With less than 100 days to go for the FIFA World Cup in Russia, national team coaches will be looking to arrange their preferred combination. The current international gig — the last one before the club season — offers them the opportunity to solve their puzzles.
Sportstar decodes players, who could earn a berth in the 23-man touring squads for the World Cup favourites.
Germany (March 24 vs Spain, March 27 vs Brazil)
The world champions have a settled line-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Marc-Andre Ter Stegen would look to cement the No. 1 position ahead of the tournament opener. World Cup-winner Manuel Neuer is expected to be fit by April.
Thomas Muller’s starting position will face threat from Manchester City rising star Leroy Sane and soon-to-be Bayern Munich teammate Leon Goretzka. Borussia Dortmund forward Marco Reus, who recently made a comeback from injury, looks set for another World Cup heartbreak after missing out on a call-up for the friendlies.
Brazil (March 23 vs Russia, March 27 vs Germany)
Brazil won’t have much advantage when it travels to host country Russia for a friendly. Tite will be sweating on the injury news of his captain and the world's most expensive footballer Neymar.
Barcelona's Phillipe Coutinho is the likely contender to solve the problem with Willain slotting in the right wing. The five-time winner has a settled midfield in the likes of Paulinho, Casemiro and Fernandino. A return from injury for Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus would lessen the worries too.
Spain (March 24 vs Germany, March 28 vs Argentina)
The 2010 champion has a settled squad on all fronts except its forward position. Both Alvaro Morata and Pedro have missed the cut due to their indifferent form at Chelsea.
Diego Costa, who returned to club action in January with Atletico Madrid, has earned a deserved call-up in their expense. The other forwards in the squad are Iago Aspas, Rodrigo and Lucas Vasquez, who all have limited international experience.
Daniel Parejo and Rodri earned maiden call-ups following the injury to Sergio Busquets.
Argentina (March 24 vs Italy, March 28 vs Spain)
Fearing injuries, Jorge Sampaoli left out Juventus' Paulo Dybalo and Inter Milan's Mauro Icardi. Both the players recently returned to action after injury lay-offs.
Argentina, which qualified in its last qualifier after Lionel Messi's inspired heroics, will want to find the right system and support players in place to bring out the best out of Messi. Javier Mascherano, at 33, will likely to continue playing as a sweeper for Sampaoli against Italy and Spain. Left-back Marcos Rojo hasn't played for Manchester United since mid-December.
West Ham United's Manuel Lanzini was handed a call-up with as many as five uncapped players in the squad.
France (March 24 vs Colombia, March 27 vs Russia)
Managers around the world may be envious of Didier Deschamps for the pool of players in his sheet. The current squad at his disposal may board the plane to Russia with a few minor changes.
Uncapped forward Wissam Ben Yedder has been rewarded with a call-up after his brace helped Sevilla knock Manchester United out of the UEFA Champions League.
Left-backs Lucas Hernandez and Presnel Kimpembe have also been handed the national jersey for their impressive show with Atletico Madrid and Paris-Saint Germain respectively.
England (March 24 vs The Netherlands, March 28 vs Italy)
England made an overhaul across the spine of its team from its last fixture. Forward Harry Kane is out with an ankle injury while defenders Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill have lost their place due to poor form.
An injury-free Jack Wilshere has returned to the fold and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has thrived as a midfieldfer for Liverpool. Ryan Bertrand pulled out with a back injury but should make the final squad if fit.
Injury to Bertrand will give a resurgent Ashley Young hope to make it to the World Cup squad. He will face competition from Danny Rose.
Portugal (March 24 vs Egypt, March 27 vs The Netherlands)
Cristiano Ronaldo's upturn in form would have given coach Fernando Santos one less thing to worry about. He will also hope that Andre Gomes's publicly played out frustration at Barcelona doesn't carry over to his national set-up.
Euro 2016 golden boy Renato Sanches appears nowhere near the periphery of the squad. Forwards Gelson Martins and Goncalo Guedes have managed to keep out veteran players Nani and Eder out.
Colombia (March 23 vs France, March 27 vs Australia)
The 2014 quarterfinalist has turned to newcomers after injuries and suspensions in the team. Juan Cuadrado's injury will give Miguel Borja more chances to establish himself in the line-up.
Forwards Duvan Zapata, Yimmi Chara and Jose Iquardo will hope to score in the upcoming friendlies to join the touring party. Tottenham Hotspur's Davinson Sanchez, who is only seven internationals old, is certain to make the starting XI on the back of a stellar show against France and Australia.
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