An international break is typically unpopular with fans of club football, causing disruption to the domestic calendar. However, this October break brings about some fascinating matchups that could be key in qualifying for Euro 2024.
At just past the halfway point in the qualification process, multiple teams already have one foot in the door. France, Scotland, England, and Portugal are all in firm control of their respective Euro 2024 qualifying groups.
But numerous spots are still up for grabs – meaning there should be some hotly contested matches on the horizon.
Here are five key matchups this month that could have a big impact on who makes it to Germany next summer.
Spain v Scotland – Thursday 12 October, 7:45pm
Scotland have arguably surprised everyone with their stunning run of form in Group A of Euro 2024 qualifying. The Tartan army have enjoyed five wins from five, giving them a six-point cushion at the top of the group.
They will still face a daunting test against Spain in Sevilla this week, though. La Furia Roja will be hoping to take a win here in order to ease some of the pressure on their crunch match with Norway next weekend. The Scandinavians are in close pursuit of Spain (9pts), just two points adrift of the second qualification slot.
Can Steve Clarke’s side make it six wins from six? Or will Spain earn some breathing space in their qualification ambitions?
Netherlands v France – Friday 13 October, 7:45pm
A truly champagne fixture for the neutral, the Netherlands and France do battle on Friday.
Oranje are suffering from some injury absentees, most notably Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong. Despite this, the Netherlands will be looking for a result against the 2022 World Cup finalists.
Ronald Koeman’s side are tied on points with Greece for second in Group B; therefore, any advantage they can take from their clash with France will be a benefit for when they travel to Athens in Matchday 8.
Les Bleus, meanwhile, hold a commanding lead at the top of the group. Victory in Amsterdam would all but seal their spot in Germany next summer. They will be without William Saliba after the Arsenal defender pulled out of Didier Deschamp’s squad through injury.
With points on the line and star power on both sides, this Group B matchup should be a cracker.
DOUBLE HEADER: Saturday 14 October – Slovenia v Finland (5pm) and Hungary v Serbia (7:45pm)
Although not the most glamorous picks, this pair of Euro 2024 qualifying matches could be crucial in the context of their respective groups.
In Group H, Slovenia (first) are just a point ahead of Finland (third). Both sides will be hoping for a positive outcome in order to stave off the threat of Denmark and Kazakhstan. Just a point separates first through to fourth in Group H – thus making every game essential.
Similarly, Hungary and Serbia are locked on the same points at the top of Group G. The hosts of Saturday’s clash do have a game in hand over Serbia, though. Either way, both nations will be weary of dropping points and potentially falling out of the top two qualifying slots. Montenegro are just two points behind the pair of them, after all.
Hungary v Serbia may also pique the interest of Liverpool fans, with Dominik Szoboszlai in action.
Wales v Croatia – Sunday 15 October, 7:45pm
Euro 2024 qualifying slots are well and truly up for grabs in Group D. Croatia and Turkey hold the top two (and qualification) places, on ten points. But Wales and Armenia are close behind, both on seven.
Rob Page’s side must view their home test against Croatia as absolutely vital. Wales cannot afford to lose on Sunday; if they do, they face an uphill battle to get one of those qualification slots for next summer.
England v Italy – Tuesday 17 October, 7:45pm
Finally, the fifth Euro 2024 qualifying match to look out for during this break is another premium fixture. Two historic giants of international football, England and Italy, have a rematch of the EURO 2020 Final, once again at Wembley.
Gareth Southgate will have to prepare without Bukayo Saka, who is currently injured. Nevertheless, the Three Lions head into this qualifier with a six-point lead at the top of Group C.
Italy, in contrast, are embroiled in a three-way tie for second and the all-important automatic qualifying slot. The Azzurri, Ukraine, and North Macedonia are all on seven points. So, any advantage that they can take from England could be the difference in their pursuit of the Euros.
This round of Euro 2024 qualifying matches has served up some mouthwatering, top-of-the-table clashes. Even if you dislike the international breaks, surely these games can provide some entertainment in the meantime?
Featured image credit: Getty