Well, a lot has occurred off the pitch during the November international break, and heavens don’t we all know it. Cam Ramsey has the latest news from the international front.
Marcus Bettinelli – albeit from the terraces – and England may have emphatically proceeded to the UEFA Nations League semi-finals next year with a last-gasp 2-1 victory over Croatia, but it’s underlying club matters and revelations that have consumed and distracted us all over the past fortnight, let’s be brutally honest.
Claudio Ranieri, swiftly following Slavisa Jokanovic’s shock dismissal, announced that he’s eager to mould Fulham into a formidable gaggle of cutthroat ‘pirates’, but as a selection of his newly-acquired set-up are indeed skirmishing overseas, the charismatic Italian captain is yet to greet the entirety of his floundering crew.
As the intermittent international intermissions have an added incentive in terms of reward, especially due to the introduction of the Nations League, the Whites’ recognised first-team representatives can maintain, or indeed unearth, a driven, focused, clinical mentality. Did our boys triumph or fail in their respective colours, though? Ponder no more, as we’ve got you covered as per.
Aleksandar Mitrovic – Serbia
Locking horns with Montenegro, Serbia’s geographical neighbours, Aleksandar Mitrovic imposed himself upon proceedings in a typically demonstrative fashion and helped his nation snag a 2-1 victory. Anticipating Aleksandar Kolorov’s arcing cross, Mitro’ diverted the ball past Danijel Petković with an improvised volley in the six-yard box to gift his nation a 1-0 lead.
Controversy erupted after the 24-year-old striker was jabbed in the back of the head by Marko Simic in the penalty area, but punishment failed to surface. Moments later, however, Mitro’ had an opportunity to notch his second of the afternoon from the spot after Nemaja Matic basically fouled himself, but his complacent Panenka chip looped harmlessly over the bar.
A robust presence in the final third, Mitro’ harassed his markers until the 83rd minute, when he was replaced by Eintracht Frankfurt’s rising star Luka Jovic. The hotly-contested tie ended 2-1, with Serbia stealing the spoils.
Serbia, on the Tuesday 20th, hosted Lithuania at the Partizan Stadium in their second Nations League meeting of the break. A victory would ensure that Orlovi top their group, and after Lithuania’s Arturas Zulpa netted an own goal to break the deadlock in Serbia’s favour, Mitro’ widened the gap in the 58th minute with an instinctive finish.
Though Lithuania grabbed a goal of their own through Deimantas Petravicius, Serbia eventually claimed a 4-1 scalping, a commanding result that rubber stamped their progression to League B. Mitro, having dispatched his 6th goal of the Nations League campaign, is also incidentally the competition’s top scorer. Bring that potency back to the Cottage, we need some fire on these cold November afternoons!
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa – Cameroon
Cameroon will host the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, and the Indomitable Lions ventured north to face Morocco at the Stade Mohammed V, Casablanca, on Friday 16th. A mainstay within Cameroon’s midfield department, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa patrolled the centre of the park for a full 90 minutes, but his hardened exploits couldn’t suppress the Lions of the Atlas‘ predatory attack.
Thanks to two second-half strikes from Ajax’s Hakim Ziyech, Morocco clinched first place in the Group B standings at Cameroon’s expense, who drop from the summit to second. Not the desired result for Clarence Seedorf’s camp, but they’re still well within the qualification race for their own tournament next summer.
As Anguissa, 23, put in a full shift against Morocco, the industrious midfielder was subsequently unused against Brazil on the 20th at Stadium MK. Everton’s Richarlison bagged the friendly encounter’s only goal just before the interval.
Stefan Johansen – Norway
Norway’s beloved skipper and ‘shithouse’ supremo Stefan Johansen was deployed on the right flank by Lars Lagerback against Slovenia at the Stozice Stadium on the 16th. ‘StefJo’ scaled the touchline for an hour against their Nations League adversaries, but couldn’t alter the scoreline or, more surprisingly, warrant a booking for a horrendously barbarous scissor hack, accompanied by a debilitating roundhouse to the chops and/or gonads.
The Group 3 meeting against League C’s bottom feeders finished 1-1 after Bjorn Johnsen cancelled out Benjamin Verbic’s 9th-minute opener five minutes from the referee’s final whistle. Each point is pivotal, and as top spot was still within their sights, the Nordic set-up knew exactly what they had to accomplish against Cyprus on the 20th.
