international break

7 Biggest Lessons from the International Break

Finally, the lengthy, tiresome and exhaustive international break is over. Although we witnessed some quality and entertaining football being played, we couldn't help but hope it quickly comes to an end.

While some players, managers and their countries emerged with that familiar sense of warmth and happiness, others were left trudging back to their clubs with a feeling of dread. With that in mind, we take a look at the biggest lessons from the just concluded FIFA window.

1 - Happy days back for Brazil

The seleção is back and back in style. Brazil, obviously enjoying some sort of resurgence under Tite since that fatal COPA Centenary tournament, proved their mettle once again during the last international break. The five-time world champions thrashed Uruguay 4-1 away on Friday before beating Paraguay 3-0 four days later in Sao Paulo to become the first country to book a place for Russia 2018. They achieved this in a remarkable manner losing just one out of 14 games and scoring an unprecedented 35 goals.

2 - Buffon joins marathon club

Italy legend, Gianluigi 'Gigi' Buffon, was in scintillating form on Friday when his nation defeated Albania 2-0 in a FIFA World Cup qualifier. The clash marked a major milestone for the 39-year-old who joined an illustrious club of football marathon men. Buffon, who made his club debut for Parma in 1995, has now amassed 832 appearances (612 for Juventus) and 168 for the Azzurri totalling 1000. He thus becomes the most capped European player in history - one more than Spain's Iker Casillas.

3 - Video Refereeing is the future

For the first time ever, a video assistant referee was employed in a football match. This was in a friendly encounter between France and Spain at the Stade de France on Tuesday. The visitors ran out 2-0 winners thanks to strikes from David Silva and Gerard Deulofeu. But it was the video ref, not the players, that deserved to be named Man of the Match due to two top notch and accurate calls, which happened within split seconds, with minimal interruption. First, Antoine Griezmann goal was correctly ruled out for offside while Deulofeu effort was perfectly adjudged to be a goal.

4 - Lucas Podolski's grand farewell

Gareth Southgate led England for the first time since being confirmed as substantive Three Lions coach last November against Germany. But the battle in Dortmund wasn't actually about the gaffer who would go on to lose for the first time in five games but the eventual goalscorer, Lukas Podolski. The ex-Arsenal forward marked his exit from international football with a beautiful strike - his 49th for his country in his 130th and last appearance. The 31-year-old who was substituted to a huge ovation in the 85th minute said: "We won 1-0 and I scored, this is like in a movie! God or someone has given me this left foot, which I could always trust."

5 - Netherlands on a disastrous slump

How are the mighty fallen; the pathetic tale of a one-time football powerhouse, Netherlands, who now find itself in the peripherals of world and European football. From finishing second and third at the last two World Cups respectively, the Dutch failed to qualify for the expanded 24-team European Championship last summer. Their woes are now compounded by the prospect of missing their first Mundial in around 16 years after losing to less-fancied Bulgaria on Friday. This leaves the Oranje in fourth place, three points behind second-placed Sweden with unbeaten France a further three clear. And not even the sacking of coach Danny Blind could save them from another defeat; this time a 2-1 home loss to Italy in a friendly on Tuesday.

6 - Heartbreak for Koeman and Everton

One conundrum that confronts club managers during the international period is that of first-team players returning with various degrees of bugs. Everton boss, Ronaldo Koeman, falls into this category; especially when you consider three of his senior players got injured while on national team duties. They are Seamus Coleman, Ramiro Funes Mori and James McCarthy. While McCarthy aggravated his hamstring during the warm-up for Republic of Ireland's clash with Wales on Friday, compatriot, Coleman, suffered a horrific leg break in the same encounter. Mori joined the pair on Tuesday leaving the pitch after only 36 minutes of Argentina's 2-0 defeat by Bolivia.

7 - Messi inadequacies hunting Argentina

It's certainly not the best of time for Barcelona superstar, Lionel Messi and his La Albiceleste teammates. The five-time Ballon d'Or winner will probably be regretting his decision to return to the national fold following his recent four-game for “insulting words” towards an assistant referee during Thursday’s 1-0 win over Chile. In his absence, Argentina was beaten 2-0 by Bolivia and now risks not participating in their first World Cup in 48 years. The two-time world champions are currently placed fifth with 20 points - two above Peru and Paraguay who will obviously battle them for the playoff spot. Their quest is made more complicated considering their talisman will miss three of their remaining four games.

About the Author Toby Prince

An unrepentant soccer freak other freaks call geek.

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