Just as Manchester City regained control over Liverpool in the race for the Premier League title, international football kicked in. Let’s face it, we all love it at such a vital stage in the season. A total of 13 players from Pep Guardiola’s first team have been called up to their respective nations with Euro 2016 qualifiers, friendlies, Africa Cup of National qualifiers and U21 in full swing.
And so, let’s look at how the players involved fared in their senior nations.
England – Kyle Walker, Raheem Sterling
Both Kyle Walker and Raheem Sterling started for Gareth Southgate’s new look England side against Czech Republic on Friday night. Much more comfortable in a front three as opposed to 5-3-2 as we saw at the World Cup, Sterling bagged a hat-trick, carrying his club form into the international setup. The 24-year-old came under a lot of criticism at the World Cup in Russia, many suggesting that he hadn’t been giving it his all at the prestigious tournament. But he soon silenced his critics against an organised Czech Republic side, ghosting into the box with a late run to tap the ball into an empty net, latching onto a pass from former City player, Jadon Sancho.
A sublime goal, Sterling gave England the lead, ending a sequence of 25 passes with all but one England player touching the ball in the build-up. Sterling’s two goals in four minutes in the second half put any hopes of a Czech comeback to bed, while Kyle Walker’s defensive performance in that of what you would expect of a seasoned international.
Brazil – Gabriel Jesus, Ederson (Danilo)
Just like England, there was a new look to Tite’s Brazil side, Ederson made just his fourth start for the Seleção alongside starts for Artur (Barcelona), Lucas Paqueta (AC Milan) and Richarlison (Everton), all of whom are tipped to reach the standards of Kaka et al, while Ederson battles it out with Liverpool’s Alisson for the No. 1 jersey.
Gabriel Jesus once again made an appearance off the bench in Brazil’s 1-1 draw against Panama with Roberto Firmino starting ahead of the City forward, while the 21-year-old struggled to get into the game, perhaps typical of his season given he’s being talking about his future at the Premier League club to family and friends.
Danilo has yet to make an appearance for Brazil during this international break.
Germany – Leroy Sane, Ilkay Gundogan
Before the international break, Joachim Low confirmed that Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and Thomas Muller won’t be featuring again for Germany while he is at the helm, as he looks to rebuild the squad following their abysmal showing in Russia last year. Leroy Sane failed to make the World Cup squad with many questioning the decisions of Low but it’s evident that going forward, the 23-year-old will play an integral part, now that Muller is no longer in the squad. The youngster was forced off against Serbia with an injury but Low has confirmed that he is fit to face Netherlands.
Ilkay Gundogan also took part in Germany’s 1-1 draw against Serbia but unfortunately their draw was overshadowed by alleged racist abuse aimed at the Manchester City duo in Wolfsburg. Police are currently speaking to three men after they handed themselves in to police on Thursday.
“The three men, who allegedly insulted two players of the German national team on Wednesday evening during the football match Germany – Serbia, made representations to the police on Thursday afternoon,” a police statement read.
Portugal – Bernardo Silva, Ukraine – Oleks Zinchenko
Manchester City teammates Bernardo Silva and Oleks Zinchenko faced each other in Group B qualifying on Friday night with the tie ending 0-0. For all of Portugal’s domination, it’s Ukraine that would certainly have been the happier side up against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo & Co.
Silva started in his favoured role, similar to that at Manchester City while Zinchenko started in central midfield, something Manchester City fans haven’t been accustomed to seeing since his arrival from Ufa.
Algeria – (Riyad Mahrez)
Riyad Mahrez has come under some criticism at Manchester City since his arrival from Leicester City, with many suggesting that he hasn’t added much to the squad. The 28-year-old was left on the bench during Algeria’s 1-1 draw against Gambia in their Africa Cup of National qualifying match.
Kosovo – Aro Muric
The Manchester City stopper made just his second appearance for Kosovo, playing the first 45 minutes in their 2-2 draw against Denmark before being replaced by Samir Ujkani, who conceded two goals.
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