Of all the international breaks on the soccer calendar, this one will probably be the most enjoyable.
With the World Cup on the horizon and many of the play-off ties already in motion, we see some impassioned, dramatic and – perhaps most importantly of all – proper competitive soccer.
Ok, Ok. We know Mexico and Uruguay having almost certainly booked their place at next summer’s showpiece after dominant first leg showings, but this week’s ‘must watch five’ contain three play-off ties from across the globe that look set to be thrillingly close encounters. We’ve also thrown in a couple of friendly games that could catch fire.
As per usual, we’ve done our best to pick games that kick-off at different times so that if you so wish, you can watch them all. Full schedule for all the World Cup qualifiers is available here.
Programming note: Many of the games are being shown exclusively on beIN SPORT, beIN SPORT Espanol and DishWorld. Even if you don’t have a TV subscription to beIN SPORT, you can access those channels via online streaming service DishWorld for $10/month. Read our review of DishWorld. And sign up for DishWorld via their website.
Enjoy the games!
Kick off times are Eastern Time
Portugal vs Sweden
1st leg, Friday 2:45pm, ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN.com; 2nd leg, Tuesday 2:45pm, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN.com
Perhaps the most appealing of all the UEFA World Cup play-offs, as two of the game’s biggest characters battle it out for their respective country’s spot at Brazil.
It promises to be a wonderful pair of games, but they are laced with a tinge of sadness, for this enticing draw means one of Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Cristiano Ronaldo will not be plying their trade on football’s biggest stage next summer. One things for sure, though; they will both have a huge say in determining whether or not it is Zlatan’s Sweden or Cristiano’s Portugal who take their place at the World Cup.
Whilst the two players will not line-up directly against each other on the pitch, it will be an intriguing battle between a duo who are arguably the most in-form goalscorers in European football. To put into prolific exploits into a statistical context, so far this campaign they have already scored 48 goals and 7 hat-tricks between them. We’re only in November!
Many are billing this as a straight shoot-out between the two, but the collective team efforts will be wholly important too. Portugal – who are slim favourites heading into the double-header – will be looking to take advantage of having the first leg in Lisbon.
A strong showing here would force Sweden to come out and really go for it in the return leg, which would suit the counter attacking style of Paulo Bento’s side and in particular Ronaldo. But if the Swedes can get a positive result at home, then you’d certainly fancy them to see it out in front of their own fans.