There’s quite a good thread on TIFF tonight discussing what people should do with the gaping hole in their Saturday schedule where watching Fulham would usually be daubed in big block capitals.
Of course, when I first starting going to Fulham, the international break had very little effect at all. The only hint of glamour came when Duncan Jupp was called up to play for the Scotland under-21s. Nowadays, Roy Hodgson will be crossing his fingers all week as most of his first-team are involved in international action all across the globe.
Some have worried that Mark Schwarzer might be a doubt for the Liverpool game as he plays two games for Australia in the next few days. The Socceroos warm up with a local derby against New Zealand and then face Uzbekistan in a World Cup qualifier. Victory on Wednesday in Sydney would put them well on course to qualify for South Africa.
Clint Dempsey will be busy racking up the air miles again this week. He might well be a doubt for the visit of Liverpool as he’s got to go to El Salvador as the USA resume their World Cup qualifying campaign before facing Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday in Nashville.
John Pantsil will be in action for Ghana, who resume their qualifcation campaign against Benin.
A few Fulham team-mates will face each other in Europe this week. Simon Davies and Toni Kallio will be on opposite sides as Wales take on Finland on Saturday. Davies will be hoping for a victory to maintain Welsh hopes of qualifying for their first major tournament since 1958, although tackling group leaders Germany on Wednesday will be a tough proposition.
Kallio and Finland will also take on a Norway squad, including Brede Hangeland and Erik Nevland, in a friendly in Oslo on Wednesday night. Before that, the Norweigans will offer South Africa a stern test as the World Cup hosts continue their build-up to the tournament on Saturday.
Saturday’s goal hero Zoltan Gera has already spoken about the importance of Hungary’s next few qualifiers. They face a tricky trip to Tirana to play Albania on Saturday before hosting another of the Group One minnows, Malta, on Wednesday.
Fredrik Stoor might have an opportunity to show the Swedes what he can do after winning a recall to the national squad after being named in the provisional party for Sweden’s crucial qualifier in Portugal in the same group.
An indication of the quality coming through the ranks at Fulham these days comes with the call-up of two of our promising youngsters to their respective youth sides. Chris Smalling, who scored the opening goal for the reserves at Portsmouth last night, has been included in the England U20 squad for their friendly against Italy at Loftus Road. Young midfielder Reece Jones will represent Wales in the UEFA European U17 Elite Championship round in Turkey next week. The Welsh have been drawn alongside Finland, Turkey and Romania in Group Six and get their campaign underway next Thursday. They will hope to progress to the finals in May, which are held in Germany.