars fell behind 2-0 early on to Portugal at Estádio do Dragão before Burak Yılmaz halved the deficit.
Then came the crucial moments as Turkey were awarded a penalty, but Yılmaz skied over the bar, before Portugal later secured the 3-1 win.
Disappointment for Stefan Kuntz and his team but their focus is now on Nations League promotion and Euro 2024 qualification.
Here, who will win the friendly that no one wants to be in at Konya Metropolitan Municipality Stadium?
France vs South Africa
After a last-gasp victory on Friday night, France host more African opposition, looking for another victory.
On Friday, les Bleus came from behind to beat Côte d’Ivoire 2-1 at Stade Vélodrome.
Olivier Giroud equalised before Aurélien Tchouaméni won it with the last kick of the night, bagging his first senior international goal.
This means Didier Deschamps’ side have now won six successive matches, form that saw them qualify for Qatar and win the UEFA Nations League.
As well as last October’s Nations League success, France are, of course, reigning world champions, looking to defend their title later this year.
Before then, will they start 2022 with two wins out of two?
South Africa meanwhile haven’t qualified for a World Cup since hosting the tournament 12 years ago.
Back then, Bafana Bafana actually beat France 2-1 in Bloemfontein, thereby ensuring les Bleus exited in the group phase.
This time round, Hugo Broos’ side were knocked out of World Cup qualifying by Ghana, losing a crucial last day decider 1-0 in Cape Coast.
Having also not even qualified for the most recent AFCON, ensuring they qualify for that tournament in 2023 is South Africa’s primary aim.
In a friendly in Kortrijk on Thursday, South Africa held Guinea to a goalless draw, but this’ll be a completely different ball game.
France should easily win at Stade Pierre-Mauroy.
Belgium vs Burkina Faso
After a rare slip-up on Saturday, Belgium return to home soil hoping to return to winning ways.
At the weekend, the Red Devils were held to a 2-2 friendly draw by Republic of Ireland in Dublin, despite leading twice through Michy Batshuayi and Hans Vanaken.
This won’t concern Roberto Martínez too much though as he played a second-string side, giving his big guns a rest.
Later this year, Belgium will once again aim to win their first-ever piece of major silverware.
This’ll be the golden generation’s sixth shot at a trophy having, last year, lost in the Euro quarter-finals and Nations League semi-finals.
Will Belgium enjoy a friendly victory here?
Burkina Faso meanwhile reached the AFCON semi-finals as recently as February before their dream was crushed by a 3-1 defeat to Senegal.
This though continues les Étalons excellent recent record at Africa Cup of Nations, reaching the 2013 final and the semi-finals four years later.
Given this, it was a major surprise that Kamou Malo’s side were demolished 5-0 by minnows Kosovo in Pristine on Thursday.
This doesn’t bode well for this trip to Lotto Park with Belgium fancying their chances of an emphatic victory.
Spain vs Iceland
Will Spain make it two wins out of two this week?
On Saturday night, la Roja battled to a late 2-1 victory over Albania with Ferran Torres opening the scoring before Dani Olmo won it with a rocket.
2021 proved to be a successful year for Luis Enrique’s side as they reached the semi-finals of Euro 2020, the Nations League Final and qualified for Qatar 2022.
So, having narrowly missed out on silverware twice last year, they’ll believe they can go all the way at the World Cup.
Before then, will Spain make it four wins in a row in A Coruña?
Iceland meanwhile made their major tournament debut at Euro 2016, reaching the quarter-finals, before also qualifying for the World Cup in 2018.
They then narrowly missed out on Euro 2020, losing to Hungary in the play-off final, but that was followed by a calamitous 2021.
Arnar Viðarsson’s side actually finished fifth in their World Cup qualifying group, only beating minnows Liechtenstein across ten matches.
Iceland did at least draw a friendly with Nordic rivals Iceland on Saturday thanks to Birkir Bjarnason’s equaliser in Murcia.
Nevertheless, Spain should cruise to victory at Estadio Riazor, a stadium they’ve never lost at in five previous fixtures.
Austria vs Scotland
These two nations could’ve been meeting at Ernst-Happel-Stadion for a winner takes all World Cup play-off but, for varying reasons, that is not the case.
Scotland’s semi-final tie with Ukraine has, understandably, been postponed until June while Austria were in qualification action last Thursday.
Franco Foda’s side travelled to the Cardiff City Stadium and almost made the perfect start when Christoph Baumgartner hit the crossbar.
