With the major European leagues idle during an FIFA break, the televised action this weekend turns to national team matchups. The list of compelling games is a short one.
The best match sees England getting a chance to avenge its extra-time loss to Croatia in a World Cup semifinal when it travels to Rijeka on Friday for a UEFA Nations League match. (ESPN2, 11:30 a.m. PDT). Although many countries are using the start of the new World Cup cycle to audition young talent, Croatia’s roster includes captain Luka Modric, FIFA’s newly minted world player of the year, as well as veterans Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Perisic and Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren. England’s team includes captain Harry Kane and Everton keeper Jordan Pickford, as well as 10 players with fewer than five national-team caps.
Also Friday, Brazil, which hasn’t lost since the World Cup quarterfinals and has shut out 10 of its last 12 opponents, travels to Riyadh for a big payday and what figures to be a one-sided match with Saudi Arabia (BeIN Sports, 11 a.m. PDT). The Brazilian roster includes the bulk of the World Cup team: Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Alisson.
One other game of note has Iceland, the darling underdog of the World Cup, playing host to Switzerland, a round-of-16 team, in a UEFA Nations League match Monday in Reykjavik (ESPN2, 11:30 a.m. PDT).