The International Break Round-Up: Here’s what you need to know!

With another international break checked off the calendar, it is time to head back to the domestic leagues and European football! Incredible news.

19 teams have now sealed their qualification for Euro 2024 in Germany, and the structure of the tournament is starting to take place. Whilst understandably, most football fans (including myself) prefer watching their club rather than international qualifiers, the break did reveal to us some intriguing things and provide some compelling action.

Here are five things that we observed from the international break.

Italy qualify… just

Despite winning the Euros in 2021, Italy failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Fortunately for them, they have managed to secure qualification for the Euros next summer. Both Italy and Ukraine were battling for the second qualifying spot in Group C and faced each other on Monday night. A 0-0 draw sees Italy qualify, due to a better goal difference, but Ukraine will feel aggrieved that they were denied a penalty in the 90th minute.

After what has been a difficult couple of years for Italian football, the Azzurri will be relieved they can now book their flights to Germany.

San Marino are better than we think

San Marino, ranked 207th by FIFA, has not won a single game since April 28, 2004, making them one of the worst footballing nations. Yet, in their last three games, they have scored in each of them. This may not seem impressive, but for a team that had scored one goal in their previous 16 games, it is a substantial improvement.

It’s not like these goals were against minnows, either. They scored to equalise against Denmark, scored against Kazakhstan, and then scored against Finland.

Well done, San Marino!

Poor Gavi

In a 3-1 win over Georgia, Gavi suffered a knee injury that will likely see him out for the rest of the season and next summer’s Euros as well.

Barcelona affirmed on Monday that the midfielder had suffered “a complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and “an associated injury to the lateral meniscus. The player will have surgery in the coming days after which a new medical update will be released.”

Gavi is crucial to Barcelona and has played the most games for Barca of any outfield player since his debut. The same applies since his Spain debut. He is just 19 years old and has almost played 150 career games. He will be seriously missed.

Romelu Lukaku: Comeback Season

Reunited with Jose Mourinho at Roma, Lukaku is enjoying his football once again. With six goals in ten games in Serie A, as well as three in four in the Europa League, he looks like his true self. Just like when Lukaku worked under Jose at Manchester United, the Belgian is scoring goals again. 

Yet it is for Belgium that he has shown his true powers. With 14 goals in eight Euro qualifiers, he is the top scorer of the qualifying stage by far. This week, he scored four goals in 45 minutes against Azerbaijan. Big Rom is back. Defenders, watch out!

France are ruthless

France did not hold back against 198th-ranked Gibraltar. They fielded a fully-fledged side and they won 14-0. Yes, you did read that correctly. 14-0.

In fact, Gibraltar didn’t even have a shot. France had 39 shots, 20 of which were on target. I don’t think goalkeeper Mike Maignan has ever had less to do in his life. He probably moved more in the dressing room than he did on the pitch.

When Mbappé scored his third goal (and France’s 12th) in impressive fashion, he ran around like a madman, sending fans into raptures. France are simply ruthless.

Madness in South America

Brazil vs Argentina is always a feisty fixture. Last night, it was feistier than ever as Messi’s Argentina nicked a 1-0 victory. The rivalry between two of the most successful teams in world football turned into violence. Away fans ripped up and threw seats at police officers. Fans near the trouble came onto the pitch to escape the fighting. At least one injured fan was escorted from the stadium on a stretcher.

The world champions, led by captain, Lionel Messi, headed towards the stands to try to calm the situation before returning to the dressing room for over 10 minutes.

When the game restarted, there were 42 fouls in the game, 26 of those committed by Brazil. What’s more, Brazil lost a home qualifier for the first time in their history and it was Brazil’s third consecutive defeat – a dishonour they have not suffered since 2001.

Brazil now have seven points from their first six qualifiers and sit in 6th place in the group. They must improve.

By Nicky Helfgott / @NickyH3lfgott on Twitter (X)

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