The October international break couldn’t have come soon enough for Fulham, especially after the deflating Arsenal debacle, and as a select portion of Slavisa Jokanovic’s faltering fold are indeed away on international duty, it gives us all a brief spell to follow their respective exploits in their national colours. Cameron Ramsey has the details.
Aside from the usual meaningless friendlies, the newly formed Nations League is an opportunity for players to stay sharp and motivated, and though nobody knows what the hell’s going on or how it actually works for that matter, it makes that dull fortnight without club football vaguely compelling and bearable.
With Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town up next in the Premier League for the Whites, it’s imperative the entire collective are prepared and determined to relinquish the Bluebirds and the Terriers once domestic matters take centre stage once more. But, that’s enough babbling for one post – here’s how the relevant first-team members fared.
André-Frank Zambo Anguissa – Cameroon
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa cut a daunted figure against the Gunners before the international intermission and a sturdy outing for Cameroon would almost certainly lift the midfield enforcer’s shoulders and spirits. Les Lions Indomptables encountered Malawi in Friday evening, and Anguissa expertly patrolled his department for a full 90 minutes.
The 22-year-old’s intimidating presence stifled The Flames’ combinations and Cameroon ultimately snatched a 1-0 victory thanks to Paris Saint-Germain’s Maxim Choupo-Moting. Coincidentally, the former Olympique de Marseille anchor’s country now lead their Africa Cup of Nations qualification group, and Anguissa’s integral, trusted contributions ultimately reinforced their table-topping status.
In their second meeting of the break, Cameroon faced Malawi once again but this time away at the Kamuzi Stadium, and in a similar narrative to the first fixture, the game was close, cagey and ended with a 0-0 draw. Anguissa replaced Olivier Boumal in the 63rd minute from the dugout, but couldn’t make a noticeable impact.
Jean-Michael Seri – Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast moved withing 3 points of Guinea in their Africa Cup of Nations qualification group after pummelling Central African Republic 4-0, a rampant occasion where Jean-Micheal Seri also competed in the engine room for the entirety of the tie.
An inexhaustible distributor, Seri held an unyielding grip upon proceedings and habitually tampered with the tempo, whilst altering opposition’s shape to Les Éléphants’ superior advantage at the Stade Bouake. The ingenious 27-year-old playmaker’s an unwavering mainstay for both club and country, it seems.
Despite annihilating Les Fauves previously, Ivory Coast and Seri couldn’t condemn their adversaries to another damning defeat, and whilst the Cottagers’ craftsman fought to carve Central African Republic open, the spoils were shared with a tame 0-0 draw.
Ibrahima Cisse – Guinea
In order to keep Ivory Coast tailing in their shadow, Guinea needed to keep Rwanda at bay at the Stade du 28 Septembre, Conkary, and with a fragile 1 goal cushion between them and Amavubi, an unlikely saviour emerged for Syli nationale in the discarded shape of Ibrahima Cisse.
Introduced in the 55th minute, Cisse collected the ball on the parameter of the 18-yard box in the 73rd minute, pinpointed a destination, and hammered a viperous projectile into the bottom right corner of the target with his left peg. 2-0, and that’s how it stayed for the hosts. He is still capable of playing ball, you know.
Cisse did not feature for Guinea in their alternate meeting with Rwanda, an encounter that ended 1-1. Kante – of Legia Warsaw, not Chelsea – fired Guinea into a 1-0 lead before half-time but couldn’t hang on to their slender lead in the second 45.
Floyd Ayite – Togo
A sporadic substitute for Slav, Claude Le Roy deployed Floyd Ayite on the left channel for Togo against Gambia and the diminutive winger lasted the duration of the match, although the 29-year-old simply couldn’t customarily jink his way into an impending position to punish The Scorpions.
Togo haven’t been in the best vain of form recently and the spoils were shared with a drab 1-1 draw, a result that ensured Les Éperviers remained rooted to their Africa Cup of Nations qualification table with just 2 points to their name.
A trend amongst the African set-ups, Togo locked horns again just days later with their previous opponent, Gambia, and it seemed as though a 10-man Togo were destined for another humdrum draw. However a very late twist, courtesy of our very own Ayite, would markedly adjust the fabric of the tie in his country’s favour.
With 90 minutes on the referee’s stopwatch, Ayite gathered possession on the edge of the box, and with a wall of Gambian defenders to contend with, the nimble attacker cunningly shifted his weight to deceive his adversaries and swiftly unleashed a pinpoint effort past the ‘keeper’s flailing gloves. Togo’s first 3 points, take a prolonged bow, Ayite.
Stefan Johansen – Norway
Stefan Johansen donned the captain’s armband for Norway, as usual, against Slovenia and shepherded his outfit towards a hard-fought 1-0 victory. StefJo policed the centre of the park for 80 minutes, with a cultured swagger that we don’t see so much down the Cottage any more, and everything was simply bliss for the Nordic distributor.
An unmovable protagonist in Norway’s staring line-up, Johansen was named in Lars Lagerback’s matchday selection that confronted Bulgaria in the corresponding fixture, an eventful skirmish at the Ullevaal Stadion that harboured 7 yellow cards between the two nations – six of which fell on Bulgarian heads, however.
Mohamed Elyounoussi, assisted by Omar Elabdellaoui, snatched the game’s defining goal in the 31st minute and Johansen, 27, wrangled until the 78th minute before being replaced by Iver Fossum. The animated midfielder even escaped without being scrawled into the ref’s notebook. Is this a fantasy, or is Johansen genuinely a changed man?
Cyrus Christie – Republic of Ireland
How anyone could have thought that Cyrus Christie could have played in the centre of the park is beyond us all as Fulham fans, but as he was voted man of the match as a result of his defensive expertise in an extremely unfamiliar role against a usually overbearing Denmark, we’ll applaud his exemplary efforts, naturally.
