Carlos Sánchez has been called up for Colombia’s World Cup qualifiers against Bolivia on Thursday, 23 March, and at Ecuador on Tuesday, 28 March. The former should be a pretty routine match for los Cafeteros, but the trip to Quito to take on the high-flying Amarillos could be fun, as well as crucial for Colombia, who sit in 6th place in the CONMEBOL qualifying table, just a point behind Argentina and the inter-confederation playoff spot. José Pékerman may choose to rest Sánchez and some of his other starters against Bolivia, but la Roca should be all systems go for the key clash with Ecuador.
Milan Badelj and Nikola Kalinić will both resume their usual posts against Ukraine on Friday, 24 March, and Estonia on Tuesday, 28 March. While the latter is a just a friendly and a chance for manager Ante Čačić to look at some of his reserves, the former is an intriguing matchup between the top teams in Group I of the UEFA World Cup qualifying. Badelj should feature in the Ukraine match in his usual spot at the base of the midfield, and Kalinić may get the start against Estonia.
Gian Piero Ventura has selected Davide Astori for the World Cup qualifier against Albania on Friday, 24 March, and for a friendly against the Netherlands on Tuesday, 28 March. With Giorgio Chiellini dealing with a muscular strain, Astori could slot into his spot in the backine, although Andrea Barzagli or Alessio Romagnoli could be the choice as well. If he doesn’t get the start against the dangerous Albanians, he should get a chance against the Dutch. Federico Bernardeschi, meanwhile, has dropped out of the setup due to a calf strain.
El Tri host Costa Rica on Friday, 24 March, then travel to Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday, 28 March, for a pair of World Cup qualifiers. Carlos Salcedo is in the team, although, given his recent lack of form and playing time, it’s hard to see him unseating Héctor Moreno, Diego Reyes, and ageless wonder Rafa Márquez in this crucial pair of Hex matchups. He may get a chance against the Soca Warriors, but unless Juan Carlos Osorio is really trying to shock people, he’ll stay on the bench for the top-two clash between el Tri and los Ticos.
Ciprian Tătăruşanu will take his familiar spot between the sticks for the World Cup qualifier against Denmark on Sunday, 26 March. Three points for the Tricolorii will spring them past their opponents in the group, and would move them to second in Group E if Montenegro falls to Poland.
Although it comes 2 or 3 years later than it should have, Khouma Babacar has finally gotten his first-ever call to represent the Lions of Teranga in friendlies against Nigeria on Thursday, 23 March, and Côte d'Ivoire on Monday, 27 March. Manager Aliou Cissé should at least give him some minutes in one (if not both) of these friendlies to tie him to Senegal, as Khouma could conceivably represent Italy now if he so chose. It’s high time that he did get his chance, though, as he’s certainly got the quality.
Josip Iličić has unsurprisingly gotten the call from manager Srečko Katanec and will represent his country in the World Cup qualifier at Scotland on Sunday, 26 March. Slovenia, who sit second in Group F with 8 points and trail England by 2, will want a win to keep themselves in contention for Russia. Josip will play in a slightly deeper role than he does with Fiorentina, which may explain why he still only has 2 goals in 43 international appearances.
With a match against Brazil on Thursday, 23 March, and another at Peru on Tuesday, 28 March, it’s no surprise that Óscar Tabárez has called Matías Vecino back to la Celeste. Uruguay sit second in the CONMEBOL table, behind only the Seleção, which means that the Brazil match should be an entertaining one. Given his energy and willingness to scrap, Vecino could get the start in the first match; if not, his stamina may guarantee him a berth in the eleven in Lima.
Federico Chiesa has earned his first call to the U21 side ahead of the Euros next year, in which he could have an important role. For now, though, he’ll get his feet wet in friendlies at Poland on Thursday, 23 March, and against Spain on Monday, 27 March. While he may not be quite ready to unseat Sassuolo wingers Domenico Berardi and Federico Ricci in the first XI yet, he ought to feature from the bench to provide a second-half spark.
The U20s have friendlies against Italy on Thursday, 23 March, and Greece on Monday, 27 March. They’ll be boosted by the presence of Bartłomiej Drągowski, who’s typically the U21 goalkeeper but has dropped down a level this time around, possibly to give him time to work his way back into the setup following a lengthy injury layoff. The Four Nations Cup (a small but prestigious youth tournament) match against the Azzurini could be just what he needs to get him back up to speed and back with the U21s.
Ianis Hagi has gotten the nod from U21 manager Daniel Isăilă for friendlies against Russia on Friday, 24 March, and Denmark on Monday, 27 March. This is young Hagi’s first call to the U21s, so he’ll be looking to make a splash, not only to throw his name in the ring for regular duty but also to impress his club enough to give him a few chances with the senior team, for which he and his father have been lobbying.
It’s less surprising this time around since his form has been a bit uneven this season, but it remains a travesty that Gonzalo Rodríguez is never selected for the Albiceleste, especially as they’re currently hanging onto 5th place—which would allow them a chance to qualify for the World Cup via playoff—in CONMEBOL qualifying. Gonzalo’s long passing ability from the back would probably help them kickstart an embarrassing attack that’s only managed 14 goals in 12 matches thus far. But hey, whatever.
As usual, Borja Valero is ignored by Spain. But yeah, some knuckehead like Ander Herrera is definitely more deserving. Sure. Yeah. Sure.
Nenad Tomović remains excluded from the setup for the World Cup qualifier against Georgia, and has clearly fallen out of favor with manager Slavoljub Muslin. With a number of other defenders cutting in front of him, he may finish his career with the 22 caps he’s already acquired.
Tabárez is perhaps the most conservative manager in world football when it comes to team selection, nearly always preferring gritty veterans to youth. But c’mon, here. Maxi Olivera has every quality that Tabárez could possibly want in a fullback: tough, defensively minded, energetic, and capable of occasionally surging forward from deep. With Diego Laxalt the only player on this roster who’s comfortable at leftback, it’s bizarre that the 2016 player of the year from the Primera División can’t get a cap.