With just about 2 months to the World Cup, football fans around the world are already licking their lips in anticipation of the great football Bonanza in June. But before the official business commences there will be some warm-up matches to help the coaches make up their mind on the players who will be boarding the plane to Russia, the game plans and strategies to use and all the necessary final preparations. While for some players these matches will be one last chance to impress their coaches and seal their spots in the starting lineup hence these matches can be seen as the calm before the storm and they absolutely can’t be taken for granted because some of the results might have major implications. Here are a few matches to watch out for.
France vs Republic of Ireland
Past encounters between these two teams have been fiery affairs with a lot at stake, but naturally this won’t be the case this time around. France is heading to World Cup as one of the favorites or more like outsiders with a big chance of lifting their second World Cup title after the first one won in 1998. They are definitely no lightweights and have one of the most talented squads with a broad range of youngsters who will give every coach a selection dilemma, so a lot will be at stake in this match on who makes the final 23 man squad. This match will also be an opportunity for the French team to get their balance right and finally decide on a formation which will bring out the best in their most important players (Antoine Greizmann and Paul Pogba) because this a problem coach Deschamps has been facing for almost his entire tenure as the head coach. For the Irish, there isn’t to be excited about since they will be missing out on the World Cup with the flaws of the team brutally exposed in the playoffs against an energetic Danish team. Head coach Martin O’Neill retained his position and the team is hoping to build from the World Cup qualification failure, therefore It will be a spicy affair when the teams meet at the Stade de France in May.
Panama vs Northern Ireland
Panama will be participating in the World Cup for the first time in their history and their main goal will be to enjoy the experience and give enough satisfaction the population at home as much as possible. Their Head Coach Hernán Darío Gómez has a lot experience at this level and will be leading a team to the World Cup for the fourth time. They are a very matured squad and have been playing with their self for quite some time, so few changes can expect to the team which will be participating in the World cup. Hence, this friendly match will be an opportunity to experiment against unfamiliar opponents with a different playing style. For Northern Ireland, though they missed out on qualification through the playoffs but are quite proud of their achievements and are on the bounce, the team will be taking the friendlies in May very seriously to maintain their momentum as they get ready for the Uefa Nations league and Euro 2020 qualification.
Austria vs Russia
Austria suffered a disappointing World Cup qualification campaign and also won’t be participating in the World Cup, their performances have improved significantly in the recent friendlies and they will definitely offer the Russians a stern test and rigorous warm up especially with top performers like Marko Arnautovic and David Alaba among their ranks. Russia on the other hand, is the World Cup host and have a lot of pressure on their shoulders to at least reach the latter stages of the tournament, this looks like a Herculean task for a team which has never done particularly well in major tournaments, but since Stanislav Cherchesov became their coach after Euro 2016 their performances have dramatically improved and with a crop of young and talented players bursting into the scene the Russian may well prove the naysayers wrong. This will be one of their last matches before the official opening match and they will definitely want to put on a great show to keep confidence high among the squad while also getting the supporters behind the team.