I know I promised you a week off, but here’s the thing about International football: It’s really bloody boring. Seeing as I’ve watched the home nations (I include Republic of Ireland in that, rightly or wrongly) I decided to bring you a team of the weekend special highlighting their achievements (or lack of). I mean, on the one hand, none of them lost, which is a Team of the Weekend first.
Jose Mourinho – I’m breaking my own rules already, one player in. I know Jose doesn’t qualify as a home nations player but I feel like his contribution to the Game for Grenfell on Saturday cannot go unmentioned. If you haven’t seen, Jose came on in goal for the final half hour (and subsequent penalty shootout) in the charity match at Loftus Road on Saturday. Proceeds from the match went to the victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster and many celebrities combined with players of the past – and Peter Crouch – to put on a show. Mourinho played the pantomime villain, collecting a yellow card for wasting time but all in good jest, but was all smiles for fans and celebrities alike. Top man, Jose.
Ashley Williams – Wales ground out a win over Austria on Saturday night and although a certain young man got the headlines, Ashley Williams was incredible at the heart of the Welsh defence. At times it was like Williams was playing as a second goalkeeper, blocking various shots that looked destined for the net. The cleansheet kept Wales’ hopes alive, and the celebrations after the match indicated that everybody knew just how important a result this was.
Andrew Robertson – What a goal! Liverpool’s new left back celebrated becoming a Dad with an absolute belter of a goal in Lithuania on Friday night. Starting the move well inside his own half, Robertson carried his run on and curled the ball into the top corner from the edge of the box. Carlsberg don’t do weeks, but if they did, I think Robertson’s would be a serious contender.
Shane Duffy – Republic of Ireland were pretty ordinary against Georgia but Shane Duffy proved to be their most potent attacking threat, despite playing centre half. He took his goal courtesy of suspect goalkeeping from a set piece, which is pretty much the only way I can ever see Ireland scoring. More on that later.
Ryan Bertrand – Did Bertrand used to play for Malta? He belted in England’s second goal on Friday night, and although the keeper won’t want to see it again, you are allowed to smile Ryan. Instead he gave the look of a man trying to purposefully not celebrate so as not to offend his former employers. I’m sure Malta wouldn’t mind.
Raheem Sterling – A wise man said on the Tales podcast last week that Sterling never plays well for England. A trip to Malta should be the chance for a player who once cost £50m to really assert their authority on the game. Instead, inside the opening few minutes, Sterling was presented with an opportunity one on one and declined to shoot and fell down. That was a mistake, Raheem. Still, it’s not like you got subbed at half time and your replacement was far better. Ah.
Ben Woodburn – Not a bad way to score your first International goal, is it? Aged just 17, Chris Coleman threw the young man on with 20 minutes to go and he needed less than 5 minutes to fire in the winning goal from 25 yards. He’s not even old enough to drink, he’ll have had a lot of diet sprite’s bought for him on Saturday night.
James McArthur – McArthur is the only Crystal Palace player to score this season, netting twice in a League Cup tie against Ipswich. Palace are yet to net a league goal but McArthur prodded in Scotland’s third in Lithuania – maybe you could play him up front, Frank?
Josh Magennis – It’s always been inexplicable how Kyle Lafferty couldn’t get a game at club level, yet would turn up for Northern Ireland duty in lethal form and fire his country to glory/Euro 2016. With Lafferty’s lack of games finally catching up with him, it’s a bloody god job Josh Magennis found some form in San Marino on Friday. The one disappointment is that he wasn’t given the penalty at 2-0, but ho-hum. To think, Magennis was nearly a goalkeeper.
Harry Kane – It was horribly inevitable that after 3 games of “Harry Kane can’t score in August!!!” that he would turn up on September 1st and score twice. Yes, it was against Malta, but he still scored twice. You ridiculous man.
Marcus Rashford – England were pretty ordinary in Malta on Friday but Rashford’s arrival really changed that. It’s amazing what happens when you actually run at players and commit them, especially when they are playing a back 9. Take note, Raheem.
Martin O’Neill – I don’t rate Martin O’Neill, I never have. I’m not sure if he’s doing a good job with ROI or not, their position in the group would suggest so but their style of play is extremely direct and they draw an awful lot of games. Admittedly, it’s still in their own hands with 3 games to go, so he must be doing something right.
I’ll be back with a Premier League team of the Weekend next Monday, take it easy.