March FIFA International Window Watchability Rankings: Top 10 must-see games
The club game around the world (mostly, ahem, MLS) takes a pause for international World Cup qualifiers and friendlies for the next week, and during that time there are going to be some sights to behold.
Between high-intensity qualifiers in CONCACAF and CONMEBOL, potentially pivotal qualifiers in Europe and the high-profile friendlies featuring some of the world's finest, there's plenty of international matches on which to feast over the next seven days.
After sifting through the "meh" friendlies, one-sided qualifiers or qualifiers without the highest of stakes, here are the 10 best of the bunch that the international calendar has to offer (all times Eastern):
So the Netherlands have fallen on some hard times, and Italy is opting for a younger, more experimental squad, but that does little to devalue this matchup between traditional European powers.
Belgium continues its process under coach Roberto Martinez and his assistant Thierry Henry, and it can take a big step in securing the top spot in Group H. Leading second-place Greece by two points, a win would create separation. Belgium has a staggering +20 goal differential through four games (thanks Estonia and Gibraltar!), but Greece has only conceded twice in that same time. Something will give.
There's bound to be an overreaction one way or another, regardless of the fact that England is down a whole cast of strikers. Either England is in shambles or England is on track to lift the trophy in Russia. Tune in to find out!
These two played one of the best games of Euro 2016, a 3-3 draw in which Cristiano Ronaldo willed the eventual champion to the point in the group stage. While 40-year-old GK Gabor Kiraly no longer plays, the two could again put on a show–and it's an important game, too. Both are trailing Switzerland in a sneaky-tough Group B, so there's must-win potential if either wants to avoid the playoff round.
CONCACAF's two best teams meet at Azteca, where Chicharito is hoping to tie (and/or pass) Jared Borgetti's all-time scoring mark for El Tri. At a perfect 2-0-0 in the Hex without a goal conceded, Costa Rica has eyes on spoiling the party.
Wales's qualification quest from a relatively tough group is in danger, and this match pitting two of Euro 2016's knockout-round participants against one another will go a long way in determining which has the better outlook going forward. A World Cup without Gareth Bale would be a shame, so look for Wales's star attraction to bring it.
There's no Paul Pogba, but that does little to take away from the star-quality this showdown of European powers will bring. Friendlies are a mixed bag and don't always live up to the billing, but let's put it this way: you're not NOT watching France-Spain.
There's no margin for error for the U.S. men's national team, and while CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers aren't always beautiful, there's no better element for entertainment than desperation. The U.S. is full of that and then some after an 0-2-0 start to the Hex. Lose again, and it's DEFCON time for next Tuesday's match in Panama.
The last time they met (Copa America Centenario final), the result forced Lionel Messi into a harried retirement. So naturally, Argentina has a point to prove against its bogeyman opponent. Oh, and there's also the part that the two are separated by a point in fourth and fifth place in CONMEBOL's table, so the stakes are quite high on the road to Russia 2018.
After its previous struggles, first-place Brazil is in the express lane to Russia and looks to make it seven qualifying wins in a row. Luis Suarez is suspended for Uruguay, which takes a bit of luster away, but Edinson Cavani and the Celeste have plenty of firepower to combat Neymar & Co. Uruguay trails Brazil by four points in the CONMEBOL standings and welcomes Tite's Seleção to its home turf.