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International preview: What is to come over the next week

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With the 2018 World Cup less than three months away, countries are taking these last moments to see players within their selection pool and make tweaks to the squad and tactics.

This week’s international window has already kicked off with the likes of South Africa, Liechtenstein, and Andorra taking the opportunity to see the field, and World Cup countries take the field tomorrow – two, to be exact. And they play each other.

Denmark and Panama meet in a rare friendly between countries set to take part in the summer festivities, with the match taking place in Bronby at 3pm ET. The two countries chose to play knowing they cannot possibly meet in Russia 2018 until at least the quarterfinals, with their respective Groups C and G split apart across the knockout rounds.

The hosts are fantastic from set-pieces and focus their attack around Tottenham star Christian Eriksen. Panama’s midfield rock Gabriel Gomez will likely be tasked with keeping Eriksen quiet, something the Republic of Ireland was unable to do last time Denmark took the field as Eriksen bagged a hat-trick. Defender Andreas Christensen is headed towards the World Cup in fantastic form with Chelsea, having earned a starting spot with the Blues. With some injuries at the back, Christensen has also played out wide along the back line before as well, something to keep watch for.

On Friday, the heavyweights begin to see the field as Uruguay hosts Czech Republic. The South American nation received a friendly draw in World Cup Group A, but brought in a solid European side to match wits with after the Czechs finished third in their qualifying group. Japan also takes to the pitch on Friday, playing Mali on a neutral field in Belgium. The Japanese will need to be at the top of their game come summer, matched into Group H against Colombia, Poland, and Senegal.

England and Argentina have both scheduled games against European sides that disappointed by failing to make the 2018 tournament. On Friday, England travels to Amsterdam to take on a Netherlands squad in turmoil, while Argentina travels to the Etihad to meet Italy.

Russia and Brazil meet in Moscow on Friday, with over 50,000 tickets already reportedly sold for the match at Luzhniki Stadium. The hosts will then get another stiff test as they take on France four days later on Tuesday. If Russia’s squad has lots of work to do before hosting the World Cup, we’ll know in a week.

The main event on Friday will be Germany and Spain meeting in Dusseldorf in a matchup of the last two World Cup winners. Germany will be without Manuel Neuer and Marco Reus, but still fields one of the deepest squads in the entire world. The Germans don’t then get the week off, having to meet Brazil on Tuesday. If Jogi Low’s side comes out of those matches on top, they could cement their status as favorites headed into the summer.

France has a stiff test as well, meeting Colombia on Friday. Like Denmark and Panama, the two countries reside in Groups C and H, meaning they could not rematch in the World Cup until at least the quarterfinals. The French then go to take on Russia next week.

FULL SCHEDULE:

Thursday
Denmark vs. Panama
Slovakia vs. UAE
China vs. Wales
Algeria vs. Tanzania
Malta vs. Luxembourg

Friday
Germany vs. Spain
Italy vs. Argentina
Russia vs. Brazil
Netherlands vs. England
France vs. Colombia
Portugal vs. Egypt
Uruguay vs. Czech Republic
Mexico vs. Ireland
Poland vs. Nigeria
Austria vs. Slovenia
Peru vs. Croatia
Austria vs. Slovenia
Greece vs. Switzerland
Norway vs. Australia
Mali vs. Japan

Saturday
Sweden vs. Chile

Sunday
Kuwait vs. Cameroon
Nicaragua vs. Cuba

Monday
Portugal vs. Netherlands
Bulgaria vs. Kazakhstan

Tuesday
Russia vs. France
Germany vs. Brazil
England vs. Italy
Spain vs. Argentina
United States vs. Paraguay
Tunisia vs. Costa Rica
Colombia vs. Australia
Belgium vs. Saudi Arabia
Egypt vs. Greece
Denmark vs. Chile
Japan vs. Ukraine

Julie Ertz scores in USWNT win, discovers good Eagles news after

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Whoever scheduled the U.S. Women’s National Team’s friendly against Denmark at the same time as the NFC Championship Game on Sunday night should really consider the Ertz family in the future.

