This weekend continues the long road of international teams in Europe trying to qualify for Euro 2008. (The European Cup can be thought of as like the World Cup, only it involves nations solely from Europe.) While there are actually a number of interesting matches this weekend and early next week, many eyes in America will be firmly on England.
First, the England U21s (the national team of players under the age of 21) will be playing Italy. This in and of itself means it will be a fairly interesting match, but more importantly, the game will be the first competitive match played at the new Wembly stadium in London, which has finally opened after many delays. Many people like to refer to Wemby as the “home of football,” and no one can doubt that many great and historic matches have been played there. It’ll be good to have a Wembly open again; incidentally, the February 2007 issue of Fourfourtwo has a nice spread on the stadium. It does seem like a great place to watch a game.
The full English Internationals, meanwhile, will be playing a qualifier against Israel (who are not a bad team at all). Many observers feel that if England lose (or even draw) in this match they may very well not qualify for Euro 2008. If England does lose (and especially if they also lose their match next week against Croatia) it looks as if head coach Steve McClaren will be cut loose. This match could hardly have more controversy and interest, then, although it actually could have if David Beckham wasn’t injured. Beckham’s recent stellar play for Real Madrid (before the injury) had led some to call for Beckham to be placed again on the England squad. Beckham’s bad wheels are probably a relief to an under-fire Steve McClaren, but he still needs some wins if he is to save his job and reputation.