Saturday’s international friendlies:
Mexico vs Peru, New Zealand vs Australia, Bolivia vs Senegal, Colombia vs Guatemala, Ivory Coast vs Togo and South Africa vs Sierra Leone.
Mexico, Australia, Colombia and Senegal to win- 6/1!
Mexico, Australia, Colombia and Senegal to win- 6/1!
Mexico vs Peru
How will Mexico look in this friendly in Los Angeles?
El Tri finished second in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, their only two defeats from 14 matches coming away in Canada and in the USA.
So, they’ve now qualified for each of the last nine World Cups they’ve been eligible for.
However, Mexico have gone out in the round of 16, no earlier or no later, at each of the last seven editions.
Thus, Gerardo Martino’s team are tasking with finally delivering that illusive ‘quinto partido’.
In the summer, el Tri beat Suriname in the Nations League, but were then held to a 1-1 draw in Jamaica.
They also endured mixed friendly results, beating Nigeria, drawing with Ecuador and losing heavily to Uruguay.
So, the mood in the Mexican camp isn’t great, meaning Martino’s men will be desperate to win this one.
Peru meantime ended their 36-year World Cup exile in Russia, but will not be in Qatar in November.
La Blanquirroja were heartbreakingly beaten in June’s inter-confederation play-offs, going out to Australia on penalties following a goalless draw.
Luis Advíncula and Alex Valera the men to miss from 12 yards.
As a result, highly successful manager Ricardo Gareca has resigned, with this Juan Reynoso’s first game at the helm.
Will there be a winner at the Rose Bowl?
New Zealand vs Australia
For the second time in three days, Oceanic rivals Australia and New Zealand go head-to-head.
On Thursday night, the two clashed in Brisbane, with the only goal scored by Awer Mabil.
Back in Auckland, will New Zealand get some revenge?
Australia have November’s World Cup to look forward to, after they ousted Peru on penalties in Al-Rayyan during the summer.
That was the Socceroos’ 20th match of the qualification cycle, but it maintains their record of having reached every World Cup since 2002.
So now, ahead of meetings with reigning champions France, Denmark and Tunisia, Graham Arnold only has these two fixtures to fine-tune his squad.
Will Australia enjoy a moral-boosting victory in Brisbane?
New Zealand meanwhile heartbreakingly missed out on a World Cup spot, beaten 1-0 by Costa Rica in Qatar.
This is the third successful cycle in which the All Whites have fallen in the inter-confederation play-offs, losing to Peru five years ago and Mexico in 2013.
However, from 2026 onwards, World Cup expansion means OFC will have one guaranteed World Cup berth, so expect New Zealand to be familiar faces at the tournament in future.
For now, Danny Hay has to lift a heartbroken group of players, hoping to beat their biggest rivals.
Will the home fans be celebrating a victory at Eden Park?
Bolivia vs Senegal
Will Senegal build some momentum ahead of the World Cup?
It’s already been a memorable year for Senegal, winning their first-ever AFCON title in February before qualifying for the World Cup seven weeks later.
Both times, the Lions of Teranga achieved this by beating Egypt on penalties.
Aliou Cissé was in the team that reached the quarter-finals in 2002 but, after his team were eliminated on disciplinary record in Russia, he’ll be desperate to make amends
In a group with Qatar, Netherlands and Ecuador, Senegal will fancy their chances of reaching the knockout rounds, this time.
Bolivia meantime have only qualified for one of the last 18 World Cups, this USA ‘94.
Le Verde won just four of 18 CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers all of which, as usual, came at home.
So, this’ll be Gustavo Costas’ first game in charge, seeking a rare victory for Bolivia on foreign soil.
Senegal are likely to be too strong at Stade de la Source in France.
Colombia vs Guatemala
After Colombia surprisingly missed out on the World Cup in Qatar, it’s all about rebuilding under Néstor Lorenzo.
Los Cafeteros reached the knockout stages at each of the last two editions, but won just five of their 18 CONMEBOL qualifiers, missing out by one point.
Stalwarts David Ospina, Juan Cuadrado, Wilmar Barrios, James Rodríguez and Radamel Falcao are all still involved, but it’s also about blooding the next generation.
La Tricolor have won their last three matches, beating Bolivia and Venezuela in qualifiers and then Saudi Arabia in a friendly.
So, will Colombia’s winning run continue?
Guatemala meanwhile have never qualified for the World Cup, eliminated in the first round by Curaçao back in June 2021.
More recently, la Azul y Blanco have been decent in the CONCACAF Nations League.
Back in the summer, they accumulated seven points, beating both Belize and Dominican Republic at home having lost to French Guinea.
If Guatemala are to qualify for back-to-back Gold Cups, they need to pip French Guinea to top spot when they meet in March.
Here, Colombia are likely to be too strong at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey.
Côte d’Ivoire vs Togo
After a bitterly disappointing World Cup qualification campaign, Côte d’Ivoire are rebuilding.
Les Éléphants fell in the second round of African qualifying, eliminated by Cameroon in the final matchday.
So, Ivory Coast have failed to qualify for back-to-back World Cups, having appeared at three in-a-row beforehand.
New manager Jean-Louis Gasset has taken over at key time though, with the next edition of AFCON taking place in the Ivory Coast, hosting for the first time since 1984.
So, full focus is on January 2024, making all friendlies, even this far out, vitally important.
Togo meantime have failed to qualify for each of the last two editions of the Africa Cup of Nations.
Les Éperviers have also made a very poor start to the new cycle, only drawing with Eswatini before defeat in Cape Verde.
Given that Burkina Faso and Cape Verde are also in Group B, their hopes look slim.
In this friendly at Stade Robert Diochon in France, Côte d’Ivoire should win comfortably.
South Africa vs Sierra Leone
Perennial underachievers South Africa are hoping for a brighter future.
Bafana Bafana have only qualified for one of the last three AFCON, missing out on the most recent edition earlier this year.
Hugo Broos’ team then began the latest cycle with a 2-1 defeat in Morocco, despite taking the lead through Lyle Foster.
However, after Zimbabwe were disqualified, all South Africa have to do to make it is finish above Liberia.
Those two will meet twice in March and surely not even South Africa can mess that up, right?
Sierra Leone meantime made their Africa Cup of Nations debut in Cameroon back in January.
Once there, the Leone Stars held both Algeria and Côte d’Ivoire to draws, but still fell in the group stages following defeat to Equatorial Guinea.
In qualifying for the next edition, Nigeria will top Group A, while São Tomé and Príncipe are minnows.
So, Sierra Leone will be fighting for second with Guinea-Bissau; those two draw 2-2 in June.
Thus, John Keister’s team know the reverse fixture in Bissau, coming up next year, will be decisive.
Before then, can the visitors spring a surprise at Soccer City in Johannesburg?