The Republic of Ireland representative, usually a bustling full-back, of course, was distributed in the of heart The Green Army’s midfield collective to shore-up Martin O’Neill’s structure and he performed valiantly, even if he didn’t have to keep tabs on Christian Eriksen. It ended 0-0 in Dublin, by the way, but what’s more important is that Christie was the undisputed MVP in an alien environment.
A trusted auxiliary midfielder, Christie featured in the middle of the park for Ireland in Dublin against Ryan Giggs’ Wales, and for the majority of the evenly poised tussle, the 26-year-old effortlessly flaunted his customary defensive attributes in perfect harmony with his steely desire to drive further up the field with the ball.
Christie spanned the length and breadth of the turf at the Aviva Stadium and was an irrepressibly disruptive component. Willing to combine with Harry Arter and company, the robust full-back was once again noticeably comfortable in the spine of the formation as The Boys in Green’s protective shield, and if it wasn’t for Harry Wilson’s jaw-dropping masterstroke, O’Neill and his men would have strode off with a much needed point.
Neeskens Kebano – DR Congo
DR Congo fell victim to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Zimbabwe at the Stade des Martyrs and the Whites’ direct attacking midfielder Neeskens Kebano was an unused substitute. Everton’s Yannick Bolasie netted a shallow consolation for the Leopards at the death, but if Kebano had been on the turf, however, The Democratic Republic of the Congo would have undoubtedly claimed a 10-2 victory.
Zimbabwe stood in DR Congo’s path following the Warriors’ 2-1 win and Kebano was placed on his nation’s bench once more. Zim’ grabbed the lead virtually from kick-off, however the visitors were level in the 24th minute, thanks to a miscued own goal from Teenage Hadebe.
Kebano has struggled to make an impact in SW6 this season and has only claimed a meagre handful of appearances, although he was shoved into the fray with 20 minutes to go at Benik Afobe’s expense. Unable to sink his teeth into the encounter, Kebano and his compatriots embarked northwards towards their homeland with an advantageous point, as they’re still hot on Zimbabwe’s heels in the qualification standings.
Kevin McDonald – Scotland
Kevin McDonald’s a hardened stalwart, although not even he could stunt Israel in the second-half after Charlie Mulgrew slammed home a penalty in the 25th minute. KMac battled for the entire confrontation and appeared determined in his responsibilities.
Dor Peretz levelled the score in the 52nd minute and Israel slipped into a higher gear. Scotland stood firm but were ultimately beaten 2-1 in the 74th minute – Kieran Tierney connected with a searching Israeli cross, and though he intended to banish the threat, he unfortunately crashed his erratic clearance into his own net.
A ragtag Portugal then visited Hampden Park and McDonald was a second-half inclusion for Alex McLeish’s set-up. Cristiano Ronaldo, amongst others, was not in the European Champions’ matchday fold but Portugal’s imposing structure and approach bludgeoned Scotland, and pivotal strikes from Helder Costa, Eder and Bruma handed Fernando Santos’ side an assailable 3 goal lead.
A late goal from Steven Naismith did ensure that Scotland registered on the score sheet themselves, although it was all too late to salvage anything. A tepid performance from all in blue, including Fulham’s 30-year-old linchpin – McLeish’s “very good” summary of his team’s pitiful outing was amusingly farcical.
Aleksandar Mitrovic – Serbia
Though Aleksandar Mitrovic has five goals to his name in the Premier League to date, the bullish striker has recently been muzzled against Everton and Arsenal, although in his proud national attire, he’s an ever-present danger in-front of the target.
Mitro’ tallied both of Serbia’s goals against Montenegro – from the penalty spot and within the 6-yard box with an instinctive prod – to bestow his nation with a consummate 2-0 triumph over the their close geographical rivals, undeniable evidence that the lethal 23-year-old is still very much on fire.
The Serbs then squared up to Romania at the Arena Nationala, Bucharest, and Mitrovic had another opportunity to expand his goal scoring record, although the privilege of etching a fresh notch was wistfully non-existent.
The brawny hit-man did come within a whisker’s breadth of recording a goal, however. Buffeting his was into a compromising area, Mitro’ couldn’t direct his rasping effort into the goal frame, however it was a foreboding warning for the visitors. Dusan Tadic also spurned a penalty, and a ten-man Romania remarkably ambled away with a 0-0 draw.
Ryan Sessegnon – England U21
Now, it’s far too early to include Ryan Sessegnon in England’s senior set-up – even if he’s destined for it – alongside our very own Marcus Bettinelli, but a call-up to Aidy Boothroyd’s U21’s is becoming a regular reward for the 18-year-old wunderkind, who’s gradually acclimatising to life in the Premier League.
Deservedly a starter against Andorra’s U21’s, Sess’ partnered Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ademola Lookman in the ‘Young Lions’ offensive trident, and the aspiring homegrown starlets proceeded to stampede their lesser-equipped opponents into the deck with a ferocious 7-0 mauling. The efficient teenager explored and dictated the left channel for the duration of the game Proact Stadium and was a relentlessly menacing force. As you were, then.
Boothroyd’s developing squad then travelled across the border to Hearts’ Tynecastle to clash with Scotland’s equivalent fold. Sess’, being a weekly element in Slav’s Fulham squad, initially manned the dugout for the fiery encounter but made a fleeting cameo appearance in the 73rd minute.
Scotland pressed for an equaliser to cancel out Reiss Nelson’s superbly weighted free-kick, but as England were proficient and vastly superior in all areas of the pitch, Sessegnon and his teammates incisively probed and unearthed their second of the night through Kieran Dowell’s stunning left-footed sledgehammer.