The International Front

It’s been a busy week for Chelsea’s young internationals, with no shortage of news to report upon.

There’s been full debuts, junior outings, and call-ups to new age levels, and a largely positive week of action.

It’s only right to start at the top, and with Jeffrey Bruma, who made his full international debut for Holland away to the Ukraine on Wednesday night.

Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk selected what was largely a B squad with no World Cup players in, and afforded the teenage centre-back a start alongside Ron Vlaar at the heart of the defence.

Jeffrey played the first half and kept a clean sheet, with both goals in the 1-1 draw coming late on. He looked comfortable, assured, and generally did a fine job against Andriy Shevchenko.

Compatriot Patrick van Aanholt was also making a debut of sorts, lining up for the Under-21 side away to Liechtenstein for the first time. He played the full match in a 3-0 win which secured Oranje a place in the playoffs to qualify for next summer’s finals.

Nemanja Matic was also involved in competitive Under-21 action, but was booked in a 2-1 defeat away to Slovakia, whilst Conor Clifford’s first full appearance for the Irish Under-21 team went superbly, as they put five past Estonia at Tallagh Stadium.

Earlier in the week he had finished as runner-up to Lanre Oyebanjo in the Irish Under-19 Player of the Year Award voting, but put it behind him to make his mark at the next level.

There was healthy friendly representation as well, with three Englishmen an Italian (nope, this isn’t a precursor to a joke!) donning their national colours.

Daniel Sturridge started up front for England against Uzbekistan at Ashton Gate, whilst Michael Mancienne took the left-back role. Sturridge was rather profligate throughout and was replaced during the second half, whilst Mancienne had a calm and assured showing in his ninety minutes. He was joined in the second period by Jack Cork, who slotted into central midfield and used the ball well.

Fabio Borini started on the bench for Pierluigi Casiraghi’s Azzurrini against Denmark, and doesn’t appear to have been used in a 2-2 draw, but after graduating from the Under-19 setup, will be pleased to have continued involvement at the next level.

Down in the Under-19s, Philipp Prosenik returned to international duty after an injury layoff with 45 minutes against Russia. He looked lively, spurning one or two chances before making way at the break.

After the summer’s disappointment in the European Finals, England Under-19 coach Noel Blake named his first squad including the next generation of players at his age group this week, and included two Chelsea names.

Josh McEachran excelled at Under-17 level and was a natural inclusion alongside many of his European Championship-winning teammates, but was perhaps unexpectedly joined by Aziz Deen-Conteh in the selection.

It’s only unexpected because Aziz hasn’t been called up since making two Victory Shield appearances in the Under-16 team two years ago, but it represents fine progress from the Sierra Leone-born defender.

After waiting to break into the youth team last season, he finished the campaign with more appearances than any other player and showed fine versatility at either left or centre back.

Now making steps into Steve Holland’s reserve team, he has certainly caught the eye and has been rewarded with a place in the party to play Slovakia in Crewe on September 2nd.

Nathaniel Chalobah, meanwhile, stays in the Under-17 team, as the only player from May’s Finals to remain eligible, and is joined by last season’s Under-16 team. As the senior player in the team, and with 23 England caps to his name, it remains astounding that he is still the youngest player in the squad.

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