Several senior players are training with their countries ahead of the final round of 2014 World Cup qualifiers over the next few days, while some of our younger stars are readying themselves for important European qualifiers at Under-21 and Under-19 levels.
In addition, there’s a couple of international friendlies scheduled this weekend – making it an all-round feast of football.
It all gets underway on Thursday evening, as Tom Carroll – currently on loan at Queens Park Rangers – joins Harry Kane in the England Under-21 squad for their European Under-21 qualifier away to San Marino in Group 1.
Goalkeeper Jordan Archer is in the Scotland squad to host Slovakia in Group 3 in the same competition, while there are additional fixtures for England against Lithuania and Scotland against Georgia to come next week.
Thursday also brings the first of three European Under-19 qualifiers in quick succession for a Northern Ireland Under-19 squad that includes young midfielder Aaron McEneff. They travel to Belgium on Thursday, before facing France on Saturday and Iceland three days later.
The senior fixtures kick into gear on Friday night – and all eyes will be on England, with Roy Hodgson’s men in the driving seat as they bid to secure a place at next summer’s finals in Brazil.
Jermain Defoe, Andros Townsend and Kyle Walker are all in the Three Lions’ squad ahead of home games against Montenegro on Friday and Poland on Tuesday, with everyone in the knowledge that two wins will be enough for England to qualify as winners of Group H.
Belgium are in an even more advantageous position heading into Friday’s visit to Croatia. They need just one point from the match to secure first place in Group A, and they look well placed to get at least that with a strong squad that includes Nacer Chadli, Mousa Dembele and Jan Vertonghen.
If Belgium do leave empty handed on Friday, they’ll have another chance to secure top spot in the group when they host Wales on Tuesday.
In Group D, Vlad Chiriches is in Romania’s squad for Friday’s visit to Andorra and Tuesday’s home match against Estonia. Only one point separates second placed Hungary, third place Turkey and Romania in fourth, and with Vlad and his colleagues set to play the group’s two bottom sides, Vlad is hopeful that his nation can secure second spot, and with it a place in the play-off round.
Italy have already won Group B, but it’s a close run thing for Christian Eriksen’s Denmark as they bid to secure second place, and a play-off place. The Danes are currently a point behind Bulgaria, but with a home game against the already qualified Italians on Friday, followed by a clash with Malta on home turf next week, Christian knows there is still everything to play for. Czech Republic and Armenia could theoretically steal in with two wins as well, so Friday’s match is key for the Danes.
Gylfi Sigurdsson’s Iceland, meanwhile, still stand a mathematical chance of winning Group E, but with Switzerland five points clear with six more points up for grabs, a place in the play-off round looks a more realistic target. Gylfi’s side, currently second, host bottom-of-the-table Cyprus on Friday, and a positive result there would keep them in the driving seat to hold onto the runners-up berth, with a short trip to Norway rounding off their group stage campaign next week.
Hugo Lloris’ France have a decisive few days ahead of them, as they bid to catch Spain at the top of Group I. The two nations are currently level on 14 points, but Spain have a game in hand, at home to basement side Belarus, which is set to be played on Friday. Hugo’s side won’t be resting on their laurels though, as they host Australia in a friendly, acting as a warm-up for next week’s home match against Finland, with Spain set to host Georgia at the same time.
In South America, Erik Lamela’s Argentina are setting pretty at the top of their standings – and will be looking to maintain their lofty perch with a home game against Peru on Friday. They round off their qualifying campaign on Tuesday away to Uruguay.
Brazil, of course, automatically qualify for next summer’s finals as the host nation, but they’re also in action in the next few days. Paulinho is in their squad for friendly matches against South Korea on Saturday, and Zambia on Tuesday.
Also in friendly action is Will Miller, a member of our successful Under-18s squad. Will’s on duty for England Under-18s for their friendly double-header against Hungary at St George’s Park on Friday and Monday.
We wish all our lads the best of luck for their respective matches.