By CARL SETTERLUND
If you are a country over club soccer fan, Thursday’s action is just for you.
Thursday’s slate has 12 international friendlies, including a pair of fixtures involving traditional European superpowers going head-to-head this afternoon. World Cup semifinalist Netherlands will usher in the second Guus Hiddink era, as the 67-year-old Dutchman begins his latest term as his home country’s manager against perennial power Italy.
As with many World Cup participants, Hiddink won’t have the Netherlands’ full arsenal at his disposal but difference-making attackers Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder will both be available to challenge Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon in goal.
Another intriguing clash will see a Spain squad transitioning from its “Golden Generation” travel to take on a more stable European heavyweight in neighboring France.
Like the Italians, 2010 World Cup champion Spain also suffered embarrassment this summer in Brazil but chose to hold onto manager Vicente del Bosque based on past success. Xavi, David Villa and Xabi Alonso have all retired from international duty, but in-form Chelsea striker Diego Costa — who dealt with injury problems at the World Cup — could provide a spark up front for the Spaniards.
There are some club games worth watching as well. Atletico Mineiro hosts Palmeiras with a 1-0 lead on aggregate in Copa do Brazil action, while Rosario Central will host Boca Juniors in a first leg game in the Copa Sudamericana.
If you will be watching any of today’s action, please feel free to leave some play-by-play and analysis in the comments section below. Enjoy the action (TV schedule is after the jump).
2:45 p.m. — Italy vs. Netherlands — RAI International
3 p.m. — France vs. Spain — ESPN 3/ESPN Deportes
7 p.m. — Atletico Mineiro vs. Palmeiras — beIN Sports Connect
8:15 p.m. — Rosario Central vs. Boca Juniors — Fox Sports GO/Fox Deportes
10:30 p.m. — Sacramento Republic vs. OKC Energy — NSCAA TV/Youtube