Just when the domestic seasons were starting to get into a rythm, another international break will halt the seasons for the time being. At least this time, it’s for a worthy cause: Euro 2008 qualifying. An exciting few weeks of club play saw Arsenal beat Manchester United and the Madrid derby end in a tie. Several pivotal games this weekend will help determine the 16 teams that meet in Austria and Switzerland.
Spain vs. Sweden: Spain captain and all-time leading scorer Raul has been dropped from the squad for the first time in ten years by Spain’s racist 126 year old coach Luis Aragones. Aragones insists Raul will be recalled to the team at a later date but the fact that’s hes left off the roster for such a big game shows that times are changing. Spain has plenty of young stars that make Raul’s spot on the team less certain. Young players like Fernando Torres and David Villa, who both scored three goals at the World Cup, have taken the reigns of Spain’s attack. After losing to dismal Northern Ireland in their last qualifier, Spain needs to get a win versus the Swedes. Sweden leads Group F of qualifying after two games while Spain are currently 5th.
Italy vs. Ukraine: Most fans will remember the last meeting between these two teams. Just a couple short months ago, Italy beat Ukraine 3-0 in the World Cup quarterfinals and later went on to win their 4th championship. Things haven’t been going as smoothly for the Italians in Euro 2008 qualifying however. A tie and a loss in their first two games has put them in 6th place of their group in the early going. While it’s still early in the qualifying stages, the Italians probably need a home win against Ukraine to feel more comfortable about their chances. Luca Toni and Alessando Del Piero have both been selected for the game against Ukraine and next week’s game vs. Georgia. Chelsea striker Andriy Shevchenko is questionable for the game due to a high temperature. Good to see he’s really sucking it up and not letting it affect his status.
Best of the Rest
France vs. Scotland- Group B
Greece vs. Norway- Group C
England vs. Macedonia- Group E
Netherlands vs. Bulgaria- Group G