The feeling on the last day of internationals (for pretty much everyone outside of Africa) is kind of like the on right before the coaster tumbles off that first climb and you know you're in for it now. You're favorite international side pretty much has their qualifying road laid out for them. They're either home and dry, in for some hellishly tense matches to come, or already qualified. And you know for the next few months that your club side won't be broken up, there won't be any breaks for them, and this is the time they set out what exactly they'll be playing for when the spring hits.
Thankfully, we've got some good stuff to watch today.
We'll start with the ones I think most of us are emotionally attached to. At 3pm EST, England travel to Poland in the exact type of match a Hodgson-led side would fuck up. They'd better not. After dropping points at home to Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro have a game in hand on the Three Lions, and losing in Warsaw today could see all three even with England having played a game more and still yet to travel to Ukraine. Things could get icky. Even a draw would see Montenegro approaching in the mirror quickly, though they have to travel to Kiev today. England will get Steven Gerrard back as well as Ashley Cole. But you worry about any English defender having to deal with Lewandowski. Most likely it'll be the same boring 4-4-2 that Hodgson always trots out, with Gerrard coming in for Cleverly or Carrick. This one's going to be brutal to watch, but it's on ESPN3 if you have to.
Meanwhile, about four hours later an international side that's even more stop-start and infuriating than England in the US take on Guatemala in Kansas City. They only need a draw to get through to the taffy pull that is the hexagonals.But Yank fans like myself don't want a draw, or even a nervy win (which is probably exactly what we're going to get). While the US fans complain about some of the results, it's the performances that have been desultory. The thin layer of class the US has has been pulled back by injury (Donovan, Bradley last month), indifference (Dempsey simply couldn't care less), and straight omission (Altidore). There have been odd coaching decisions, such as the continued use of completely-pants Jermaine Jones and the constant shifting of Danny Williams away from his best position or the fact that Carlos Bocanegra hasn't been left in a field somewhere. The US has never looked like a team that's ready to move forward and make more noise at a World Cup. It's a long-term project, it's just hard to see the road there right now. Still, they'll almost certainly get out of this one alive in what should be a roiling atmosphere at I Took Steroids Park.
The real tasty one of the day is Spain v. France. These are the only two teams that matter in that group, and they'll both want to win it to not risk the playoffs where France would have to cheat to get out of again. But this one's in Madrid, and seeing as how easily Spain dispatched France in Euro 2012, it's hard to imagine this one will be any harder.
Italy-Denmark and Germany-Sweden are other matches worth watching in Europe. Luis Suarez faces a pretty much must win at the just below Space-Jump altitude of La Paz. Yeah, that probably means Suarez won't play at the weekend. Would you want to after an outing at La Paz?