International Round-Up: October 9-16

We’ve had another exceptionally busy international period over the last two weeks or so, with Chelsea players in action at both senior and youth level spread wide across the globe. Here’s a look at how they all fared.

Senior Internationals

Petr Cech saved a penalty as the Czech Republic beat Malta 3-1 in the first of two World Cup Qualifiers, before recording a clean sheet in a goalless draw with Bulgaria.

Branislav Ivanovic, now the permanent Serbian captain, was on the losing side against future Blues colleagues Thibaut Courtois and Kevin De Bruyne and current team-mate Eden Hazard as Belgium pulled off a sensational 3-0 win in Belgrade.

It was midfielder De Bruyne who stole the show with a devastating cross for Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke to open the scoring, before finding the back of the net for the first time at international level himself in the second half.

He was up to the same tricks on Tuesday against Scotland, this time setting Benteke up with his left foot, standing the ball up to the far post to let his big striker climb up highest to nod home. The 2-0 win – Courtois’ second straight shutout – keeps Belgium firmly in contention atop Group A. Hazard came on as a half-time substitute and helped prise open the Scottish defence.

Romelu Lukaku was absent from the squad with a heel injury having originally been selected. Things got worse for Ivanovic though, as Serbia fell to a second successive defeat away in Macedonia.

Gary Cahill started for England in their rather laboured 5-0 victory over San Marino at Wembley, whilst Ashley Cole spent the match on the bench. Their roles were set to be swapped for Tuesday night’s match away to Poland but the match was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. Frank Lampard and Ryan Bertrand both withdrew from the squad with ailments.

David Luiz, Oscar and Ramires all saw considerable time for Brazil in a pair of comfortable friendly wins as Mano Menezes continues his preparations for a home World Cup in 2014. The Selecao began the break with a 6-0 win over Iraq in which Oscar netted twice, before beating Japan 4-0 on Tuesday afternoon.

Chelsea’s samba trio each started both matches but it was Oscar who stole the show with another stupendous performance in what is proving to be a quite sensational 2012 for him on a personal level.

Fernando Torres was an unused substitute for Spain in a relatively routine victory away to Belarus before coming on as a late substitute at home to France. Spain led until the closing stages, when an Olivier Giroud goal earned the visitors a crucial point.

Juan Mata, quite incomprehensibly, was not a part of the squad as Vicente Del Bosque claimed that the defending World and European Champions couldn’t find room for him.

In African Nations Cup Qualifying, both Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel (yes really) netted for Nigeria in a 6-1 win over Liberia which secured the Super Eagles’ berth in the Finals in South Africa next January.

Conor Clifford was called into the full Irish squad for the first time in two years for matches against Germany and the Faroe Islands but had a firm watching brief as he stayed on the bench throughout.

Youth Internationals

The highlight of the youth international fixture list was undoubtedly the UEFA European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Playoff Stage, in which a number of young Chelsea players featured with eyes firmly set on a place in next summer’s Finals tournament in Israel.

The first to secure his place there was Jeffrey Bruma, who played in central defence in both legs of the Netherlands’ 4-0 aggregate win over Slovakia. Milan Lalkovic was in the opposition squad but didn’t get onto the pitch in either game.

Tomas Kalas and the Czech Republic were next to try their luck but were unable to match the exploits of the Dutch, falling to a strong Russian side. Kalas provided an assist for a Czech goal in the second leg before unfortunately being sent off after picking up two yellow cards.

Oriol Romeu and Spain sauntered to a healthy aggregate win over Denmark as they seek to defend their crown, whilst Josh McEachran and England overcame Serbia to also book their ticket. The creative midfielder failed to play at all under Stuart Pearce though, as usual.

Also seeking to qualify for a continental youth finals competition was Bertrand Traore, who captains the Burkina Faso Under-20 team. They, however, were knocked out by Gabon.

In Under-21 friendlies, Thorgan Hazard and Lamisha Musonda played some part for Belgium in a win over Greece and a defeat to Israel.

UEFA’s Under-19 qualifiers began in earnest with preliminary stage competition in which Nathan Aké captained and scored for a Netherlands team featuring a number of players who played in Under-17 Championship-winning teams of the last two years.

They’re safely through, as are Scotland, for whom Islam Feruz scored a notable hat-trick against Switzerland.

Alex Davey was in the Scotland squad, but missed all three group games through injury.

Amin Affane and Sweden also advanced to the Elite Round in the new year, coming second to Russia in Group 10. In late September and early October, an England squad featuring John Swift also confirmed safe passage into the next round.

The Under-17 teams are also embarking upon a new season of qualifying campaigns, with Swedish midfielder Isak Ssewankambo and Andreas Christensen the sole Chelsea players to have participated thus far. Ssewankambo fared better than his Nordic team-mate as Denmark slipped out of Group 11, and in the coming weeks England quartet Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Alex Kiwomya, Charlie Colkett and Ola Aina will hope to take John Peacock’s team through to the next stage, as will Charly Musonda and Belgium.

All four England players are graduates of Kenny Swain’s Under-16 setup and we conclude this round-up with mentions of the latest crop making a name for themselves in the Sky Sports Victory Shield. Midfielders Mukhtar Ali and Dominic Solanke are both in the party to face Wales on November 1st, good luck to them.

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