Johansen is usually an unmovable figure for his country, however the 27-year-old was nothing more than a mere spectator at the GSP Stadium. Bulgaria couldn’t topple Slovenia in their alternate fixture, so a 10-man Norway duly clasped the initiative in the hunt for supremacy and downed the Cypriots 2-0. Ola Kamara notched the defining goals and Mohamed Elyounoussi – generously filling in for Johansen regarding disciplinary indiscretions – was sent to the showers in the 90th minute with a straight dismissal.
Cyrus Christie – Republic of Ireland
A fixture of relative historical significance, Republic of Ireland squared up against Northern Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on Thursday 15th in a rare friendly meeting. Cyrus Christie, bewilderingly fielded in Ireland’s engine room in October against Denmark and Wales, initially inhabited the bench in Dublin.
Towards the latter stages, Darragh Lenihan was hauled off by Martin O’Neill and Christie made his entrance. Covering the right side of The Boys In Green’s back three, the natural right-back injected the defensive quarters with an energetic resilience, and as Darren Randolph was in inspired form between the sticks, the home side narrowly escaped with a 0-0 draw.
On Monday 19th, Ireland travelled to Denmark in the hope that they’d salvage their Nations League survival in League B, Group 4. Christie was installed, again, into Ireland’s midfield corps and the 26-year-old live wire lasted the duration of the confrontation at Ceres Park.
The Green Army withstood a barrage of relentless pressure from The Danish Dynamites and only mustered a pinch of offensive opportunities themselves. But for all of Denmark’s incessant dominance, O’Neill’s men secured another 0-0 draw, although that simply wasn’t enough to stave off relegation to League C having finished bottom of their category, four points behind Wales.
Jean-Michael Seri – Ivory Coast
Guinea versus Ivory Coast, first against second in Group H of Africa Cup of Nations qualification round, was a tight, rigid affair at the Stade du Septembre 28 that comprised a goal for midfield craftsman Jean-Micheal Seri, ten minutes after Mohammed Yattara fired Syli Nationale into the ascendancy in the 11th minute.
A point worked fortuitously for both parties, however, as Guinea and Les Elephants both sealed their tickets to next summer’s competition. Bravo, Seri, we’ll certainly take some of that influential scoring prowess against Southampton on Saturday, if that’s not too much trouble, of course.
Ryan Sessegnon – England U21s
A trusted component in Aidy Boothroyd’s regular starting XI, Ryan Sessegnon spanned the length of the left channel for 69 minutes against Italy’s U21s in Ferrara on the 15th, and even supplied Liverpool starlet Dominic Solanke with the first of his two goals in the 11th minute of play.
Striding away from his marker, Sess’ arced a sublime cross into the danger area from the byline that was begging to be thumped home. Leaping into the ball’s path, Solanke pummelled Sess’ searching projectile past Emile Audero with a piercing bullet header. Moise Kean levelled for the Azzurri, although as the former Chelsea hit-man had the bit firmly between his teeth in the final third, England’s Young Lions waltzed away with a 2-1 triumph.
Being 21 games unbeaten following their slim victory against Italy, England’s rampaging hotshots assaulted Denmark’s U21s 5-1 in Ebsjerg, stretching their outstanding run to 22 fixtures without tasting the sour tang of defeat. Sess’, having started against Italy, emerged from the bench in the 70th minute to bludgeon and diminish Denmark’s flailing defensive quarters.
Solanke and Dominic Calvert-Lewin both bagged a consummate brace, after Demarai Gray drew first blood in the 31st minute. England’s production line is staggeringly vibrant, and if Sess’ is to fulfil his potential in Gareth Southgate’s senior fold, the opportunity to tamper with full-backs on a weekly basis in Fulham’s white jersey will only aid his fundamental aspiration of becoming one of the nation’s most exciting, revered youngsters, alongside fellow countrymen Jadon Sancho and Reiss Nelson in particular.
Floyd Ayite – Togo
Straying back to Africa Cup of Nations football again, Togo and Floyd Ayite had an imposing task on their hands when they lined up against Group D leaders Algeria, who had a ferociously rampant Riyad Mahrez in their ranks, who was baying to inflict damage upon his continental opponents on Sunday 18th at Stade de Kegue.
Ayite began proceedings for Les Eperviers and remained a participant throughout, but as Mahrez and his counterparts effortlessly snagged three points with an accomplished 4-1 drubbing, the 29-year-old winger will seemingly have a few sore wounds to lick before he returns to Fulham’s matchday squad, as that’s evidently got to smart quite a bit.
Ibrahima Cisse – Guinea
Ibrahima Cisse, the Guinean enigma himself, was drafted amongst Paul Put’s substitutes against Ivory Coast, although the discarded enforcer never made it out of the dugout to duel with his esteemed club teammate, Seri. In essence, normality resumed for the forgotten 24-year-old anchorman.