The 2021-22 season has come to an end in the major European leagues and football fans will turn their attention to friendly matches taking place on Friday and Sunday as international teams begin their preparations for the 2022 World Cup.
Friday 3 June
12/10 Ecuador | Draw 19/10 | Nigeria 22/10 (02:30)
Ecuador will begin their preparations for this year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar with a friendly against Nigeria at the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey on Friday. The Tricolors finished fourth in South American qualifying to grab the continent’s last automatic berth for the World Cup. Their place was sealed when Enner Valencia scored a late equalizer to earn a 1-1 draw against Argentina. Nigeria, on the other hand, will not be playing at the World Cup after losing the spot to arch-rivals Ghana in a decisive two-legged tie. Still reeling from that disappointment, the Super Eagles lost 2-1 against Mexico in a friendly last Sunday. Ecuador are tipped to win.
15/10 Mexico | Draw 37/20 | Uruguay 7/4 (04:00)
Mexico will face off against Uruguay at the State Farm Stadium on Friday as both countries prepare for the World Cup in Qatar this November. The Tricolor finished second in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying standings, behind Canada and ahead of the United States. Uruguay, meanwhile, booked their ticket for the showpiece tournament after finishing third in CONMEBOL qualifying, behind only Brazil and Argentina. In their last friendly meeting four years ago, it was a rather one-sided affair with the Sky Blue running out 4-1 winners at the NRG Stadium in Houston. I think it will be a closer scoreline this time around, but Uruguay, seeking a fifth straight victory, are tipped to win.
Nepal vs Oman (18:00)
Oman will play Nepal at the Qatar SC Stadium in Doha on Friday. Nepal are winless in their last two friendlies, losing 2-0 to Thailand before drawing 2-2 last time out with a Timor-Leste side that had lost 12 in a row. Oman, on the other hand, are unbeaten in their last three matches (WC Asian Qualifiers). They played to a 2-2 draw with Australia before recording back-to-back wins over Vietnam and China. Oman have won the last five meetings against Nepal convincingly, including an emphatic 7-2 win in September last year. This should be another comfortable victory for them.
Sunday 5 June
5/10 Peru | Draw 26/10 | New Zealand 54/10 (17:30)
Peru and New Zealand face off in a friendly at the RCDE Stadium on Sunday. Both teams will use the game as preparation for their upcoming World Cup intercontinental playoffs. Peru are ranked 27 in the FIFA rankings, while New Zealand are currently ranked 122. The South American nation are tipped to win.
Saudi Arabia vs Colombia (19:00)
Saudi Arabia kick-off their World Cup preparations with a friendly against Colombia at the Enrique Roca stadium on Sunday evening. Herve Renard’s side booked their spot at the tournament with a minimum of fuss, winning seven of their 10 matches to top their qualification group ahead of Japan and Australia. Los Cafeteros, on the other hand, finished sixth in the South American qualifiers, missing out on a playoff spot by a single point. The Saudis are on an upward trajectory and I’m backing them to win this.
Monday 6 June
Japan vs Brazil (12:20)
Brazil will play a friendly against Japan as part of their preparations for the World Cup in Qatar. The Selecao are the favourites to take the trophy this year, having breezed through their qualifying campaign unbeaten and set a new record for points in the single South American group. The Samurai Blue, meanwhile, came second in their Asian qualification group, behind Saudi Arabia but ahead of Australia. Having won each of their last five meetings against Japan, Brazil are confidently tipped to win.
Korea Republic vs Chile (13:00)
Korea Republic will play a friendly match against Chile in Daejeon as part of their World Cup preparations. The Taegeuk Warriors booked their spot at the tournament with a minimum of fuss, finishing second in their qualification group with 11 points clear of third-place United Arab Emirates. Chile, on the other hand, finished seventh of 10 teams in the South American qualifying group, winning only five of 18 games. The Koreans have won seven of their last eight at the time of writing. Back them to win.