After a promising start to the competitive season, Borussia Dortmund have now entered the international break. A total of 10 players have been called up to play for their national teams. However, only 5 of those 10 players will play for their country’s senior team, while the rest will play in youth fixtures. I’ll be taking a look a those 5, namely Marco Reus, Manuel Akanji, Raphael Guerreiro, Achraf Hakimi and Axel Witsel and previewing the games they’ll feature in, in the coming days.
Marco Reus – Germany
Borussia Dortmund’s main man will be eager to star for Die Mannschaft after Germany suffered a shock first round exit at the World Cup. Luckily, their first fixture since the disaster presents the perfect opportunity to bounce back. The German’s face Les Blues, the country who knocked them out of Euro 2016 and stole their FIFA World Cup crown too. The fixture will be played at the Allianz Arena.
Against France, Germany faces an opponent brimming with confidence. The French made it clear that they did not need to retain possession or defend high up the pitch in order to win games. Stylistically, Germany did exactly the opposite and were subsequently defeated by weaker sides. This by no means should draw a solid conclusion about how terrible a team Germany are. However, Joachim Low and co. will be under intense scrutiny to see if they can find a solution to their goal scoring issues and defensive fragility. In the former aspect, Reus will be key to unlocking France’s defence. He is in good form and has taken on a leadership role at club level which he can carry with him to the national team. A team full of youngsters will benefit greatly from his skill, experience, and game-changing performances.
After the match against France, Germany plays Peru in a friendly that is set to excite neutrals and tactical enthusiasts. Ricardo Gareca’s side are exciting and energetic and the home side will have to be at their best to secure a winning result.
Manuel Akanji – Switzerland
Manuel Akanji’s Switzerland face their first hurdle against an Iceland side that have proven their strength at the highest level in recent years. Switzerland though, have a good opportunity to win because…well…they’re just that much better. The Icelandic team are winless in 5 while Switzerland haven’t been beaten at home since May 2016. Switzerland’s individual quality is also a reason why they come into the game as favourites. That is a testament to players like Akanji, whose individual performances have been really solid for both club and country.
On Tuesday next week, they face the English in England, in what will be a huge test for them. Switzerland will no doubt rely on their defensive organisation to grind out a result against England and Akanji will play a key part in that aspect. The only problem is that he’s up against one of the most potent attacking forces on the planet. It’ll be interesting to see how he copes…
Raphael Guerreiro – Portugal
Guerreiro and Portugal face World Cup runners-up Croatia in what should be an interesting friendly match. Why? Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo has decided to stay in Turin to work on his fitness instead of linking up with his national team. Therefore Guerreiro and co. will have to put in an extra special performance to overcome one of the most solid and creative international sides I’ve watched in a long time. The absence of CR7 however, will allow Portugal to share the attacking responsibility and Guerrero will be one of those players with the responsibility. The left wing will be an area where he will have to negate players like Anton Rebic and exploit any vacant space in order to help create goalscoring chances.
They then face Italy on Monday at home, which presents the chance to overcome a traditional powerhouse looking to regain the respect of the football fraternity. The UEFA Nations League game against the Azzurri will be interesting from a tactical perspective for two reasons. Portugal have to reshuffle because of CR7’s absence while Italy look to rediscover a playing style that they can use to consistently gain positive results.
Achraf Hakimi – Morocco
Hakimi is yet to feature for Dortmund in a competitive match so he’ll be raring to go when Morocco take on Malawi. They’re currently bottom of their AFCON qualifying group and will need all 3 points when they take on the Southern Africans at home. Hakimi has been hugely instrumental in Morocco’s resurgence in recent years, so I expect him to grab this game by the balls(excuse my pun) and make sure that his nation can salvage their qualifying campaign.
Axel Witsel – Belgium
Axel Witsel and Belgium are fresh off an excellent World Cup campaign in which they finished 3rd. They play Scotland at Hampden Park in a friendly before facing Iceland in their UEFA Nations League opener. Blessed with superstar support around him, Witsel looks set to continue his impressive displays and lead Belgium to their first 3 points in the inaugural UEFA Nations League.
*Thomas Delaney is part of Denmark’s player boycott and therefore will not play for his country during the international break.