Club football lovers haven’t been treated to the dread that an international break brings for a while.
The winter World Cup altered the international calendar this season, but the March international break has always been thrust upon us ahead of the final stretch of the domestic campaign.
This time around, though, there’s plenty to look forward to. While some might struggle to get up for non-major tournament international football, the upcoming fixtures could play a big role in determining who qualifies automatically for Euro 2024. England, in particular, have two huge games.
Here are some of the upcoming international fixtures you’d be wise to check out over the break.
England’s two contests against Italy epitomised their woes heading into the 2022 World Cup. They failed to score against Roberto Mancini’s side and were beaten in Milan. Their performances were drab at best.
The Three Lions, who somewhat exceeded expectations in Qatar despite only reaching the quarter-finals, can ill-afford to produce another abject display against the Azzurri this time around. They’ve got a pretty tricky qualifying group, and Gareth Southgate’s side must get their campaign off on the right foot.
Italy’s squad for their upcoming fixtures certainly isn’t as impressive as it was when they won the European Championship in 2021, and this is a big chance for England to lay down a marker in Naples.
The qualifying draw threw up another blockbuster clash between two nations that excelled in Qatar. Both France and the Netherlands eventually succumbed to Argentina on penalties, with the 2018 champions coming ever so close to going back-to-back.
Les Blues’ impressive campaign in Qatar convinced Didier Deschamps to stay on as manager, and he’ll be hoping to guide France into Euro 2024. They’ve got a tough assignment first up, however, as the Dutch come to town.
Ronald Koeman was unveiled as the national team boss for the second time in his career back in January, and this will be the first game he oversees upon his return to international management.
It’s been a pretty sharp demise for Ireland in the wake of their admirable Euro 2016 campaign where they reached the knockout stages.
And while their Nations League campaign last year was sub-par at best, there’s reason for Irish supporters to be optimistic heading into Euro 2024 qualifying. Whether Stephen Kenny’s the right man for the job remains up for debate, but they’re now blessed with a talented young core that’s beginning to prove themselves at the highest level.
Many suspect Ireland to embark on an upward trajectory over the next few years, and it’ll be interesting to see where they’re at against elite opposition in France.
The Domenico Tedesco era begins with Belgium taking on Sweden to kick-off their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign before they travel to Germany for a friendly.
Roberto Martinez left his post in the wake of the Red Devils’ early World Cup exit having underachieved with a golden pool of talent at his disposal. A new dawn beckons in Belgian football following the international retirements of Eden Hazard and Toby Alderweireld.
The likes of Axel Witsel and Dries Mertens have been dropped from Tedesco’s first squad as the former RB Leipzig manager attempts to successfully integrate an influx of young stars into his set up.
A new-look Belgium will be tested in March, and this friendly against Germany will give Tedesco a chance to experiment.
After disappointing at Euro 2020, Scotland are desperate to return to a major tournament and they’ve been dealt a pretty kind group. While Spain will be expected to top Group A, it looks like Scotland and Norway will battle it out for second spot and qualification for Euro 2024.
The Scots kick off their campaign against group favourites Spain at Hampden Park. The Spaniards have a new boss in the dugout after Luis Enrique stepped down, with former Under-21s coach Luis de la Fuente leading La Roja into battle.
It’ll be a grind for the home side, and they must be efficient in transition if they’re to take points off the pass-heavy Spaniards. Scotland should be emboldened by Pedri’s absence in midfield.