Then followed a pair of sucker-punches, namely two amazing Gareth Bale strikes, the first a stunning free-kick before an outrageous second just after half time.
Das Team did get back into it when Marcel Sabitzer’s shot deflected in, but they couldn’t find an equaliser with Wales advancing to the final.
This means Austria have now failed to qualify for all six World Cups this century and pressure continues to mount on unpopular coach Foda.
Scotland meanwhile, given that their own Path A semi-final was postponed, took on Poland in a hastily arranged friendly at Hampden.
The Tartan Army went into the game having won six games in a row, their best run since 2007, form which saw them pip Austria to second in the group.
Steve Clarke’s side looked set to win again when Kieran Tierney headed home his first international goal, thanks to John McGinn’s superb delivery.
However, with the very last action of the night, Craig Gordon conceded a penalty with Poland snatching an equaliser.
Thankfully for Scotland fans, this dramatic conclusion came in an inconsequential friendly, not a do or die knockout qualifier.
Scotland’s World Cup dreams remain on hold until June, so here they return to Vienna, the scene of an iconic win from 2021, for a friendly.
Who will get back to winning ways?
Wales vs Czech Republic
Jubilation for Wales but despair for Czech Republic on a busy night of European World Cup play-off semi-finals.
Last Thursday night, Wales welcomed Austria to the Cardiff City Stadium and, on a huge night, it was the Gareth Bale show.
First, mid-way through the first half, the four-times Champions League winner smashed a free-kick right into the postage stamp of the top corner.
Then, just after half time, Bale pounced on a loose ball in the penalty area before lashing the ball into the far corner.
Austria did pull one back not long after, accredited as a Ben Davies own goal, but Wales held on to advance 2-1.
So, Rob Page’s side will host Scotland or Ukraine in June, just one home win away from a first World Cup appearance since 1958.
Simultaneously, 1,300 miles north-east in Stockholm, Czech Republic were taking on Sweden in their play-off semi-final over in Path B.
It was a game of few chances but the first clear-cut opening fell the Czechs way in stoppage time with Tomáš Pekhart volleying wide.
He was then made to rue his wistfulness when, ten minutes into extra time, Sweden took the lead and that proved to be night’s only goal.
The Czech Republic have qualified for all seven European Championships since independence but 2006 will remain their only World Cup appearance.
These two met twice in World Cup qualifying last year with Wales winning 1-0 in Cardiff before a thrilling 2-2 draw in Prague.
With the momentum behind them, the Dragons will be favourites for this one too.
Northern Ireland vs Hungary
Will Northern Ireland make it two wins out of two to start 2022?
On Friday night, Ian Baraclough’s side beat Luxembourg 3-1 at the recently-opened Stade de Luxembourg.
Josh Magennis opened the scoring, bulldozing through before finishing cooly, with Steven Davis bundled in a go-ahead goal and then Gavin Whyte secured the win.
Since appearing at Euro 2016, their first major tournament for 30 years, the Green and White Army have failed to reach three consecutive tournaments.
They were beaten in the play-offs for Russia 2018 and Euro 2020, by Switzerland and Slovakia, but never came close to making it to Qatar.
Nevertheless, some momentum is starting to build ahead of Euro 2024 qualifying as Northern Ireland look for a statement victory here.
This’ll be a far tougher test than Friday as Hungary travel to Belfast having appeared at each of the last two European Championships.
However, the Magyars’ hopes of a first World Cup since Mexico ’86 were shattered last year, finishing fourth in their group below England, Poland and Albania.
Then, on Thursday, Marco Rossi’s side were beaten 1-0 by Serbia in a friendly at Puskás Aréna with Zsolt Nagy’s own goal doing the damage.
Will Hungary get back to winning ways at Windsor Park?
Republic of Ireland vs Lithuania
After a credible and well-earned draw on Saturday evening, Republic of Ireland are looking to continue the feeling of positivity.
At the weekend, Stephen Kenny’s side battled from behind twice to draw 2-2 with the world’s number one ranked team Belgium.
Chiedozie Ogbene with a spectacular overhead kick before Alan Browne’s late header had the 48,000+ in attendance on their feet again.
Kenny endured a more than tough start to life in charge when promoted from the senior side in 2020.
First, they barely avoided Nations League relegation whilst bowing out of Euro 2020 contention, losing to Slovakia on penalties in the play-offs.
They then failed to win any of their first five World Cup qualifiers, notably losing at home to Luxembourg a year ago.
