MATCHDAY: Ronaldo up against Fati; Giroud’s 100th France cap

A look at the pick of the soccer friendlies in Europe on Wednesday:

PORTUGAL VS. SPAIN

Teenager Ansu Fati will go against Cristiano Ronaldo when Portugal hosts Spain in a friendly. The 17-year-old Fati has been the Spanish league’s sensation early on, having scored three goals in Barcelona’s first three matches. In a Nations League match against Ukraine last month, he became the youngest player ever to score for Spain. Also last month, the 35-year-old Ronaldo became just the second male player to reach a century of goals for a national team in Portugal’s win against Sweden in the Nations League.

FRANCE VS. UKRAINE

The game at Stade de France holds special importance for midfielder Paul Pogba and striker Olivier Giroud, but for vastly different reasons. For Pogba it’s a welcome chance to find some much-needed form after a poor start to the season with Manchester United. He was on the field during United’s humiliating 6-1 home loss to Tottenham in the Premier League last Sunday. Pogba’s passes went astray and he often failed to track back in his latest sloppy club performance, and one far removed from his assured goal-scoring display in the World Cup final against Croatia two years ago. Coach Didier Deschamps still believes in Pogba, and said so recently. But Pogba needs to make an impression in his first game for Les Bleus since June last year. For Giroud, meanwhile, everything feels like a bonus after a tough start to his international career. He is set for his 100th cap and needs one goal to equal France great Michel Platini’s tally of 41 goals. That would put the Chelsea striker second only to Thierry Henry’s national record of 51.

GERMANY VS. TURKEY

Even more so than most friendlies, this game in Cologne will be about experimenting for Germany coach Joachim Löw. He has committed to fielding a weakened team against Turkey so as not to overload his top players in a packed 2020-21 calendar. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and midfielder Toni Kroos are among seven players from Bayern Munich, Leipzig and Real Madrid who have been excused from playing in the friendly and asked to focus on later Nations League games against Ukraine and Switzerland. In their stead, Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Julian Draxler could be expected to step up and lead a makeshift German squad. Turkey hopes to bounce back after losing to Hungary and drawing with Serbia last month.

ITALY VS. MOLDOVA

Italy is expected to field an experimental side in a match that coach Roberto Mancini says is “important for the rankings” from FIFA and UEFA. The attack could feature Sassuolo forwards Francesco Caputo and Domenico Berardi, plus Stephan El Shaarawy, who plays for Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese Super League. Italy captain Giorgio Chiellini and fellow center back Leonardo Bonucci have not joined the squad yet due to protocol measures after a Juventus staff member tested positive for the coronavirus. Napoli and Genoa players have also been left off the squad due to a virus outbreak.

NETHERLANDS VS. MEXICO

The Netherlands ushers in a new era as Frank de Boer takes control of his first match since succeeding Ronald Koeman as national coach. Don’t expect any major changes in the playing style introduced during the two years Koeman was in charge before quitting to join Barcelona. “I think they chose me because they want to follow the same line,” De Boer said. De Boer will use the friendly against Mexico at Amsterdam’s Johan Cruyff Arena to assess his team ahead of two Nations League matches in coming days against Bosnia and Italy. Tottenham winger Steven Bergwijn pulled out of the squad with an injury along with PSV Eindhoven midfielder Mohamed Ihattaren.

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