FIFA’s official countdown to the World Cup finals clicked onto 100 days to go today and fittingly enough, the most of the finalists will be taking their first steps in preparation for the finals over the next two days in a series of International Friendly matches, scheduled to take place across the world.
Brazil travel to Dublin
There are some intriguing clashes ahead. For example Carlos Dunga takes his Brazilian side to Dublin to take on the Republic of Ireland in what promises to be a hugely interesting clash between the sides.
Despite finding his best form for club side Milan this season, Ronaldinho continues to be overlooked by Dunga for the game and there now must be real doubts as to whether the former World Player of the Year will make the final squad.
For Ireland it represents the first chance to put last Autumn’s defeat to France in the play offs behind them and prepare for the Euro 2012 qualification tournament which is due to begin in September.
Bookmakers have Brazil, predictably, as strong favourites for the clash, the South Americans are currently around 4/9 for the win, while Ireland, who have not won in four games, are a 13/2 shot, though without Ronaldinho and possibly the injured Pato, the draw at 12/5 looks a decent bet as the Irish have an excellent record on home turf.
England host Egypt at Wembley
Wednesday night however sees the majority of teams in action. England host Egypt at Wembley stadium with the furore over John Terry and the decision on who replaces the injured Ashley Cole and sulking Wayne Bridge at left back.
It should be a good chance for some of the fringe players to stake a claim to one of the few remaining places left on the plane to South Africa barring injury. England are big odds on favourites to take the tie at 3/1 and it is 4/1 the draw with an Egypt win ranked at a hefty 8-1 shot.
Maradona faces Germany away
Two matches on the night however really stand out from the rest in terms of quality. Germany will host Argentina in what promises to be a real test for both sides. The Germans qualified well from a difficult looking group and will be confident they can continue their good form under Joachim Low against Diego Maradona’s Argentina who hardly impressed in the qualifiers.
Much will be expected of Argentina now as their build up begins and this is certainly a real test for Maradona’s men in Munich. Germany’s better form sees them start as 5/4 favourites, with Messi inspired Argentina 7/4 but the draw looks most tempting at 9/4.
France take on Spain
The other stand out encounter sees France take on Spain in the Stade de France, Paris in what promises to be an interesting clash between the two neighbours.
The French have a good record against the Spanish, including knocking Spain out of the 2006 World Cup Finals, but Spain are in imperious form at the moment, while France have struggled throughout qualifying and needed a hugely controversial Thierry Henry handball assist to beat Ireland in the play offs for the World Cup Finals.
It promises to be a hugely entertaining encounter between two sides who love to play the game the purists way and with players like Frank Ribery and Fernando Torres set to return to the international fold, it should be an ideal start to their world cup preparation for both teams.
Not even the finest betting sites online can split them, with both France and Spain offered 6/4, with 9/4 the draw.