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From Astana to Lima - 18.03.2013

Sixteen FCB stars on international duty

Whenever Bayern’s Säbener Strasse training facility falls silent during the season, it can only mean an international break. A host of 2014 World Cup qualifiers take place over the next ten days, with a total of 14 FCB stars set to battle for crucial points on the road to Brazil. Two further players are involved in friendlies. surveys the fixtures involving Munich’s current internationals.

Germans in Kazakhstan double-header

In European qualifying Group C, Germany take on Kazakhstan home and away. Joachim Löw’s side travel to Astana on Friday, before welcoming the Kazakhs to Nuremberg four days later. Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Jerome Boateng, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Müller and Mario Gomez form a six-strong Bayern contingent. It would have been seven, but Toni Kroos was forced to withdraw from the squad on Monday due to an inflamed knee.

In the same group, Austrian player of the year David Alaba and his team-mates urgently need two good results, as they currently lie fourth in the table on four points. The Austrians take on bottom team the Faeroes in Vienna this Friday, before the tough trip to face Ireland in Dublin next Tuesday.

Dutch on track

In Group A, Daniel van Buyten with Belgium and Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic are involved in a battle for top spot. The Red Devils contest a double-header against Macedonia, with the first game in Skopje and the return in Brussels. The Croats, level with the Belgians at the top of the standings on ten points, take on neighbours Serbia in Zagreb before travelling to Swansea for the clash with Wales.

Arjen Robben and 2010 World Cup runners-up the Netherlands boast a perfect record of 12 points in Group D, and will be hopeful of maintaining their excellent form in home meetings with Estonia and Romania, with both matches in Amsterdam.

Last chance for Tymo

Switzerland and Xherdan Shaqiri are also top of the table in Group E with ten points from four matches. Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld and his troops could extend their advantage with a victory on Saturday away to bottom team Cyprus.

By contrast, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and Ukraine are in dire straits in Group H. The Ukrainians have only two points from three matches so far and must win against Poland in Warsaw and Moldova in Odessa if they are to remain in touch with second-placed England, who have eight points. Montenegro lead the section on ten points.

Big game for Ribéry

The top clash of this international break takes place in Group I, where France and Franck Ribéry are level at the top of the table with world champions Spain, who declined to call up Javi Martinez this time. The French play third-placed Georgia in Paris on Friday, and will hope for a morale-boosting result before welcoming the Spanish to Stade de France four days later for a game which could settle the outcome in the group.

It is definitely do-or-die for Claudio Pizarro and Peru in the mammoth South American qualifying contest. The Peruvians are second from bottom on eight points from nine games and must beat Chile in Lima to stand any chance of a top five finish and a ticket to the finals. Four days later, Peru contest a friendly against Trinidad and Tobago.

As hosts in 2014, five-time World Cup winners Brazil do not have to qualify, so the Selecao play two friendly matches during this international break. The Brazilians face Italy in Geneva on Friday, before taking on Russia in London next Tuesday. The squad features Bayern pair Dante and Luiz Gustavo, both hoping to advance their claims for a place in Luis Felipe Scolari’s squad.