The Footy Files: International Friendlies Edition
By: Monty Andrews
It's international friendlies weekend across the soccer universe. So this week, Monty Andrews takes a look at some of the most important news stories, odds, key injuries, and betting trends to help with your "friendly" footy wagers.
England's national team will be short several key players as it faces Germany in an international friendly on Friday. The host English come in at +270 on Bet365 despite being down a handful of bodies, including elite goal-scorer Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling. Even if England were at full strength, they would find themselves in tough against a German side (+110) that reeled off 10 victories in 10 World Cup qualifying matches while scoring an absurd 43 goals in the process. The teams have split their previous two friendlies, with Germany prevailing 1-0 in their most recent encounter last March.
Part-Timers Pace Portugal
Don't expect to see much star power on the Portugal roster this coming week as they prepare for Friday's international friendly with visiting Saudi Arabia. The host side won't put stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Rui Patricio, Quaresma or Nani on the pitch for either Friday's match or Tuesday's friendly with the United States, having already secured a berth in next year's World Cup. Yet, despite the litany of absences, Portugal is listed at -600 on Bet365 against a Saudi side that stunningly qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 2006. Saudi Arabia (+1,600) has never faced Portugal.
Brazil Bringing Second-Stringers?
Brazil is another team that will likely choose to operate at far less than full strength as it readies for an international encounter with Japan in Lilles, France. Yet, even if the Brazilian side doesn't play Neymar, Philippe Coutinho or several other starters, oddsmakers still believe that this one won't be close, with Brazil coming in as an overwhelming -450 favorite. It certainly doesn't help Japan's cause that they'll be without several key players themselves, including Keisuke Honda, Shinji Okazaki and Shinji Kagawa. Brazil hasn't yielded a goal to Japan in their previous three meetings, outscoring them 11-0 over that stretch.
Boruc's Swan Song
Poland fans will bid farewell to goalkeeper Artur Boruc as he makes his final international appearance this weekend against Uruguay. Boruc is the most capped 'keeper in team history, making his 65th appearance in Friday's game. The team is planning to honor the 37-year-old by having him wear jersey No. 65; he's expected to play 44 minutes for Poland, which comes in as a slight +150 favorite. Poland will be led by Robert Lewandowski, who called Boruc a "legend" and thanked him for his service with the national team. Uruguay (+190) won the only prior meeting between the teams in 2012.
Argentina will need to deal with more than hostile fans when they take on the host Russians in Saturday's international friendly in Moscow. Temperatures in the Russian capital are expected to be just a few degrees above the freezing mark when the two teams do battle. Argentina (-134) will be looking for more production out of star Paulo Dybala, who hasn't scored in his last 10 appearances. The visitors will play a pair of games in the World Cup host country, with a game against Nigeria tabbed for Tuesday in Krasnodar. Russia (+375) fell 3-2 in its only previous game against Argentina back in 2009.
All eyes will be on Alvaro Morata as he leads Spain into an international encounter with Costa Rica. Following a terrific showing in World Cup qualifying, the Spaniards will look to make an equally strong statement over the coming days, with a friendly against the host Russians following Saturday's match with the Costa Ricans. Spain is a comfortable -700 favorite on Bet365 thanks in part to the scoring prowess of Morata, who ranks third in the English Premier League in goals (seven) and had the winner for Chelsea in a 1-0 win over Manchester United last weekend. Costa Rica (+1,800) has a loss and a draw in two meetings with Spain.
* Germany won't have Jerome Boateng in the lineup for Friday's encounter with England at Wembley Stadium. He has what the team describes as a "muscular injury". midfielder Toni Kroos will also miss the game with a gastrointestinal infection.
* Gareth Bale is closer to full health, but he won't dress for either of Wales' international friendlies. Bale, who has missed the past five weeks with a calf injury, will sit out matches against France and Panama and will remain in Spain to continue his recovery.
* Mauro Icardi will sit out Argentina's friendlies against Russia and Nigeria because of a knee injury. Icardi, who has 11 goals for Inter Milan this season, suffered the injury last week against Torino and will train on his own while Argentina travels to Russia.
* Ukraine and Slovakia have met twice in international competition since 2014, and just one total goal was scored in those matches. Bettors are getting -188 on Bet365 for this game to fall under the 2.5-goal total.
* If Jesus and/or Neymar do suit up for Brazil against Japan, they're considered strong plays to score. Both players have identical goal odds, listed at -138 to score anytime, and +275 to convert in a specific half.
* Wales' last six international games have gone below 2.5 goals - and with Bale not on the roster, the Welsh side might look to play a more defensive game against France. Bettors are getting -100 for an under-2.5 play in this one.
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