International Friendlies Preview

Lionel Messi - Argentina


Friday 22 March

23/20 USA | Draw 9/4 | Ecuador 23/10 (02:00)

USA host Ecuador in a friendly at the Orlando City Stadium in Florida. This will be USA’s third game under Gregg Berhalter. The 45-year-old guided the Yanks to an impressive 3-0 victory over Panama in his first match in charge, becoming the first USA head coach to win on his debut since Bob Bradley in January of 2007. The following month Berhalter's side claimed a 2-0 win over Costa Rica in California. Bundesliga-based players Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Weston McKennie (Schalke) and Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig) have been named in the squad. The trio missed Berhalter's first training camp in January, which only included US-based players. The squad also sees a return for veteran midfielder Michael Bradley and Newcastle's DeAndre Yedlin, while Fulham defender Tim Ream has earned his first call-up to the squad since 2017. This will be Ecuador’s first match of 2019. The South Americans last played in November when they recorded friendly wins over Peru (0-2) and Panama (1-2) with Enner Valencia finding the net in both of those games. With home ground advantage and Ecuador captain Antonio Valencia not yet match-ready, I’m backing the United States to win at 23/20.

7/4 Japan | 9/4 | Colombia 15/10 (12:20)

Japan host Colombia in a friendly on Friday at Yokohama's Nissan Stadium. Japan failed in their mission to make it a record-extending fifth Asian Cup title as they lost 3-1 to Qatar at Abu Dhabi's Zayed Sports City Stadium last month. It was Japan’s first defeat since losing 3-2 to Belgium in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Since the tournament in Russia, the Samarai Blue won four of their five friendlies. They comfortably saw off Costa Rica and Panama by 3-0 scorelines, claimed an impressive 4-3 win over Uruguay and drew 1-1 with Venezuela, before thumping Kyrgyzstan 4-0. Their superb run of form continued as they overcame six teams to reach the Asian Cup final. This will be Colombia’s fifth friendly since the 2018 FIFA World Cup and their first under Portuguese manager Carlos Queiroz, who joined on a three-year contract last month. Los Cafeteros’ last played in October when they beat USA (2-4) and Costa Rica (3-1). Prior to that, they beat Venezuela 2-1 and played to a goalless draw with Argentina. I’m expecting a tight affair here with my tip Both Teams to Score at 15/20.

3/10 Argentina | 4/1 | Venezuela 8/1 (22:00)

Argentina take on Venezuela on Friday in a friendly at Atletico Madrid's Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. Lionel Scaloni's men are strong favourites to see off their fellow South American opponents and with Lionel Messi back in the squad for the first time since the 2018 World Cup, La Albiceleste will be confident of victory. The Barcelona superstar returns after an eight-month sabbatical from national team duty full of confidence after netting a hat-trick against Real Betis last Sunday. Paris Saint-Germain winger Angel Di Maria is also recalled to the squad for the first time since the World Cup. Argentina should prove too strong for Venezuela.

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Saturday 23 March

29/20 Mexico | 43/20 | Chile 19/10 (04:15)

Gerardo "Tata" Martino will start his reign as Mexico coach against South American champions Chile in a friendly on Saturday. Martino, fresh off winning the MLS Cup with Atlanta United, will be hoping to take El Tri to the next level and maximize the potential of their young stars. Players like Hirving Lozano, Erick Gutierrez and Diego Lainez should benefit tremendously from Martino’s aggressively attack-minded system. Since the World Cup, Mexico have played six friendlies, losing five times and winning just once. Martino will look to turn that form around and get his team ready for this year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.Chile, ranked 13th in the FIFA rankings, were last in action in November when they thumped Honduras 4-1 in Temuco with both of their superstars Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez getting their names on the scoresheet. Reinaldo Rueda's side did meet Mexico in a friendly in October with Nicolas Castillo's late goal handing La Roja a 1-0 win. Prior to that, they met in the 2016 Copa America where Chile handed El Tri a heavy 7-0 defeat in the quarter-finals with Eduardo Vargas netting four times. But like their previous meeting, I think La Roja will edge out another tight affair.

Tips for other Friendlies
22/03
South Korea to beat Bolivia 9/20
23/03
Peru to beat Paraguay 9/10
Brazil to beat Panama 1/6
26/03
Brazil to beat Czech Republic 11/20
27/03
Mexico to beat Paraguay 8/10

Written by Chadley Nagel