Roy's boys worthy of support
Ian Ogg previews the latest round of international friendlies which take place on Wednesday and Thursday.
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As the dust settles on one of the modern quirks of the 'beautiful game' so we move on to another with a round of international friendlies.
For England - now more than ever given the proximity of the transfer window - that usually means bemoaning the lack of home players in the Premier League and a host of those selected picking up knocks over the weekend or in training.
There will also be suggestions to take England on the road, criticism of the pricing policy at (the reportedly half-empty....or should that be half-full) Wembley and suggestions to limit the number of substitutions to something far more reasonable, like 10 a side.
England's game against Norway will be viewed as an important fixture, however, with the Three Lions having endured a miserable World Cup on the pitch but Roy Hodgson is attempting to get his side to evolve and that is no easy task with the national side having said goodbye to the likes of John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in recent seasons.
There is an awful lot of experience to replace and there haven't been like-for-like replacements ready to step up into the team with, for example, the centre back pairing still a cause of much debate, in the media at least.
So it comes as no surprise that there's a quartet of uncapped players in the squad although there was some surprise that the four in question are Jack Colback (who has subsequently dropped out), Fabian Delph, Danny Rose and Calum Chambers all getting the call up.
That should all be by-the-by with England expected to account for a Norway side that have won just one of their last 11 games and have also seen some of their senior players retire.
Hodgson's midfield is a cause for concern with Andros Townsend and Jack Wilshere coming in for criticism while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has picked up a knock but Raheem Stirling and Jordan Henderson continue to flourish at Anfield and there's enough quality up front to believe that England should win this game.
There's been just one goal scored in their last three encounters so those tuning in may not have much recourse for the edge of their seat but England should win and should, arguably, be shorter than 8/15.
There are one or two ties elsewhere that make the mouth water a little more with Germany hosting Argentina and Italy, the Netherlands and France, Spain.
Germany are another side rebuilding albeit on the back of a slightly more successful tournament but their visitors are weakened by the expected absence of Lionel Messi, Rodrigo Palacio, Maxi Rodriguez and Ezequiel Garay which is a blow to new manager Gerardo Martino.
As such, it makes this a difficult game to call but Martino will be keen to get his tenure off to the best possible start while there is the possibility that revenge will be to the fore of the minds of some involved.
Argentina have actually won their last two friendlies in Germany which makes the 3/1 eyecatching but this is expected to be a tight match and backing them with a goal start on the asian handicap at a short price makes more appeal.
Italy also have a new man in charge in Antonio Conte and he will be looking for his first side to make a statement in Thursday's encounter with the Netherlands and his players may well be looking to make a statement of their own after the manager opined that 'other national teams have more talent than us'.
Given that, some may well question why he left out the undoubtedly talented Mario Balotelli but there are no such worries for his opposite number, Guus Hiddink, who has a decent talent pool to pick from.
These sides have drawn their last two games and the Netherlands are fancied to come away with at least a draw from this fixture and appeal at odds against in the draw-no-bet- market.
Arjen Robben will be on duty there but his teammate Franck Ribery has retired from international football and Didier Deschamps has only made a couple of changes to the squad that travelled to Brazil.
In contrast, wholesale changes have been made to the Spanish squad after their disappointing World Cup and the axe has fallen on Gerard Pique, Juan Mata and Fernando Torres among others.
David Villa announced his international retirement during the World Cup, Xavi followed suit shortly afterwards with Xabi Alonso the latest to call it a day.
Vincent del Bosque has described his squad as 'for the present, but designed looking toward the future' but they may not gel quickly enough for this encounter against a progressive and stable side who look a decent bet to continue from where they left off.