But, away wins in Azerbaijan and Luxembourg as well as home draws with Serbia and Portugal ensured the campaign ended on a positive note.
So, the Boys in Green believe they could be heading to Euro 2024, looking to carry on the momentum here.
Lithuania meanwhile have never qualified for a major tournament, winning just one of their 29 competitive games since October 2016, losing 25 of them.
On Friday though, they did beat San Marino 2-1 in a friendly with Augustinas Klimavičius and Linas Mėgelaitis both on target in Serravalle.
Nevertheless, the Aviva Stadium should witness something of a rarity: a comfortable home win.
Denmark vs Serbia
It may have only been in an international friendly, that his team actually lost, but Christian Eriksen provided one of sport’s great comeback stories on Saturday night.
287 days after collapsing at Euro 2020, Eriksen made his national team return off the bench against Netherlands at the weekend and scored with his first touch.
In the game more broadly, Jannik Vestergaard had equalised with a header earlier on but Holland ran out 4-2 winners at Johan Cruijff ArenA.
Nevertheless, Denmark continue their preparations for World Cup 2022 and it’s great to see that Eriksen is part of those plans.
Serbia too are going to Qatar in November after they knocked out Portugal in dramatic fashion back in November.
Aleksandar Mitrović’s stoppage time header at Estádio da Luz ensuring Serbia have qualified for three of four World Cups since independence.
On Thursday night, Dragan Stojković’s side beat Hungary 1-0 in a friendly at Puskás Aréna thanks to a first half own goal.
These two are pretty evenly matched, so will there be a winner at Parken?
Croatia vs Bulgaria
Croatia are currently out in Qatar for the first of two middle-eastern trips they’ll be making in 2022.
On Saturday, the Blazers took on Slovenia in Al-Rayyan and looked set for a win, Andrej Kramarić with a cool finish, but conceded a 92nd minute penalty to draw 1-1.
Zlatko Dalić has enjoyed huge success as Croatia Head Coach, leading them to the World Cup Final in 2018 and the Euro 2020 knockout stages.
Then, last November, they qualified for this year’s World Cup with a dramatic final day victory over Russia in the pouring rain in Split.
Will Croatia extend their unbeaten run to nine internationals?
Bulgaria meanwhile haven’t qualified for a World Cup since France ’98 or any major tournament for that matter since Euro 2004.
They took on World Cup hosts Qatar at the weekend but were beaten 2-1, despite Kiril Despodov’s second half equaliser.
The Lions won two World Cup qualifiers last year but have actually only won three of their last 26 competitive fixtures.
Everything points towards at Croatia win at Education City Stadium.
Bosnia & Herzegovina vs Luxembourg
Can Bosnia & Herzegovina address their poor run of form?
On Friday night, the Golden Lilies welcomed Georgia to Zenica in a friendly but suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat.
This means they’ve now lost four successive internationals, following qualification defeats to Finland and Ukraine and an out-of-window loss to USA in Carson.
Overall, Bosnia have only won twice since the start of 2022, beating Kuwait in a friendly and Kazakhstan in a qualifier, both last year.
This certainly isn’t the form Ivaylo Petev would’ve been hoping to go into June’s UEFA Nations League campaign with.
In contrast, Luxembourg are a team on the rise, optimistic for the future.
The Red Lions hold the world-record for most qualification campaigns entered without ever being successful, extending that record to 36 last year.
However, Luc Holtz’s side did win three of their eight World Cup qualifiers in 2021, beating Republic of Ireland in Dublin and then Azerbaijan twice.
So, based on points-per-game, this is Luxembourg’s best-ever qualification campaign, eclipsing Euro ’96 which is the only other time they’d won three times.
However, on Friday night, they started this year with a 3-1 defeat to Northern Ireland at home; Marvin da Graça’s first international goal in vain.
Will there be a winner at Stadion Bilino Polje?
Switzerland vs Kosovo
This will be a special international friendly as many of Switzerland’s key players, including Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri, are of Kosovar decent.
For the hosts, this’ll continue their preparations for the World Cup having qualified at Italy’s expense back in November.
On Saturday, they were beaten for the first time under Murat Yakın, losing 2-1 to England at Wembley, despite Breel Embolo heading them in front.
Nevertheless, the Red Crosses have lost jut four of their last 27 competitive games, only defeated by Italy, Denmark, Portugal and Belgium since the last World Cup.
Kosovo only become a UEFA and FIFA member in 2013 so have only taken part in three qualification campaigns.
