Friday 21 December 2012

Festive fixtures preview

2 of the Spanish autonomous regions, who traditionally play over the Christmas period, are in action against FIFA members over the holiday season as Basque Country host Bolivia and Catalonia face Nigeria. There is also an all N.F.-Board meeting with Gozo playing Cilento for the 1st time.

28th December - Gozo vs. Cilento

Debut...Cilento vs. Occitania last year
These 2 teams will face off in Xewkija with neither side having played a game for a year. Gozo thrashed an inexperienced Raetia 16-1 in their last outing in January, with Cilento’s only game to date coming in a 2-0 defeat away to Occitania last December. The 2 teams are separated by only 6 places in the non-FIFA rankings and a tight Mediterranean encounter is likely. The hosts will hope to field some of their Maltese Premier League players, like Shaun Bajada and Steve Sultana, as well as the best from the Gozo league as the domestic scene takes a break in Malta over the holidays. Cilento are favourites though and manager Iginio Serrapede said ‘we have a good team of players in different Serie D clubs such as A.S.D Battipagliese and S.S. Ebolitana’. U.S. Agropoli striker Vincenzo Margiotta could play a big role.

29th December – Basque Country vs. Bolivia

Baltic...the Basques vs. Estonia in 2011
These 2 sides met back in 1993 with the Basques winning 3-1 in San Sebastián. The same city will see host to this fixture with Real Sociedad’s Anoeta welcoming a Bolivia side who’ve had a decent 2012 by their recent standards, losing just 2 of their 8 games. Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao will provide the spine of the squad, with La Liga stars such as Andoni Iraola and Aritz Aduriz, as well as veteran goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz set to feature. Real Madrid’s Xabi Alonso will be a huge player in midfield and should Fernando Llorente get a game then the inclusion of these regular Spain internationals should mean another win for the non-FIFA side is on the cards. However the Basques lost 2-0 to Tunisia last year and with the South American’s picking up form of late the script is far from written.

2nd January – Catalonia vs. Nigeria

Schemer...Xavi will dictate midfield
A hugely talented Catalan squad will take on African giants Nigeria at RCD Espanyol’s Cornellà-El Prat in the New Year. With FC Barcelona synonymous with Catalonia it is no surprise to learn the non-FIFA squad is packed with Barca talent, including Gerard Piqué, Xavi and Carles Puyol as well as youngsters Cristian Tello and Martín Montoya. Espanyol also provide many members of the team with Joan Verdú, twice a goalscorer for Catalonia, likely to feature as well as experienced forward Sergio García. Bojan Krkić, currently playing for A.C. Milan, is another big name in a squad brimming with quality and top-level experience. Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi has chosen a home-based squad to assess players ahead of their upcoming African Cup of Nations campaign and will provide a stern test, but with the Catalan’s currently experiencing perhaps their most talented squad ever it is clear who the favourites are in this tie.

The festive schedule was hit by a couple of fixtures which won’t be fulfilled. Mapuche against Easter Island in Santiago had been cancelled due to a lack of money and it’s hoped the game will be played in 2013. A Galicia XI were set to take on Kurdistan in Pontevedra on December 29th but the current VIVA World Cup holders were denied visas, and as a result a Kurds living in Spain team will take their place on the same date.

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