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8 games to watch during the international break

It’s been three months since that dramatic World Cup final in Qatar, and now international football is back on our screens.

The international break isn’t the most popular part of the football calendar, as club football grinds to a halt. But there is still plenty to get excited about over the next two weeks.

Here are our picks for the best games to watch during this international break.

Italy vs England (Thursday, March 23, 19:45 GMT)

There is a lot of recent history between Italy and England, with the Azzurri often coming off the better. From the last 11 meetings, the Three Lions have won just once.

Both sides begin their 2024 European Championship qualifying campaign with a point to prove. Roberto Mancini’s men defeated their opponents in the Euro 2020 final, but failed to qualify for the World Cup shortly afterwards.

As for England, they have begun to compete at major tournaments, but their record against the biggest sides remains in question. Up against a nation ranked eighth in the world, this is an opportunity to silence a few of the critics, as well as get a bit of revenge for that final.

With only two teams progressing automatically and Ukraine and North Macedonia also fighting for a spot, qualification will not be easy. A win for either team would set them up nicely for the rest of the campaign.

Argentina vs Panama (Thursday, March 23, 23:30 GMT)

Three months after ending their 36-year wait for a third World Cup trophy, Argentina return to action with a home clash against Panama. There will be several reasons to watch, but none more than for Lionel Messi.

The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner is constantly creating history, and he is on the verge of two more major milestones. Firstly, he is on 799 senior career goals. His next will put him in a VERY exclusive club, alongside only Cristiano Ronaldo and Josef Bican.

Additionally, he needs just two more to reach 100 on the international stage. He is already South America’s top scorer and is close to sitting alongside Ronaldo and Ali Daei as the only players to hit a century for their country.

France vs Netherlands (Friday, March 24, 19:45 GMT)

With a little bit more luck, either of these two sides could have been bringing the World Cup trophy home in December. But alas, both were knocked out by champions Argentina on penalties.

They now set their sights on Euro 2024, and both countries will consider themselves among the favourites for the crown.

France have arguably the most talented squad in Europe and have reached three major finals under Didier Deschamps, winning one.

Netherlands are one of international football’s sleeping giants, last winning a trophy in 1988. Returning manager Ronald Koeman will be desperate to make a statement with a result in Paris.

Tottenham Hotspur Women vs Arsenal Women (Saturday, March 25, 15:00 GMT)

It’s not just the Arsenal men’s side with some massive games coming up. The next two weeks are massive for the Gunners’ women’s team, as they have a north London derby sandwiched between a two-legged Champions League tie against Bayern Munich.

Arsenal Women have been in strong form lately, winning all three games in March. This has taken them within three points of the Champions League places with a game in hand.

Tottenham Hotspur Women have not been on such a hot streak. Their victory over Leicester City last week ended a run of five consecutive defeats. They currently sit in ninth place.

Arsenal should take the three points. In the reverse fixture, they comfortably saw off their opponents 4-0 thanks to a brace by Vivienne Miedema and strikes by Beth Mead and Rafaelle Souza.

Spain vs Norway (Saturday, March 25, 19:45 GMT)

Just over a decade ago, Spain were the dominant force in European football. Fast forward to the modern day, and they begin a new era, hoping to get back on top of the world.

Luis Enrique’s reign ended as a bit of a disappointment. He was unable to replicate his immense success with Barcelona on the international stage and concluded his stint in charge with a defeat on penalties to Morocco in the round of 16.

Now it’s the turn of Luis de la Fuente, who has been involved with La Roja’s youth teams since 2013. He has guided his teams to Under-19 and Under-21 European Championship glory and achieved a silver medal at the Olympic Games in 2021.

His debut comes up against a Norway side looking to qualify for a major tournament for the first time since 2000.

With Erling Braut Haaland and Martin Odegaard doing wonders in the Premier League, the Drillos could be a threat to any opponent.

Morocco vs Brazil (Saturday, March 25, 22:00 GMT)

During the World Cup, this pair had very different fortunes. Morocco enjoyed a memorable campaign, becoming the first African nation to reach the semi-finals.

Along the way, they beat Belgium, Canada, Spain and Portugal before eventually falling to France.

Brazil did not have such a good time. Having been heavily fancied to lift the title, they were eliminated in the quarter-finals by Croatia. This led to the departure of manager Tite.

It may only be friendly, but it should be interesting to see how this one goes. Will Morocco build on their World Cup success, or will the Selecao bounce back?

Forest Green Rovers vs Sheffield Wednesday (Sunday, March 26, 13:00 GMT)

For those who just can’t let go of domestic club football, there is still plenty on the way from the lower divisions. On Sunday, there is a League One clash which could have an impact at both ends of the table.

Flying high at the top of the third tier is Sheffield Wednesday. They are currently 23 games unbeaten in the league, last losing in October to Plymouth Argyle.

In that time, they have picked up 55 points and also pulled off a shock FA Cup victory over Champions League chasers Newcastle United.

By contrast, Forest Green Rovers are rooted to the bottom of the table, 13 points from safety with just nine games left to save themselves. They haven’t won a game since December, losing 14 from 17 in that run.

Earlier in the season, the Owls won the reverse fixture 5-0. Logic suggests a comfortable away win. However, football is never that simple.

Germany vs Belgium (Tuesday, March 28, 19:45 GMT)

As hosts, Germany are already guaranteed a place at Euro 2024. But that doesn’t make their upcoming games meaningless.

Sure, they are friendlies, but Die Mannschaft have plenty of work to do to elevate themselves back to their previous standards.

Having reached the semi-finals of every tournament from 2006 to 2016, they have since failed to win a single knockout game – an underwhelming period which includes two group stage exits.

There is plenty of talent at the disposal of Hansi Flick. If he can get the best out of his squad, Germany should be a contender again.

Next week, they come up against Belgium. The Red Devils are coming towards the end of their ‘golden generation’, with Eden Hazard’s international retirement adding another nail in the coffin.

Kevin De Bruyne and Thibaut Courtois are both in their 30s now. Euro 2024 may be their last tournament. It is not one that they would want to go to waste.

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