They came close to Euro 2020, losing to Georgia in the play-offs, but then finished bottom of their World Cup qualifying group last year.
Alain Giresse took charge of Kosovo for the first time last Thursday as his side hammered AFCON semi-finalists Burkina Faso 5-0 in Pristine.
Fidan Aliti, Astrit Selmani, Mërgim Vojvoda, Milot Rashica and Toni Domgjoni all on target at Fadil Vokrri Stadium in Kosovo’s joint-biggest ever win.
This will be a much tougher test and Switzerland should win at Stadion Letzigrund in Zürich.
Qatar vs Slovenia
Will Qatar keep pre-World Cup optimism high with another win over European opposition?
On Saturday, Akram Afif’s penalty before Boualem Khoukhi’s go-ahead goal saw the Maroons beat Bulgaria 2-1 in Al-Rayyan.
Qatar will play their first-ever World Cup match, on home soil no less, as soon as 21 November and have certainly been busy to best prepare for the tournament.
Since winning their first Asia Cup in 2019, they’ve appeared in four further tournaments, first going out in the Copa América group stages in Brazil.
Then, in 2021, they reached the semi-finals of both the CONCACAF Gold Cup and FIFA Arab Cup, falling to the U.S. and Algeria respectively.
Also last year, Félix Sánchez Bas’ side took part in mock-European qualifying, only winning two of ten games against Azerbaijan and Luxembourg.
In all, the hosts should be competitive at the World Cup later this year, even if they’ll probably exit at the group stages.
As for Slovenia, this month’s double header will be the only time they sample some Qatari sunshine this year.
On Saturday, they snatched a 1-1 draw against Croatia thanks to Jaka Bijol’s 91st minute penalty.
Slovenia though haven’t qualified for any major tournament since South Africa 2010 back when current Head Coach Matjaž Kek was in charge the first time.
This will be a tougher test than Bulgaria but Qatar will still be eyeing another win at Education City Stadium.
Norway vs Armenia
Will Norway make it back-to-back wins in this international window?
On Friday, quick-fire goals from their two star players, Erling Braut Håland and Martin Ødegaard, saw Norway beat Slovakia 2-0 in Oslo.
In 2021, Ståle Solbakken’s side narrowly missed out on a World Cup play-off place, finishing third in their group, behind Netherlands and Turkey.
This means Norway still haven’t qualified for a major tournament since Euro 2000, but will be confident of changing that at Germany 2024.
Armenia meanwhile have never qualified for a tournament since independence in 1992, but are certainly a nation on the rise.
In 2020, the Mountaineers secured back-to-back Nations League promotions so will be competing in League B later this year.
Then, Joaquín Caparrós’ side began World Cup qualifying with three straight wins before, admittedly, not winning any of their subsequent seven fixtures.
On Thursday, Vahan Bichakhchyan got the only goal in Yerevan as Armenia beat Montenegro 1-0, securing their first win for a year.
In short, Armenia are no pushovers but Norway should be too strong at Ullevål Stadion.
Finland vs Slovakia
Both of these sides were at Euro 2020 and, after both missed out on World Cup qualifying, attention turns towards Euro 2024.
Finland made their major tournament debut last summer after qualifying for one at the 33rd attempt.
However, the Eagle-owls missed out on a World Cup play-off place following a final matchday 2-0 defeat to France back in November.
To start the new year, Markku Kanerva’s side drew 1-1 against Iceland on Saturday with Teemu Pukki, who else, scoring his 34th international goal.
Slovakia meanwhile have now qualified for three major tournaments since independence, namely World Cup 2010 and the last two Euros.
Štefan Tarkovič’s side were in Oslo at the weekend but found Norway too hot to handle, going down 2-0.
Nevertheless, the Falcons will certainly be in the mix when Euro 2024 qualifying is decided in around 20 months time.
Will there be a winner at Estadio Nueva Condomina in Spain?
Israel vs Romania
After both began this international window with defeat, who will rediscover that winning feeling in Netanya?
On Saturday night, Israel were easily beaten 2-0 in Germany and were denied a stoppage time consolation when Yonatan Cohen’s penalty was saved.
Israel have never qualified for a major tournament as a UEFA member, but will fancy their chances of promotion to Nations League A later this year.
With Russia having been expelled, they’ll face Iceland and Albania in June and September, so might just be the favourites to win that group.
Romania meantime welcomed Greece to București on Friday, but were beaten 1-0.
