European International break doesn’t stop the ten most important matches to follow for us – the newish American fans of the global game! Can’t even slow this train down.
1. England vs. Croatia – UEFA Nations League
Here’s the link to my brief Explainer on what this event is:
This is the last match to be played in this League A group of three. Spain is done, two points up on both these teams. So if either wins, that team goes to the Playoffs. If the match ends in a draw, Spain advances.
FIFA-ranked #5 England surely had no trouble with the USMNT in their recent friendly. They haven’t lost in their last four matches overall, between this event and friendlies. And the offense has picked up, with six goals in their last two matches.
#4 Croatia will be a stern test. They struggled after losing to France in the World Cup final. But a friendly win over Jordan and 3-2 win over Spain in this tournament seem to indicate they’re back in form.
Key players to watch today will be Raheem Sterling for England (two goals in the Spain match) and Tin Jedvaj for Croatia (two goals in their Spain match). (9:00 AM EST, ESPN2)
B. Switzerland vs. Belgium – UEFA Nations League
This is another League A match. Different Group, of course. #1-ranked Belgium – who haven’t lost in six straight – lead the Swiss by three heading into this last match. But they’re tied on goal differential, so win of any margin for #8-Switzerland puts them in the Playoffs on the GD tiebreaker.
While it can be easy to overvalue friendlies, a home 0-1 loss to Qatar in their last outing isn’t promising for Switzerland. They haven’t beaten anyone but Group-last place Iceland (twice) since June. (2:45 PM, Univision Deportes)
RESULT: Switzerland 5-2 Playoff time for the Swiss
Two letter A’s in the Icelandic alphabet. Fine.
But there’s only one Number B.
3. Guinea vs. Ivory Coast – Africa Cup of Nations qualification
The ACN is next year, Africa’s top tournament for men’s national teams. Groups of four are competing in this current event, with the top two finishers in each getting in.
Two matches to go in Group H. Guinea lead Ivory Coast by three in the table. Between the two of them, they haven’t lost in ten matches overall. They’re ranked #65 and #64 in the world, respectively. (12:00 PM, beIN Sports)
4. Paris Saint-Germain vs. Lyon – France Division 1
This is the French women’s top flite. Lyon is the major power in all Europe, has been for years. They’re undefeated again, have outscored opponents 37-1.
Today represents their toughest test of the year. PSG are also undefeated, though someone got a draw on them. Their GD is 24-3. Noob thinks they can keep this within a goal, but no better.
Never doubt that the women of France aren’t tough tough tough.
5. SS Jeanne d’Arc vs. Besancon Football – Coupe de France
Like yesterday, we’re catching another early (7th-) round match of the French FA Cup in order to spy on a CONCACAF team.
Noob’s not sure how Reunion qualifies its two teams into this event. JdA only finished 5th in last year’s Reunion Premier. Neither did they win the territory’s own Cup tournament. They’re #B in this year’s league season, which is nearly done. They still don’t score much, but the defense has been much improved.
Besancon play in Championnat National 3, France’s fifth-tier league. This league has many regional divisions (groups). They play in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté (Group E). They’re in 5th place in their league season. They don’t score much, either. Noob’s not got the experience to handicap a match like this, but doens’t look like it’s likely to be a high-scoring affair.
RESULT: Besancon 0-1 AET
6. Tauro vs. Arabe Unido – Panama National League
They’ve reached the Apertura (first half-season) postseason Semifinals here. This is the first match of a two-legged tie to see which will play for the title. Tauro are the #3 seed, play much more offensively than anyone else in that league. Arabe Unido won several close matches to get the #B seed. If Tauro score early in this, Noob predicts a rout will ensue.
RESULT: Tauro 2-0
Noob is not down with the bull half-face thing.
That feels like nightmare-fodder.
7. Nicaragua vs. Haiti – CONCACAF Nations League qualification
Six of CONCACAF’s best men’s national teams are not having to participate in this event. They will be placed in League A of the inaugural Nations League next year. All the other member nations are battling for placement in the various League levels, just like UEFA’s NL set-up. The top ten finishers in this event will also qualify for the Gold Cup, the federation’s biennial championship.
Since each team plays just four games, there’s a lot of room for volatility. And we’re getting it. Haiti are ranked just #102 in the world, yet are in 1st in this event with just this last match to go. They’ve outscored opponents 17-1.
Nicaragua are ranked even lower (#127), but also vying for a Gold Cup slot. They’re in 9th. They likely need a win to maintain their GC invitation, though a draw today doesn’t leave them out automatically. They only score half again as much as Haiti have been, are just an even match on their own pitch today.
RESULT: Haiti 0-2
8. Brendam United vs. Brendam Harbor – Isle of Sodor Premier League
Noob’s exclusive coverage of the Isle’s inaugural FA league continues! I haven’t been able to yet give the IoSPL the attention I intended to, especially given how closely I documented the first-ever IoS FA Cup here over the summer. I’ve been hopping the pond quite a bit, soccer and other obligations keeping me stateside oft times.
Suffice it to say for now that these are historically two of the best teams on Sodor. Of course, that “history” is tons of friendlies and loose, sporadic league-like organizations that have come and gone over many years here. Now that they’re organizing their football on this national scale, it’s hard to know how much water past results hold.
Also, Harbor won the FA Cup. And on defense, a soccer virtue not typically held in particular esteem on the Isle. Shockingly, B-Utd didn’t even make it out of the Group Stage, finishing third there. Just couldn’t find the offense (four goals in three matches).
RESULT: Brendam Utd 10-3 As often happens on Sodor, once a team is 2-3 goals late, what little defense might’ve been happening evaporates.
I don’t know. The font just went weird.
I blame having switched from MS Word to OpenOffice.
9. Tahiti vs. New Caledonia – Women’s World Cup qualification
Eight teams from the OFC are vying for one spot in World Cup next year. They’ve been divided into two Groups, with the top two finishers in each advancing to a Knockout Round.
This is the first match for both teams. They’re ranked #157 and #155 in the world. This makes them the fourth and third-best teams in this federation.
RESULT: N.C. 2-4
10. Vitoria Setubal vs. Tondela – Portugal League Cup
The Taca de Liga has just reached its Group Stage, where 16 teams remain. They’ve been divided into Groups of four. Only the winners of each will advance to the Knockout Round.
This is not the country’s FA Cup, but rather a secondary Cup tournament contested by only clubs from the top two leagues. V.S. is a midtable Primeira Liga team, while Tondela is a fair bit worse. The point here isn’t so much this particular match so much as to just introduce Noobites to the tournament period.
RESULT: Tondela 1-2
So long from Setubal!
Come for the soccer, stay for the boutique apartments.