2022 FIFA World Cup: It may only have just kicked off, but the domestic football season will now take a backseat for the next 10 days as we enter the first international break of 2021/22.
Qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar are scheduled across the globe and, with the tournament only 14 months away, we’re starting to see the groups take shape.
Here’s our complete guide to when and where the Reds will be involved in September’s senior internationals…
Sancho, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw all featured in the Three Lions’ run to the Euro 2020 final, while Jesse Lingard has reclaimed his place despite narrowly missing out on the tournament. England currently lead Group I by two points from Hungary and if they stretch their 100 per cent record into October, they will be odds-on to reach a seventh consecutive World Cup finals.
Like Paul Pogba, Varane is virtually ever-present in Didier Deschamps’s starting line-up, while Anthony Martial has been recalled to Les Bleus’ squad, five months after he picked up a season-ending knee injury during a 2-0 win in Kazakhstan.
That success, coupled with a 1-0 victory in Bosnia and Herzegovina, has placed the world champions in pole position in Group D ahead of the return match against Ivaylo Petev’s side. Clashes with second-placed Ukraine and Euro 2020 participants Finland will follow.
The second round of FIFA World Cup qualifiers in Africa begins this week, with Eric Bailly being United’s only representative on the continent. Our no.3 will join up with his Elephants team-mates for the mouthwatering clash with Cameroon on 6 September.
Only one side will progress from Group D, meaning it’s all to play for between two of African football’s most successful nations.
All eyes will be on Ronaldo tonight (Wednesday), when he captains Portugal in their FIFA World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland. Our new arrival is currently tied at the top of the all-time men’s international goalscoring list with Iran’s Ali Daei, but will move out on his own should he find the net in Faro.
Further opportunities follow against Qatar (in a friendly) and Azerbaijan and wouldn’t it be great if new club team-mate Bruno Fernandes could be the one to find the assist for Ronny to break that record? The Euro 2016 winners are currently deadlocked with Serbia at the top of Group A on seven points apiece, with three games played.
David De Gea has made an impressive start to the season for United and he will be in Luis Enrique’s thinking for upcoming games against Sweden, Georgia and Kosovo. Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Unai Simon was first choice at the Euros but has featured just once for his club side since returning from Olympics duty at the beginning of August.
Spain lead Sweden by a point in Group B, having played a game more. With only one side guaranteed to progress, La Roja could do with getting something in Stockholm on Thursday.
Janne Andersson’s side will be led by new captain Victor Lindelof. Our centre-back was appointed earlier this month after the retirement of several of the Scandinavians’ elder statesmen. His first time with the armband could see him line up against De Gea, before clashes with Uzbekistan (in a friendly) and Greece. Sweden have failed to reach just two major tournaments this century and early wins over Georgia and Kosovo stand them in good stead to at least make the play-offs from Group B.
United youngster Dylan Levitt, currently on loan with Dundee United, has retained his place in Robert Page’s squad after the Euros. The Dragons will be looking for maximum points to boost their chances of progressing from Group E and qualifying for a first World Cup since 1958 – they’ve already lost to favourites Belgium and can ill afford more slip-ups. Lying in wait are Belarus and Estonia, but a friendly against Finland in Helsinki kicks things off on Wednesday.
WEDNESDAY 1 SEPTEMBER
Finland v Wales (17:00)*
France v Bosnia (19:45)
Portugal v Ireland (19:45)
THURSDAY 2 SEPTEMBER
Hungary v England (19:45)
Sweden v Spain (19:45)
SATURDAY 4 SEPTEMBER
Qatar v Portugal (17:00)*
Ukraine v France (19:45)
SUNDAY 5 SEPTEMBER
Belarus v Wales (14:00)
Sweden v Uzbekistan (14:00)
England v Andorra (17:00)
Spain v Georgia (19:45)
MONDAY 6 SEPTEMBER
Ivory Coast v Cameroon (20:00)
TUESDAY 7 SEPTEMBER
Azerbaijan v Portugal (17:00)
France v Finland (19:45)
WEDNESDAY 8 SEPTEMBER
Greece v Sweden (19:45)
Kosovo v Spain (19:45)
Poland v England (19:45)
Wales v Estonia (19:45)
All kick-off times in BST.
* = international friendly