Twenty-nine of Chelsea’s current youth and reserve players have represented their countries at youth level.
A number of them added to their caps in the last fortnight or so during what was an important round of fixtures for many.
At Under-21 level, the qualifying campaign for the Finals in Denmark next summer came to a head, with teams seeking to secure automatic berths, or a best-placed playoff spot if necessary.
That was the aim for Stuart Pearce’s England Under-21s, who knew that Greece had already won their group, and therefore six points against Portugal and Lithuania were a must if their dream of another Finals appearance was to come to fruition.
Pearce entrusted starting selections to three Blues, with Jack Cork amongst the substitutes. Daniel Sturridge and Ryan Bertrand started both matches, as did Michael Mancienne, who, as the senior player in the squad, took the captain’s armband.
The trip to Portugal was successful, with a first-half goal from Sturridge taking all three points in a 1-0 win. Mancienne played in midfield, as he has done for Wolves in the last year, and looked good throughout. He was also impressive at Colchester as Lithuania succumbed to a 3-0 defeat which secured England’s playoff place.
Sturridge, on the other hand, cut a frustrated figure as he displayed an impressive profligacy in front of goal, spurning a number of chances. He was clearly unhappy with his performance when making way for Cork in the second half, but he will have better days.
Bertrand was his typical dependable and lively self in both matches, and linked well with Sturridge and Danny Rose down the left side in the first half of the Lithuania fixture.
Fabio Borini, meanwhile, has graduated from involvement with the Italian Under-19 team and took his place on the bench for the Azzurrini at Under-21 level for their double header of fixtures.
Pierluigi Casiraghi’s boys notched up a pair of 1-0 victories, away to Bosnia and at home to Wales respectively, and whilst Borini failed to feature on either occasion, he has a future at this level and will certainly add to his four caps, perhaps as soon as their playoff tie.
They’ll be looking to join Patrick van Aanholt’s Netherlands side, who had already secured their place before losing their 100% record away to Spain. Van Aanholt was booked in the match in Alcoy but is sure to be an important part of their Finals squad next year, as, perhaps, will Jeffrey Bruma, who missed out through injury.
There will be no such tie for Conor Clifford and the Republic of Ireland, who brought their terrible campaign to an end with back to back 1-0 defeats away to Switzerland and Turkey. Conor started both matches, making way with ten minutes to go on both occasions, and looked as likely as any other Irish player to make something happen.
Slobodan Rajkovic’s Serbia also fell short after a 2-2 draw in Croatia, meaning that their 3-1 win away to Cyprus was rendered meaningless. Rajkovic captained the side and was booked both times as he picks up match fitness ahead of beginning his spell at Vitesse Arnhem.
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