International fixtures to watch during the March 2021 break

  England are one of Europe's giants in action this international break | Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images The March 2021 internati...

 

England are one of Europe's giants in action this international break | Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

The March 2021 international break see the start of the European section of 2022 World Cup qualifiers, with countries in action up to three times before the end of the months.

There will also be qualifiers in Asia, Africa and North/Central America, plus a handful of friendlies.

Here’s a closer look at 10 international fixtures to look out for.

Turkey vs Netherlands


Netherlands start their 2022 World Cup qualifiers in Turkey | ANP Sport/Getty Images

When is it played? Wednesday 24 March
Where is it played? Ataturk Olympic Stadium, Istanbul
Kick-off? 17.00 (GMT)/18.00 (CET)
TV channel/live stream? Sky Sports Football

The Netherlands inexplicably failed to qualify for the last World Cup, despite finishing third in 2014. They have dramatically improved since then with a fresh generation of stars and will begin their 2022 campaign with the toughest game of their group away Turkey.

This is one of the very first two 2022 World Cup qualifiers in the UEFA section to kick-off, with the other action between Estonia and Czech Republic.

Belgium vs Wales

Can Gareth Bale help Wales shock Belgium again? | Stu Forster/Getty Images

When is it played? Wednesday 24 March
Where is it played? Den Dreef, Leuven
Kick-off? 19.45 (GMT)/20.45 (CET)
TV channel/live stream? Sky Sports Main Event/S4C

Still ranked number one in the world by FIFA and the first country to qualify for Euro 2020, Belgium begin their 2022 qualification against the same nation that stunned them at Euro 2016.

Wales were the underdogs back then and dumped Belgium out at the quarter-final stage, with this month’s World Cup qualifier a first meeting since. This will be the hardest fixture Wales face in their quest to reach a first World Cup since 1958 so a good performance could set the tone.

France vs Ukraine

France are starting on the road to retain their World Cup title | FRANCK FIFE/Getty Images

When is it played? Wednesday 24 March
Where is it played? Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off? 19.45 (GMT)/20.45 (CET)
TV channel/live stream? Sky Sports Premier League

The last time France were reigning World Cup champions they were given automatic qualification for the 2002 tournament and, without any competitive football in two years, it ended in disaster.

The rules on holders having to go through qualifying changed soon afterwards and this time the French will begin the defence of their title against a Ukraine side managed by 2004 Ballon d’Or winner Andriy Shevchenko.

Italy vs Northern Ireland

Italy have a poor World Cup record since 2006 | ANDREAS SOLARO/Getty Images

When is it played? Thursday 25 March
Where is it played? Stadio Ennio Tardini, Parma
Kick-off? 19.45 (GMT)/20.45 (CET)
TV channel/live stream? Sky Sports Football

Northern Ireland know they are up against it in the same group as Italy and Switzerland and this will be a big early test to set the tone for their qualifying campaign.

The Azzurri, meanwhile, have some wrongs to right. Since last winning the World Cup in 2006, they exited both the 2010 and 2014 tournaments at the group stage and failed to even qualify for 2018, which was the first time a World Cup had taken place without Italy since 1958.

Scotland vs Austria

Scotland have momentum behind them after reaching Euro 2020 | ANDY BUCHANAN/Getty Images

When is it played? Thursday 25 March
Where is it played? Hampden Park, Glasgow
Kick-off? 19.45 (GMT)
TV channel/live stream? Sky Sports Main Event

Scotland have broken their long absence from an international tournament by qualifying for this summer’s European Championship, but their World Cup drought goes on.

To break it and reach Qatar 2022, the Scots will know there is a good chance they will have to finish above either Denmark or Austria in qualifying. Austria’s visit to Glasgow on matchday one is therefore a huge opportunity for them.

Sweden vs Georgia

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is out of international retirement for Sweden | Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

When is it played? Thursday 25 March
Where is it played? Friends Arena, Stockholm
Kick-off? 19.45 (GMT)/20.45 (CET)
TV channel/live stream? Sky Sports red button

The intrigue here is that Sweden legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic has come out of international retirement at the age of 39 and has been named in his country's squad.

Ibrahimovic has scored 15 Serie A goals in 15 appearances this season and last represented his country at Euro 2016, with the Swedes eliminated at the group stage.

Northern Ireland vs USA


There is a USMNT golden generational building ahead of 2026 | John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images

When is it played? Sunday 28 March
Where is it played? Windsor Park, Belfast
Kick-off? 17.05 (BST)
TV channel/live stream? Sky Sports Football

It may only be a friendly rather than a World Cup qualifier, but a clash with Northern Ireland will be a good test for a young but enormously United States team that is littered with players at clubs in Europe’s top five leagues.

This USMNT golden generation will aim to peak at the World Cup on home soil in 2026, but the journey is already in motion.

Romania vs Germany

Germany are looking to reach an 18th consecutive World Cup | Maja Hitij/Getty Images

When is it played? Sunday 28 March
Where is it played? Arena Nationala, Bucharest
Kick-off? 19.45 (BST)/20.45 (CEST)
TV channel/live stream? Sky Sports Premier League

Germany’s second World Cup qualifier of the 2022 campaign will be their toughest as they travel to Bucharest to face Romania, who are the second highest ranked country in the group.

If Die Mannschaft, who start out with a home game against Iceland a few days earlier, can win, it is unlikely anything will stop from qualifying for an 18th consecutive World Cup.

Qatar vs Republic of Ireland

Few in Europe know much about Qatar ahead of 2022 | Francois Nel/Getty Images

When is it played? Tuesday 30 March
Where is it played? Nagyerdei Stadion, Debrecen
Kick-off? 20.30 (BST)
TV channel/live stream? Sky Sports Football

Qatar were invited as a guest nation to the Copa America in 2019 and won the last Asian Cup in the same year, having never previously been past the quarter-finals, but they have never qualified for the World Cup in the past and most fans in Europe will have never seen them play.

Ireland’s friendly against the gulf state in Hungary could offer a glimpse as to what kind of level that Qatar are at in the build up to their 2022 World Cup on home soil.

England vs Poland

Can England keep a lid on Robert Lewandowski at Wembley? | PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images

When is it played? Wednesday 31 March
Where is it played? Wembley Stadium, London
Kick-off? 19.45 (BST)
TV channel/live stream? ITV1

England open up their 2022 World Cup campaign with qualifiers against San Marino and Albania, before hosting Poland in the third game of a triple header international break.

The Three Lions are favourites to qualify from the group, but facing Poland means facing Robert Lewandowski. The striker may have a poor tournament record, yet he is prolific when it comes to qualifiers and is having his best club season of an already phenomenal career.




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