By Brian Homewood
BERNE (Reuters) – Italy forward Pablo Osvaldo could face the country of his birth in Wednesday’s friendly against Argentina as the two old rivals meet for the first time in 12 years.
World Cup hosts Brazil will attempt to keep the momentum going after their Confederations Cup win in June as they visit Switzerland in another of the nearly 50 friendlies being played on the first international date of the season.
There are several neighbourly clashes with England meeting Scotland at Wembley, Belgium hosting France in Brussels and Sweden entertaining Norway in Stockholm.
Other teams will be travelling much further, including world and European champions Spain, who face an exhausting round trip to steamy Guayaquil to play Ecuador, and Uruguay, who travel half way around the world to visit Japan.
Uruguay’s trip will at least give striker Luis Suarez a break from his troubles at Liverpool, where he has been told he must apologise to his team mates before he will be welcomed back into the squad following a failed bid to move away.
Victor Genes will make his debut as Paraguay’s fourth coach in only two years as the South Americans visit Germany in Kaiserslautern.
The former under-20 coach replaced Gerardo Pelusso who quit in June after a 2-1 home defeat to Chile kept the 2010 World Cup quarter-finalists bottom of the South American qualifying group for the 2014 finals in Brazil.
Beleaguered Mexico coach Jose Manuel de la Torre badly needs a win against Ivory Coast in New York following his side’s disappointing CONCACAF Gold Cup exit against Panama while the United States, who won the tournament, visit Bosnia in Sarajevo.
European clubs frequently complain about the August date, which is played before many domestic leagues have kicked off, and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, president of the European Clubs’ Association, once described the games as “nonsense matches.”
Rummenigge is Bayern Munich’s CEO and is hardly likely to be pleased that two of his club’s players, Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez, have been included in an experimental Spanish squad for the trip to South America.
Italy’s meeting with Argentina in Rome is the pick of the crop.
The two teams met in four successive World Cups between 1978 and 1990, the last of those games ending in a heart-breaking semi-final defeat for hosts Italy with a Diego Maradona-inspired Argentina winning on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
Their only meeting since then was Argentina’s 2-1 win in Rome in 2001 when Osvaldo was still a teenager living in Buenos Aires.
Osvaldo, who has scored three goals in eight appearances, has been recalled by Italy for the match, having previously fallen foul of coach Cesare Prandelli’s code of ethics.
The 27-year-old was dropped from the Confederations Cup squad after getting into a public row with AS Roma interim coach Aurelio Andreazzoli during the Italian Cup final against Lazio in May.
Born in Buenos Aires, Osvaldo was raised at Huracan where he made his professional debut and moved to Italy as a 20-year-old to join Atalanta.
He qualified to play for Italy through his great grandfather and became the latest in the long line of oriundi, as foreign-born national team players are known, when he made his debut in 2011.
(Editing by Rex Gowar)