As the weekend approaches, Our attention is drawn towards matches such as Peru locking horns with South Korea, Ireland facing off against Greece, and Columbus Crew squaring off with New York City. This time around, our attention turns to the international break, where national pride is on the line and teams take part in both friendly and competitive matches.
South Korea vs Peru
We’re dominated by the international break this weekend and the first of two plays across the Friday card comes in the attractively-looking international friendly between South Korea and Peru. Neither nation has any competitive matches to play across this round of fixtures, so it is purely preparation for the future and playing for pride which serves as their motivation.
South Korea had quite a World Cup in Qatar for a number of reasons. The fact they progressed out of a fairly tough group involving Portugal, Ghana and Uruguay was quite an achievement.
They would do so in dramatic fashion when a last-minute Hwang Hee-Chan goal allowed them to progress to the knockout stage. Brazil would teach them a lesson, but they got as far as they could really have hoped.
The issue for a team like South Korea is that they practically always qualify out of their respective qualification group for any tournament, so their preparation for that event isn’t ideal, especially for a World Cup. They do have the AFC Asian Cup early next year, but you could argue they could do without these friendlies at this point in the season. Jürgen Klinsmann takes charge of his third match, and eight members of the squad, mostly important to the team, play for European clubs and only just finished their campaigns.
In contrast, there are only four players in the Peru squad that recently saw their club European campaigns finish. There arguably should be more of a buzz around their squad, and another notable aspect of their team is that it is packed with experience. 12 members of it have at least 30 caps to their name, and we all know teams from this part of the world don’t really have friendlies. They put everything into every game.
Peru have quite a decent record in friendly matches, winning five of their last eight, and only losing to Germany and Mexico in that period. Since the start of 2022, South Korea has won six of their 11 international friendlies, but they’ve drew with Colombia and Costa Rica, who are indeed from a similar part of the world to Peru. Peru also don’t get to face too many nations outside of the CONMEBOL region, so they may relish this opportunity.
There isn’t anything to excite me getting involved with South Korea here. The 1.925 on offer from Bet365 on Peru +0.5 on the Asian Handicap does appeal. We essentially just need them to avoid defeat, and why shouldn’t that happen?
Greece v Ireland
Another Friday play I like the look of also comes from the international scene and this time it is a competitive fixture. The qualification games for the next European Championships is back, and the clash between Greece versus Ireland is already a fairly important one at this early stage in the group phase. Every point is vital for these two teams in what is a very hard group.
Unluckily for both Greece and Ireland, they were drawn in Group B, which is where France and Netherlands could be found. On the flip side, you could say Gibraltar are also quite unlucky to play in this group! Only two will progress, and so both of these nations know the importance of at least not losing this match. Greece started their campaign with a routine win over Gibraltar, whilst Ireland losing narrowly to France, and they’ll be eager to not start with two losses from two.
Certainly, this is a tricky game on paper for Ireland. Going to Greece never falls into the category of being an ‘easy game’, but you feel the message going around the Irish camp is that we can’t afford to lose this one. Of course, if they did lose, they are still in the hunt for qualification, but clearly Greece and/or Ireland will be the side to really try and chase down probably
The Netherlands, with France, is expected to win the group. It places big significance on this encounter in Athens on Friday night.
Greece has a solid squad of players that play for clubs all across the world, from England, Turkey, the United States and Germany to name but three. Gus Poyet is the man at the helm, and he has a positive record since taking charge in January 2022 (W7-D2-L3). However, they’ve not really faced any international footballing powerhouse in that time. Ireland are actually ranked higher than Greece in the FIFA rankings, so maybe they are being a bit underappreciated here?
Therefore, there is an argument to be had that this will be one of Poyet’s toughest matches so far in charge of the Greek side. They will respect the opposition and not treat them lightly. Stephen
Kenny, the Ireland manager, will likely adopt a similar mentality so there is the feeling heading into this it could turn quite tactical and cagey. As mentioned, the two head-to-head meetings in this group will go a long way to seeing who will really challenge France and Netherlands for qualification.
Goals aren’t what you associate with Greece or Ireland based on their games for a while now. Focusing on Greece first, there matches under Poyet has average 2.00 goals per game. For Ireland, they lack an out-and-out goalscorer, and so they generally produce fairly defensive games against this type of opponent, then hoping to pinch a goal on a set piece or counter attack.
I would not be surprised if this finished 1-0 either way or maybe end 0-0. Under 2.00 Goals is available at 2.00 with StarSports, and in this case we get our stake refunded if two goals exactly are scored. I think that is the worst case scenario here as I can’t see it opening up into a basketball match of any kind, not this early in the group stage.
New York City v Columbus Crew
As is quite often the case, Major League Soccer doesn’t take a break when international football comes around. We don’t quite hard a full card of action, but there are enough matches for us to take an interest, none more so than in Saturday evening’s fixture between New York City and Columbus Crew. This is an all-Eastern Conference clash and both head into this in contrasting form.
Firstly, New York City have been one of the more disappointing outfits in the opening 17 games or so of the campaign. This is their first full season under the management of Nick Cushing, and the former Man City Women boss has struggled to make an impact. They’ve only got four wins to their name, and they are currently on nine-game winless streak in league and cup; of which six ended in defeat. Cushing is struggling to get a tune out of this team.
Their performances have been mixed, sometimes lacking in end product or making basic defensive errors that is costing them points. They have drew their last two games 0-0 for example, where they was unlikely not to beat New England Revolution but were also very lucky not to lose at Real Salt Lake. They will be minus key defender Maxime Chanot this weekend, so that will present a challenge.
On the flip side, Columbus Crew find themselves in a play-off position and are on a three-match winning streak. They made headlines at the weekend when defeating Chicago Fire in dramatic fashion, with Lucas Zelarayan’s halfway line goal earned them the spoils on the road. That was a collector’s item for sure, but a Columbus Crew away win generally is as well. Since the start of August 2020, they’ve won only eight MLS away matches.
I always think The Crew are a team to back against away from home. Winning only eight on the road in all that time suggests it isn’t a bad tactic to follow. NYCFC are obviously enduing their own struggles, but they will certainly target three points here as they look to end their season of struggle. There are only seven clean sheets between these teams across their opening 17 games of the campaign. The Crew are over-performing their Expected Goals (xG) metrics quite considerably, but with both likely to target the win here it should be quite an open game. Yankee Stadium is a very tight pitch, not really designed to play football on, and I always like to go over’s here given how there is a chance on either goal quite regularly.
One big issue for The Crew is the absence of Zelarayan, who will be on international duty. They are a bit of a different team without him, which is why I couldn’t back them to win. I’d probably fancy NYCFC more for win purposes, but I will still prefer the goal route given New York City’s struggles and Columbus Crew can be got at away from home.