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With club football finally near back upon us, I thought it’d only be fair to check in on our ten international representatives in our first-team and see how they got on. To avoid shouts of favouritism etc, I will be looking at the players in alphabetical order. That seems fair enough, doesn’t it? Magic. We are going to be looking at Costa, Doherty, Gibbs-White, Jimenez, Jonny, Jota, Neves, Patricio, Saiss & Vinagre. You’ll find that I may well end up repeating myself as a few players played for the same side, but we will just have to get on with it. Apologies if that inconveniences any of you, but it is what it is. Dim the lights and hit the intro music, we’re going in.
Helder Costa made his Portugal bow in an international friendly against Scotland. He did nothing to harm his credentials as he opened the scoring at Hampden Park with a routine finish. While it may have been a somewhat easy tap-in for Costa, it was his sheer determination that got him the goal. Despite being closely marked by Andy Robertson (I think), Costa gets there before him. See below.
As you will see shortly, the ball is eventually delivered from the byline by the left full-back who is only just in shot, at this moment. Costa is in a comfortable position and is waiting to see what happens next.
Just six seconds later, we find ourselves here. You can see Robertson looking at Costa, trying to keep an eye on him. Essentially, what happens next is, the ball is played in along the deck and Costa gets to the ball before Robertson and gives Portugal the lead just before the interval. I was under the impression that Robertson was meant to be a half-decent player. No match for our Helder, mind! All in all, Costa got a full ninety minutes under his belt and a goal. Top marks for Helder.
This is a tough one. I feel incredibly sorry for Matt. Of course, every player has aspirations to play for his country but it must be a proper kick in the bollocks for Doherty. To go from having Willy Boly, Conor Coady and Ryan Bennett covering him to Richard Keogh, Shane Duffy and Kevin Long must be tough. You could even go as far as saying it must be something like stepping into a time machine to the Wolves of yesteryear. Ireland failed to score in both of their Nations League games over the break, however, the only goal they shipped was a wonder free-kick from Harry Wilson. Be that as it may, you only need to look at the comparison of Doherty from Wolves this season and his two games for Ireland to understand the difference.
Ireland’s shape doesn’t overly help Matt as they pack the midfield which means that bodies are all over the place. In complete contrast to his role at Wolves where he can essentially bomb down the wing not have to worry too much about what’s going on behind him, he can’t do that for Ireland as the quality of player is completely different. Just to wrap up the look at Matt, though he will be undoubtedly pleased to have played the full game on both occasions, a little bit of him must be wound up by it all.
Two games played and ten goals scored for Morgan Gibbs-White and England U19. Both games were only friendlies, but even still. The first of the two games was against Portugal and it took a while for England to get going before they blew their Portuguese counterparts away in the second-half. Gibbs-White, if Transfermarkt is to be believed, started as one of two holding midfielders and played 72 minutes before being replaced by Rekeem Harper. At that point, the score was 3-0 and England’s job was already done. The final score in that one, 4-1.
I’m not 100% sure what happened in the game at St George’s Park versus Macedonia. Gibbs-White started on the bench before coming on after 26 minutes for Emile Smith-Rowe. Again, according to Transfermarkt, Smith-Rowe started in the CAM position, so it’s unclear whether Gibbs-White came on in that position or whether he dropped deeper and Harper or Nya Kirby moved further forward. Either way, England had only scored once before Gibbs-White came on and six by the time he was finished. Another 136 minutes of development for Gibbs-White.
Ricardo Ferretti, Mexico’s new head coach, has taken a shine to Jimenez. Over the two friendlies that El Tri played, Jimenez played 119 out of a possible 180 minutes. He came off the bench in the 61st minute against Costa Rica with the game finely poised at 2-2. If you look at that fact that Lozano, Reyes and Fabian were left on the bench for this game as well, this was very much a second string that started against Costa Rica. Jimenez added to his forever growing scoring tally for his country with a superb spot-kick, nine minutes after coming off the bench. It was that goal that gave them the win. Good work, Raul.
In the second game, against Chile, Jimenez played the full 90. Although that may be promising for his international credentials, I’m not sure how good that is for us. Playing a full game in Mexico, then flying back to England and playing again on Saturday can’t be too good. So much so, I wouldn’t be too surprised if he didn’t start on Saturday against Watford. Jimenez had three attempts of note versus Chile, but a combination of inaccurate finishing and good defending meant he didn’t get on the scoresheet as Mexico lost 1-0. It was a last minute goal that floored Mexico, but they all count.
After making the Spanish squad ahead of Barcelona’s Jordi Alba, you would have forgiven Jonny for already being on top of the world. He was then given a starting berth against England in the Nations League and didn’t harm his hopes of a recall in the future. Jonny was brought on for Cesar Azpillicueta in the 63rd minute during their friendly mauling of Wales, 4-1 to be precise. As mentioned, he then did enough to start against England. Even though England may have scored three against Spain, you would have to work pretty hard to blame any goals on the Atletico Madrid loanee. In fact, it could be argued that he was one of Spain’s better players. Below is his tackle location map from the game – he won five out of six.
For what it’s worth, he attempted and won more tackles than anyone else on the pitch which isn’t bad going for your full debut. Just to jazz the article up a little more, I’ll also give you Jonny’s touch location map. The right side was his.