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While noted USWNT defender Julie Ertz and her team cruised past the Danes in a 5-1 victory, her husband, Zach, was playing a hand in the Philadelphia Eagles’ progression to the NFL’s Super Bowl.

With Julie not knowing what to expect following her team’s match, find out how she took the news of her husband’s triumph in the video below.

While Zach’s night was certainly a memorable one for many reasons, it was Julie that arguably had the better performance — which included a goal in the 19th minute off of a close-range volley.

The USWNT had trailed through 14 minutes, but a combination of goals from Alex Morgan and Ertz in a span of two minutes quickly erased the deficit.

For Morgan, it was her 80th goal for the Stars and Stripes.

Meanwhile, a second-half brace from teenage sensation Mallory Pugh and Crystal Dunn’s finish with nine minutes to play proved to be the icing on the cake for Jill Ellis’ side, who kicked off 2018 with a bang.

Report: LA Galaxy trying to bring Kitchen back from Denmark

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Perry Kitchen’s European adventure has seen him endear himself to two fan bases in two nations, but has done little to increase his stock with the United States men’s national team.

Now with fresh eyes ready to look over the Yanks’ roster, could Kitchen be coming back to Major League Soccer.

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Kitchen, 25, left DC United in 2016 and quickly endeared himself to Hearts in Scotland, making 45 appearances and earning the captain’s armband before falling out of favor with a new manager.

He headed to Denmark’s Randers FC, and has been an impactful starter for a team in a relegation fight. The usual European place competitors sit dead last.

Washington Post soccer man Steven Goff says the LA Galaxy want Kitchen in Carson, and that a “barrel of allocation money” would help LA gets his re-entry rights from DC United.

Kitchen is five times capped from the U.S., and could stabilize an MLS midfield for a half-decade or better. Sigi Schmid will certainly have a priority on the middle of the park.

Eriksen hat trick puts Denmark in World Cup (video)

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Only two spots remain in Russia after Denmark overcame an early scare to belt the Republic of Ireland in the second leg of their UEFA World Cup qualifying playoff in Dublin on Tuesday.

Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen scored thrice in the Danes’ 5-1 win over Martin O’Neill’s Irish, who led on Shane Duffy‘s opener.

[ USMNT: McKennie goal, Horvath howler ]

Andreas Christensen made it 1-1 and Eriksen’s first had Denmark up at the break. Ireland’s hopes went down the drain when Eriksen bagged two more in the second half, and “Lord” Nicklas Bendtner converted a 90th minute penalty to bag the berth.

The only remaining spots will be settled in the next 24 hours, as Honduras-Australia and Peru-New Zealand take qualifying to the wire.

Kasper Schmeichel calls Denmark pitch “horrendous” after Ireland draw

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Denmark would’ve liked to have scored at its home pitch on Saturday during their UEFA World Cup qualifying playoff against the Republic of Ireland, but a scoreless draw was more than sufficient heading into the second leg.

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That being said, not everyone was pleased with the Parken Stadium’s playing surface for a match of its magnitude.

Leicester City and Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel was critical of the pitch following the 0-0 draw on Saturday, calling it “horrendous” that wasn’t conducive to support Denmark’s style of play.

“It was an horrendous pitch, which was very disappointing,” Schmeichel said. “There was no grass on it, it was soft, it took me back to the old days at Bury and in League Two.

“We wanted to play incisive football, so it made a bit of difference, but no excuse. They were very dogged.”

Notice that Schmeichel also got a shot in his statement at one of his former clubs and their field — Bury — where he spent time on loan back in 2006.

The two nations will meet again on Tuesday in Ireland, and a win or scoring draw (1-1, 2-2, etc.) would be enough for Schmeichel and Denmark to reach the World Cup with the away goals rule in effect.