The Tricolours’ wait for a first World Cup since France ’98 goes on after they finished third in their qualifying group, below North Macedonia.
These two are pretty evenly matched so will there be a winner at Netanya Stadium?
Albania vs Georgia
After a memorable victory on Friday, can Georgia make it two wins out of two in this international window?
In their first game of 2022, Budu Zivzivadze got the only goal as Georgia beat Bosnia & Herzegovina 1-0 in Zenica.
This means the Crusaders have won four successive matches after qualification wins over Kosovo and Sweden were followed by a friendly win against Uzbekistan.
Georgia’s longest winning run of all-time is five, achieved in 1997/1998, a sequence Willy Sagnol’s team can match in Tirana.
Albania meanwhile, so nearly, held Spain to a draw on Saturday night.
The Red and Blacks had seemingly snatched a memorable draw through Myrto Uzuni’s bizarre late equaliser, only for la Roja to win it in stoppage time.
Nevertheless, having ended 2021 with four wins from their last six qualifiers, Edoardo Reja’s side are going in the right direction.
This is a tough one to call at Arena Kombëtare.
Bahrain vs Belarus
After an emphatic victory at the weekend, will Belarus win again?
On Saturday, the White Wings hammered India 3-0 in Riffā with Artyom Bykov, Andrey Solovey and Valery Gromyko all scoring.
Having also beaten Jordan in November, a victory here would see Belarus win three successive games for the first time since 2004.
Although, having also beaten Uzbekistan in 2020, it would mean 40% of their wins since 2019 have come against less-fancied Asian opposition.
Bahrain meanwhile beat Burundi 1-0 at the weekend with Kamil Al-Sawad the goal scorer.
So, Hélio Sousa’s side have won all four friendlies they’ve played in 2022, following wins over Uganda, DR Congo and India.
Later this year, they’ll face Turkmenistan, Malaysia and Bangladesh in Asia Cup qualifiers, looking for their sixth successive appearance at that tournament.
Here, this should be a good test for both at Bahrain National Stadium.
Azerbaijan vs Latvia
Will either enjoy a moral boosting victory in Ta’ Qali?
Azerbaijan’s miserable recent form continued on Friday as they were beaten 1-0 by Malta in a friendly.
So, including friendlies, they’ve now won just three of their last 31 games, only beating Belarus, Cyprus and Bahrain since November 2018.
Latvia meanwhile held Kuwait to a 1-1 draw four days ago thanks to Roberts Savaļnieks’ equaliser in that one.
Dainis Kazakevičs’ side did beat Gibraltar twice in World Cup qualifying last year but, like Azerbaijan, will be competing in Nations League C in June.
Which minnows will win at Grawnd Nazzjonal?
Liechtenstein vs Faroe Islands
Two of Europe’s minnows go head-to-head in San Pedro del Pinatar, Southern Spain.
This is a golden era for Faroes football after they won promotion from UEFA Nations League D back in 2020.
So, later this year, Håkan Ericson’s side will face Lithuania, Luxembourg and Turkey as they bid to stay in the third-tier of that competition.
On Saturday, the Landsliðið drew 0-0 with Gibraltar in a friendly, so are looking for their first win since a friendly victory over Liechtenstein last June.
As for the Blues-Reds, including friendlies, they’re now winless in 17 internationals, losing 12 of the last 13.
In their first game of the week, Martin Stocklasa’s side were demolished 6-0 by African side Cape Verde.
Thus, everything points towards a Faroe Islands win at Pinatar Arena.
Malta vs Kuwait
Will Malta make it two wins out of two in this international window?
On Friday, Jurgen Degabriele got the only goal as his side beat Azerbaijan 1-0 in a friendly in Ta’ Qali.
So, the Reds are looking to win back-to-back matches for the first time since November 2020 when they actually won three on the bounce.
Kuwait meanwhile were held to a 1-1 draw by Latvia on Friday with Bader Al-Mutawa opening the scoring in that one.
Now 37, that was Al-Mutawa’s 57th international goal coming on the occasions of his 191st cap, having made his Kuwait debut in 2003.
These friendlies are important for Vítězslav Lavička’s side who face crucial Asia Cup qualifiers in June.
The Blue Wave will take on Indonesia, Nepal and Jordan in the summer, probably needing seven points to qualify for that tournament.
Here, will Malta make home advantage count at Grawnd Nazzjonali?
– 101 Great Goals may earn commission from links on this page. Our content is always original. Note that all of our reviewers are compensated for contributing content to 101 Great Goals. Learn more.