Weekend Wanderings: Euro 2020 qualifying fixtures get into full swing with England facing the Czech Republic, Wales taking on Slovakia and Scotland head to San Marino

For those who have felt a distant longing for the return of an international break, the wait is over. 

As a result, that means this Weekend Wanderings is a home nations special as each country gets their Euro 2020 qualifying fixtures up and running.

Here is what you can look forward to as international football takes over. 

1. Can England bring the Nations League feel-good factor into qualifying? 

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While this is technically a Friday night fixture, this time we’re making an exception as for most people the weekend starts as soon as they’re out of work anyway.

The feel-good factor is still alive and kicking regarding Gareth Southgate’s England squad following their Nations League exploits, a tournament we’re now all fully onboard with.

So as the Euro 2020 qualifying expedition begins, fans will be expecting this fun side to keep up their momentum.

What’s more there are also some new faces joining the Three Lions that we’ll all be interested to see – namely Callum Hudson-Odoi and Declan Rice.

First up for England is a game against the Czech Republic, which is arguably the toughest assignment in a group that also includes Bulgaria, Kosovo and Montenegro.

Will the Southgate phenomenon continue? We can only hope so.

2. Can Mick McCarthy get his second spell as Republic of Ireland manager off to a flyer? 

Following Martin O’Neill’s departure from the national team Mick McCarthy returned to the role he held previously from 1996-2002.

The Irish are in need of a real boost after a disappointing last 12 months in which they won just one in nine games in 2018 – and it remains to be seen whether there will be any type of hangover.

In terms of opening games the Irish take on Gibraltar in a fixture they really should be winning to get the second McCarthy era underway.

But with Denmark, Switzerland and Georgia joining them for company in their group every point matters.

3. Can Northern Ireland shake off their pointless Nations League campaign? 

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On Sunday, Northern Ireland face the second of two back-to-back home games in Euro 2020 qualifying against Belarus (they will have played Estonia on Thursday night after this piece was written).

To say the Nations League was disappointing for Michael O’Neill’s team is a bit of an understatement – four games and four defeats.

That said there is a slight change to the tactics of Northern Ireland’s approach in Euro 2016 with more of an emphasis on an expansive style rather than counter-attacking and set pieces.

Should Northern Ireland stand a chance in getting to Euro 2020 a win is vital against both Estonia and Belarus, primarily because they have the Netherlands and Germany in their group.

Will it more be more frustration for Northern Ireland or will the shift in tactics start to pay dividends?

4. Can Ryan Giggs take Wales’ qualifying campaign by storm? 

After a narrow 1-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday night, Wales go into qualifying action against Slovakia on Sunday.

Ryan Giggs has been manager for 14 months now and has handed a lot of players their international debuts.

However, the Welsh squad is hampered by the fact that a lot of their players aren’t playing regularly for their clubs at this stage – particularly in defence.

Giggs has said he is looking to build a squad rather than a team but it is only natural to that most eyes will turn to the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey as the key cogs in the Welsh machine.

Against Slovakia those two could be key but it’s also time for some other players in the Welsh squad to stand up and be counted.

5. Will Scotland break their barren run of major tournament appearances? 

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With four Euro 2020 games to be played at Hampden Park you get the sense that Scotland really want to break their qualifying duck this time around.

Like the Republic of Ireland they turned to a new old manager in the form of Alex McLeish and so far it’s been a mixed bag for the former Rangers boss since his return in February 2018.

On Sunday the Scots travel to San Marino following their qualifying opener against Kazakhstan (on Thursday) with the fans expectant.

Like many of the other home nations, if Scotland want to qualify these are the games they must win as Russia and Belgium will likely be their strongest rivals in their group.

6. What we can expect from Germany’s new era? 

Usually I have to keep this to five fixtures but again I am making an exception for one standout game on Sunday as the Netherlands take on Germany.

The Dutch have risen back to a level of prominence under the management of Ronald Koeman but – on the opposition side – all eyes are on Germany as the 2014 World Cup winners flounder looking to return to the top.

After getting relegated from their Nations League group, Joachim Low has made big changes to the squad with the likes of Thomas Muller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng all out.

Instead, all eyes are looking to the younger breed of players coming through that might return Germany to the pinnacle.

The likes of Niklas Sule and Thilo Kehrer are the ones Low has decided to place his trust in but the game against the Netherlands, at this early stage, could be crucial in deciding who finishes top or who comes second.

It also gives a real sense of just how Germany are getting on in their latest evolution.

You can follow Alasdair on Twitter @adjhooper1992

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