Sunday, July 5, 2015

Seven hot matches

Ukraine at Austria

Seven hot matches

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Ukraine at Austria

2:30 p.m. Friday (ESPN3.com)

This summer could be the swan song for one of the great strikers of the last 15 years in international soccer: Ukraine's Andriy Shevchenko, also a star with Dynamo Kyiv and AC Milan. The 2004 FIFA world player of the year led his country to its first-ever World Cup appearance six years ago.

Now he'll get to play in the European Championship for the first time - and on home soil, too, with the competition being shared by Ukraine and Poland.

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His team isn't among the favorites to win the tournament, but Shevchenko deserves one last moment in the spotlight.

Belgium at England

Noon Saturday (Fox Soccer Channel)

After a reasonably convincing 1-0 win at Norway, England plays its last home game before the Euros begin on June 8 against the best team that failed to qualify for the tournament.

Belgium will be led by speedy midfielder Eden Hazard, who signed with English Premier League giants Chelsea last weekend. But he won't be facing his future teammate Frank Lampard, who is out of the tournament with a thigh injury suffered in practice on Wednesday.

Mexico vs. Brazil

2:30 p.m. Sunday (Univision)

A sellout crowd at Cowboys Stadium will watch the best-supported soccer team in the United States - yes, that would Mexico's national side - face five-time world champions Brazil.

El Tri comes in riding a two-game winning streak, having beaten Wales in New York and Bosnia in Chicago. Brazil is fresh off a 4-1 rout of the United States, and is preparing to chase the one title the nation has never won: an Olympic gold medal.

China at Spain

4 p.m. Sunday (ESPN Deportes; ESPN3.com)

As Spain sets off to defend its European Championship title, all eyes will likely be on star-crossed striker Fernando Torres.

After helping Chelsea win the Champions League, Torres may lead the attack in front of three players from the Barcelona team Chelsea beat in the semifinals: Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, and Cesc Fàbregas.

United States at Canada

7 p.m. Sunday (NBC Sports Network; Univision Deportes)

This game at Toronto's BMO Field is the last warm-up for both teams before World Cup qualifying begins. Canada considers the United States to be among its biggest rivals, while the United States sees itself as the big brother in a relationship of neighbors.

Perhaps that's because the two nations' men's national teams have met just once since 2007 - and Canada hasn't beaten the United States since 1980.

Watch out for the midfield matchup between Canada's Dwayne De Rosario, MLS' reigning MVP, and American stalwart Michael Bradley, who established himself as a starter with Chievo Verona in Italy's Serie A this year.

Serbia at Sweden

12:55 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN3.com)

Serbia didn't qualify for the Euros, but Sweden did - and that means more chances to watch the Swedes' superstar forward Zlatan Ibrahimović. The mercurial AC Milan mainstay is as famous for his spectacular goals as his spectacular temper. Whichever there's more of at the Euros will determine how far Sweden goes in the tournament.

Estonia at France

3 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN3.com)

After years of tumult under coach Raymond Domenech, France seems to have its house back in order. Les Bleus' squad for Euro 2012 includes stars such as Samir Nasri, Franck Ribéry and Karim Benzema.

But the players to watch for are youngsters poised to make big-money transfers later this summer. Midfielders Marvin Martin and Yann M'Vila and forward Olivier Giroud could soon become household names.

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