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Nations look to sharpen up ahead of EURO return

Published: Sunday 7 August 2011, 18.59CET
Europe's big hitters are in friendly action on Wednesday in preparation for the return of UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying next month, with Italy against Spain one of the eye-catching games.
Nations look to sharpen up ahead of EURO return
France training in Montpellier on the eve of their friendly against Chile ©Getty Images
 
Published: Sunday 7 August 2011, 18.59CET

Nations look to sharpen up ahead of EURO return

Europe's big hitters are in friendly action on Wednesday in preparation for the return of UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying next month, with Italy against Spain one of the eye-catching games.

International football returns in Europe on Wednesday after a summer hiatus, with many countries looking to fine-tune ahead of what could be a vital round of UEFA EURO 2012 qualifiers next month.

Two of the teams with 100% records in the scramble to reach Poland and Ukraine − Germany and Spain − are in action. Joachim Löw's Germany, who will book their place at next summer's finals if they record an eighth Group A win by defeating Austria on 2 September, host Brazil in Stuttgart, a match sure to bring memories flooding back of their 2002 FIFA World Cup final encounter.

Italy and Spain, meanwhile, meet for the first time since the quarter-finals of UEFA EURO 2008, when La Roja prevailed 4-2 on penalties. FC Barcelona's Italian-born midfielder Thiago Alcántara could win his first senior cap for the world and European champions in Bari, the city of his birth, having been called up for the first time.

Elsewhere, France will aim to stretch their unbeaten run to 11 matches when they entertain Chile. UEFA European Championship co-hosts Poland and Ukraine continue their tournament build-up against Georgia and Sweden respectively.

On the coaching front, Victor Piţurcă embarks upon his third spell in charge of Romania in San Marino, and Slovakia − led by Vladimír Weiss − play Austria. Weiss was this week installed as at the ŠK Slovan Bratislava helm following Karel Jarolím's departure, a post he will combine with his job of trying to lead Slovakia to UEFA EURO 2012. Cyprus are also under new stewardship, with Nikos Nioplias starting his tenure at home against Moldova.

Slovakia are involved in a three-way tussle with the Republic of Ireland, their opponents in Dublin next month, and Russia in what is the tightest of the qualifying sections. Ireland warm up for that Group B encounter with a home game against Croatia, while Russia host Serbia. England's scheduled match against the Netherlands has been cancelled.

In the one qualifier taking place on Wednesday, Northern Ireland host the Faroe Islands at Windsor Park.

Last updated: 10/08/11 17.01CET

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