Wednesday’s international friendlies: Republic of Ireland vs Latvia & El Salvador vs Honduras.
Republic of Ireland vs Latvia
The first of ten matches Republic of Ireland will play in 2023, but will it be a year to remember?
The Boys in Green are desperate to qualify for next summer’s European Championships, having featured at back-to-back editions, before missing out on Euro 2020 in the play-offs.
However, Stephen Kenny’s face a real battle to get there, drawn in a group alongside France, Netherlands, Greece and Gibraltar.
With a top two finish unlikely, Ireland need to put in strong performances, seeking to build momentum and belief ahead of next March’s play-offs.
On Monday night, France will be in Dublin, so Republic of Ireland will be desperate for a victory here, with that huge qualifier in mind.
Latvia too are looking to prepare for their group opener, coming up on Tuesday against Wales in Cardiff.
Given that Croatia, Türkiye and Armenia complete Group D, Dainis Kazakevičs’ side are odds on favourites to finish rock bottom.
Last year, Latvia won promotion to Nations League C, topping a group containing Moldova, Andorra and Liechtenstein.
It’s almost 20 years since their sole major tournament appearance, coming at Euro 2004, but Latvia have very much regressed back to minnow status since then.
Ireland have won all five previous meetings with Latvia, scoring 14 goals and conceding just one, with this trend set to continue at the Aviva.
El Salvador vs Honduras
Two Central American rivals go head-to-head in this friendly in Los Angeles.
These two actually finished bottom and second bottom in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, winning just two games between them.
Their clash in San Salvador ended goalless, before El Salvador left San Pedro Sula with a shock 2-0 win 14 months ago.
This campaign was a disaster for Honduras, ignominiously yielding a measly four points from 14 fixtures.
Since, la H have appointed Diego Vásquez as Head Coach, and this has led to mixed results in the Nations League.
Honduras beat Curaçao away, but then lost to the same opponent at home three days later, before a surprise 2-1 home win over Canada back in June.
So, if La H win in Toronto next Tuesday they’ll qualify for the Nations League Finals at Canada’s expense.
Similarly, El Salvador amassed four points against Grenada, winning 3-1 at home before a last-gasp 2-2 draw in St George’s.
Hugo Pérez’s side then very nearly beat USA at Estadio Cuscatlán, but conceded a stoppage time equaliser as it ended 1-1.
Those two meet again in Orlando on Monday, with El Salvador needing to win to pip the United States to top spot.
With daunting away games facing both next week, who will warm-up with a friendly win at BMO Stadium in California?