You see, that is the difference between Jonny and Doherty. They both enjoy similar roles with Wolves, yet Jonny plays with the likes of Busquets and Sergio Ramos and Doherty links up with O’Dowda. That’s not meant as any disrespect to Callum O’Dowda, who was one of Ireland’s better players against Denmark, it’s just the difference. It’s a shame there’s seemingly no way we can keep hold of Jonny because he is one heck of a talent.
After captaining Portugal U21 in the last international break, Jota would have every right to be aggrieved at being left out of the starting XI for their game against Liechtenstein. Regardless, he still made an impact when came off the bench in the 78th minute. Yes, the score was already 6-0, but either way, to score one and set another up will do wonders for his confidence. Jota’s goal was expertly taken. On the run, first time, across the keeper, thank you very much and goodnight.
You can see Jota ready to make the run and even though the pass was perhaps slightly overhit, he finished with aplomb.
It was a finish of a player that’s scoring for fun at club level which bodes well for this weekend. If he scores one in the Premier League, the floodgates really will open. Fingers crossed. He showed another side of his game for the assist he got just minutes later.
The cross is put in from the byline and Jota could opt to go for goal with his head, albeit, it is a fair way out. He decided against that, played a lovely cushion header to Gil Dias and bang, 8-0. Not bad going at all.
Jota Skippers The Side To Victory
A few days later against Bosnia & Herzegovina, Jota was back in the side and skipper once again. This tells me that he was rested for the first game and is probably why I should do some more thorough research prior to shooting from the hip. Where’s the fun in that, though? Back on point, Jota had another productive day at the office as he assisted the goals which put Portugal 1-0 & 2-1 up. Let’s take a look at them, shall we?
Jota features more prominently as a centre-forward for Portugal than he does for Wolves, nevertheless, his tendency to come looking for the ball will never cease. He comes deeper to pick the ball up off the midfielder before intelligently letting the ball run across his body.
I’ve used the connectors in the above image to illustrate the options that were on offer. If Jota wasn’t as technically gifted as he is, he would’ve played the simple ball backwards. Not Diogo though, oh no. As discussed, he let the ball roll across him before laying it off for Andre Horta who puts it into the bottom corner. Questionable goalkeeping, it has to be said. His second assist of the game isn’t worth looking at, his shot from the edge of the area somehow balloons up and hits the crossbar and Joao Felix scores the rebound. Job done.
I will never, ever, ever get tired of writing about this man. He is an absolute dream of a player and I count my lucky stars every time I see him pull on the old gold and black. While Costa may have featured in the friendly against Scotland, Neves and Patricio both featured in the Nations League clash with Poland. Neves didn’t get credited with the assist for the second goal, but he should’ve done as it was an outrageous pass that played in Rafa Silva who ended up finding the net via Kamil Glik. I’m not even going to bother describing it to you, just watch it.
How's your touch, Rafa? ?
He gets on the end of Ruben Neves' pinpoint pass to round the 'keeper, only for Glik to knock it into his own net! ⚽
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) October 11, 2018
Glorious pass aside, Neves was the busiest in the middle of the park. So much so that he had more possession of the ball than anyone else. 7.4%, to be precise. Bearing that in mind, it comes as little surprise that he also attempted the most passes on the pitch, level with Portugal’s right-back, Cancelo. Here, you can see his pass location map.
Just the cool 88% of those passes completed by Ruben. He really is a class above. Most importantly for Neves, Patricio and Portugal, they came away with the three points in Poland. On the charge.
One of Rui’s biggest non-traits (is that correct?) for us is that he stays on his line at set pieces. After watching Poland’s first goal, it’s becoming easier to see why. The corner was whipped in from the right-hand side and even though you could make a case for Rui being blocked by another Poland player, he should be doing better than that. In turn, it left an easy back post header for Krzystof Platek who put Poland one to the good.
Poland’s second, a wondrous strike from Jakub Blaszczykowski wasn’t going to be stopped by any keeper. As I said at the end Neves’ segment, the most important thing was that Portugal came away with the win. And, of course, that they both returned to WV1 injury-free.
Saiss and Morocco had an AFCON double-header against Comoros to deal with over the break. In Morocco, they left it very late to get the win, but a stoppage-time goal did just that as they kept up their sterling defensive record under Herve Renard. That was until they went to Comoros a couple of days ago… Out of nowhere, Comoros took the lead as one of Morocco’s midfielders failed to track their man. Normal service seemed to be resumed as Morocco were 2-1 up going into second-half stoppage time.
Saiss keeps a close eye on his man as the ball is swung into the box. The same cannot be said about Schalke left-back, Hamza Mendyl. He lets his man go free and we have a Desmond on our hands and pandemonium in the stands. In spite of the result, 180 minutes on the pitch will have done Saiss the world of good.
We finish with what will, no doubt, be the shortest section of the article. That’s not in anyway shape or form meant as a dig at Vinagre. It’s just that he only played 24 minutes against Liechtenstein and as I’m sure you can imagine, his defensive duties were somewhat limited in the 9-0 victory. Another step in the right direction for Vinagre, all the same.
You could say it went rather well for the ten of them. Debuts were made, goals were scored and they’ll all return to the Black Country better for their experiences. Just a note on the side for Rafa Mir. He’s on fire for Spain U21 at the moment and has scored five times in his first four games for them, spread over the last two international breaks. Not bad going, Rafa, not bad going at all. Overall, I’m just happy that club football is back on Saturday so I don’t have to keep track of so many bloody games!
Until the next time.