It has been only one month since the last International break and there is yet another one now. Club football takes a pause as the players make the long trips to represent their respective countries in different competitions like the UEFA Nations League.
The sole reason for the frequent international breaks this year is due to the Coronavirus pandemic which affected the 2020 FIFA calendar.
As the World Cup Qualifiers take place across the various continents, there will be lots of attention on the UEFA Nations League semifinals.
The hosts of the semifinals and final matches, Italy will take on Spain on Wednesday, while Belgium will battle France on Thursday for a chance to play in Sunday’s final.
These fixtures promise plenty of excitement and drama.
Italy vs Spain
This is a repeat of the semifinals of Euros 2020 which Italy managed to win on penalties after a 1-1 draw in extra time.
The Azzurri were the only unbeaten side in League A of the UEFA Nations League. However, they managed just three wins in Group 1, garnering 12 points. They were alongside the Netherlands, Poland and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In truth, Roberto Mancini’s have lost some of the steam that saw them clinch the European title last July. They have won just one match in their last three World Cup Qualifiers.
The Italian boss will be banking on Juventus’ Federico Chiesa who had an outstanding tournament three months ago. Lorenzo Insigne has a lot to prove after a quiet competition.
Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci are also set to continue their long-standing partnership in defence for Italy.
The 56-year old manager will look to press high against a rather inexperienced Spain squad while attempting to take up the spaces and hit directly.
On the other hand, La Roja finished top of League A Group 4 with 11 points ahead of Germany who they hit for six. They scored 13 goals and conceded three in six matches.
Luis Enrique will be seeking revenge for their semifinal ouster even with a much-changed team. Pedri, Thiago Alcantara and Jordi Alba are injured for this game. Alvaro Morata is also missing from the squad.
The 2012 European Champions will hope to replicate their recent form which saw them win two of their last three matches in this encounter.
With both teams not in the best form, this fixture looks like a low-scoring one where either team could win by the odd goal.
Prediction: Italy 2-1 Spain
Belgium vs France
This fixture looks sure to deliver plenty of excitement, with both teams having so much to rectify.
Belgium remains the number 1 team on the FIFA rankings. However, they are close to becoming one of football’s nearly-men having failed to win a title.
They lost out in the quarterfinals of the Euros by Italy. Indeed, they had lost stars like Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne to injury in the second-round game against Portugal.
Roberto Mancini’s men were heads and shoulders above every other team in League A Group 2 of the Nations League. They finished with 15 points, losing just once to England.
They have also won their last three matches in the World Cup Qualifiers, scoring 10 goals and conceding just three.
Romelu Lukaku will fancy his chances in the attack against a very timid French side.
France will be desperate to put aside their disappointing tournament, one which saw them lose to Switzerland in the second round.
Les Bleues have been anything but stellar since the start of the European tournament. However, they qualified for the semifinals at the expense of the 2019 Nations League champions.
Didier Deschamps’ men needed Antoine Griezmann to nick a win from their last three World Cup Qualifiers.
The manager will be hoping for a change of fortune for his star forward Kylian Mbappe who failed to deliver the last time out. Karim Benzema who has been in fine form for Real Madrid and is on the road to redeeming his international career will look to make a tangible impact.
Based on form, the Red Devils look primed to secure one of the tickets for Sunday’s final.
Prediction: Belgium 2-1 France.