| Record-breaker: Marcel Desailly
London: The world’s leading players will drag tired limbs and minds away from the climax of their club seasons in Europe to take part in a raft of international matches on Wednesday.
Five Euro 2004 qualifiers are scheduled, together with a further 27 friendly matches involving World Cup holders Brazil, European champions France, Argentina, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Turkey, among others.
In the friendlies at least, experimentation is likely to be the name of the game, with a large number of Europe-based players not joining up with their national squads due to fitness concerns.
Dutch coach Dick Advocaat has recalled Barcelona winger Marc Overmars, who has not played for his country for 13 months, for their clash with Euro 2004 hosts Portugal in Eindhoven, perhaps the most enticing fixture of the night.
But midfielder Clarence Seedorf and defender Jaap Stam are both injured. Portugal, who beat Brazil 2-1 a month ago, welcome back midfielder Hugo Viana after his shoulder injury.
Losing World Cup finalists Germany, whose next Group Five qualifier is in Scotland on June 7, face a searching test in Bremen against Serbia and Montenegro. The Germans are missing 12 players due to injury, among them captain and goalkeeper Oliver Kahn.
France should find Egypt, who have omitted experienced striker Hossam Hassan, an easier proposition in Paris, although midfield cogs Patrick Vieira and Zinedine Zidane are left out.
France coach Jacques Santini, however, will at least be able to rely on his captain Marcel Desailly, who returns to the fold after being left out of France’s last two Euro 2004 qualifiers.
The 35-year-old central defender is to set to earn his 104th cap against Egypt, breaking the record of his former teammate Didier Deschamps, who represented his country 103 times.
Arsenal’s Thierry Henry is certain to start up front along with in-form Djibril Cisse.
World champions Brazil battle Mexico in Guadalajara in what is likely to be one of the night’s liveliest encounters. Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira is without unwell goalkeeper Marcos. Midfielder Diego, 18, could make his debut.
Injuries to key players Marcos, Cafu, Rivaldo, Roque Junior and Lucio and the suspension of Roberto Carlos have forced coach Parreirato to bring in fresh faces sooner than he wanted.