The international break. If you believe the headlines, only the Premier League stars go off to represent their countries but that’s not entirely true; some of the Championships finest will join them in pursuing national glory.
2018 World Cup qualifying is a cut-throat business but the players from English football’s second tier are as heavily involved as those from the Premier League. Often to more devastating effect; just ask Ivory Coast how they feel about Jonathan Kodjia’s wonderful strike against Mali in Saturday’s 3 – 1 win.
It’s a time when supporters draw hope from a player’s form. If they can produce for their country, it might creep into their club form or so the logic goes. Less of the creeping in Kodjia’s case, Aston Villa fans hope. His strike against Brentford was his first for the club since his big money move from Bristol City to Villa Park this summer.
Like Kodjia, Aleksandar Mitrovic may not have found top gear for Newcastle yet but he wore his shooting boots for Serbia, scoring twice in the 3 – 2 win over Austria in Belgrade. The Serbs beat Moldova 3 – 0 to take maximum points from their two matches.
Matt Ritchie wasn’t so happy with Scotland’s performances against Lithuania and Slovakia as the Scots decided to qualify for Russia 2018 the hard way.
One man who is proving his worth is Leeds United’s Chris Wood. Except this past week or so he’s been New Zealand’s Chris Wood. The All-Whites have been in the US of A, facing Mexico and the USA! USA! USA! Wood has 5 in 10 for Leeds this season, the best return of his career to date, and is earning plaudits for his performances at Elland Road.
But the forward they are all talking about is Bristol City’s Tammy Abraham. The Chelsea loanee made his England Under-21 debut against Bosnia & Herzegovina at Walsall, scoring twice in a 5 – 0 win. England have already qualified for the Euro 2017 finals in Poland next year and Abraham did himself no harm in making the squad with his performance at Walsall.
Elsewhere, Chris Gunter answered Wales call and appeared in both of Wales World Cup qualifiers this weekend. They may not have won but Reading’s Gunter made his 76th appearance against Georgia on Monday, making him the fourth most-capped Welsh footballer in history. Neville Southall tops the list with 92 caps and at just 27 years old, there’s no reason why Gunter shouldn’t become his country’s first centurion.
Blackburn Rovers Corry Evans featured in Northern Ireland’s 0 – 2 defeat against reigning world champions, Germany having missed out in the 4 – 0 win over San Marino. Rovers team mate Martin Samuelson netted in Norway’s 4 – 1 win on Tuesday but not before they had been given the fright of their life by a San Marino equaliser midway through the second half.
Injuries are always a worry for managers and supporters, and Norwich City won’t be resting easy until the extent of Timm Klose’s head wound is known. The centre back was forced off at half-time during Switzerland’s 2 – 1 win over Andorra.
Best of luck to him in his bid for fitness for the coming weekend’s games and a safe return to all who’ve been away on international duty.