The second week of November internationals brought another miserable week for England and a mixed bag for Liverpool’s returning international stars as the travelling Reds rounded off their international years with wins, draws and losses aplenty. There were only twelve Liverpool internationals involved in the second week of internationals with some nations choosing to give their players and staff the extra week off rather than play out another meaningless international – the FA could learn from this stance, as the national team could have been seeded for the World Cup Group Stage had England played one less friendly this year. However, staying on topic, we’ll start by looking at England and how the English representatives of Liverpool got on.
First of all, they lost. So, there aren’t any points scored there. However, it was to Germany and it was only 1-0 – but it was their second team so take from it what you will. The Reds had four players involved in the squad that faced Germany on Tuesday night and two of them started the match: Captain Steven Gerrard and top goalscorer Daniel Sturridge. Sturridge lasted the full game despite rumours surfacing on Monday that he was forced off in training with a thigh or groin problem – the striker has admitted to facing injury concerns this season and has said the setbacks are affecting his performances for club and country (I often wonder why he doesn’t just take a couple of weeks out to recover but that’s his decision). The forward played ok up-top with Wayne Rooney but the partnership doesn’t seem to be clicking like his partnership at club level. Perhaps a fully Sturridge will mix better with Rooney, hopefully we’ll find out in March if that’s true. His touch seemed poo which doesn’t bode well for the Merseyside derby this Saturday, although he has had three days rest leading up to the game. The forward was heavily involved in England’s move of the match as he and Townsend combined to create a fairly Dortmund-esque counter attack which almost created a goal for Sturridge himself. Steven Gerrard didn’t last quite as long as he was substituted on the 55 minute mark for club-mate Jordan Henderson. The midfield dynamo call close for England in a performance which lacked a shot on target – a dipping long-range strike which landed on Weidenfeller’s roof. Henderson didn’t really capture the eye but he did no worse than Thomas Cleverley who had the majority of the game to prove some kind of worth – he did not. Henderson looked slightly off the pace and was dispossessed a couple of times. Good news for Liverpool came from Hodgson’s decision to play Kyle Walker for the full game – giving Glen Johnson a free week of recovery.
There was a much more positive piece of news from Luis Suárez as Uruguay booked their place at the World Cup Finals with a very boring 0-0 with Jordan in Montevideo. The aggregate scoreline was much more resounding with the 5-0 scoreline from the first leg enough to take Uruguay through. Suárez getting to the World Cup can only bode well for Liverpool’s season with the Uruguayan surely wanting to hit top gear this season to showcase his talents on the biggest stage of them all – a Brazilian World Cup. The striker will now surely want to remain stable in January and not upset his form by staying at Liverpool for at least the full season. Good news for Red fans.
Victor Moses had another day to remember as the African nation recorded a very creditable 2-2 draw against Italy. Nigeria lead 2-1 at the break, with Giaccherini sparing Italian blushes. Moses displayed his strong dribbling ability throughout the game, pushing Italy’s fullbacks towards their own goal on several occasions. Moses threaded a lovely ball which helped set up the assist for Amoebi’s screamer of a volley. An altogether great week for the pacey Nigerian.
Continuing the positive mood was Mamadou Sakho as he decided he was a striker and single-handedly dragged France over the World Cup Qualifying line. Some of that last sentence isn’t true – he didn’t become a striker and he wasn’t the only French player to perform on the night but he did score two goals and help overturn the horrendous 2-0 scoreline from the first leg – Ukraine must be devastated, they really wasted a great chance. Sakho’s first came after 22 minutes and was struck in powerfully from about two yards – a deflected shot landing the ball right at the centre-back’s feet. The second was even more fortuitous with a French player’s shot literally just hitting Sakho and bouncing off him into an empty net. Still, a fantastic day for Mamadou Sakho in-which he started and finished the game. Perhaps Sakho has forced his way into the starting XI for the national side.
There was also another win for Brazil’s Lucas. The midfielder has apparently already had his World Cup squad place assured allowing him to play without that fear for the remainder of the season – whether this will bring positive results remains to be seen. The central midfielder only played the final twenty minutes of the match with Chile but the Boys from Brazil capped off a decent 2013 with a 2-1 over their South American rivals.
Unfortunately the picture becomes rather more bleak for Liverpool players from here on in with Belgium and Slovakia both recording poor results. I’m not sure which result is worst – a 3-2 defeat to Japan for Simon Mignolet or a 0-0 draw with Gibraltar for Martin Škrtel’s Slovakia. Gibraltar were only playing their first ever UEFA game after a twelve-year battle to become a UEFA sanctioned nation – Spain initially refused to allow Gibraltar the rights to be a separate national team, fearing similar situations from the Catalan and Basque regions (two very proud footballing areas). However, succeed they did and a result they gained. Škrtel didn’t play in the game but I’m sure he was desperately disappointed as he watched on. Mignolet was probably equalling disappointed after being handed two starts for Belgium during this international break and failing to take either chance – the ‘keeper let in five goals across the two games with three of them coming against Japan. Liverpool fans everywhere will be hoping he performs slightly better in the derby this weekend.
Liverpool’s did have two youngsters in action this week with Raheem Sterling and Jack Robinson both appearing for England U21’s in the record 9-0 wrought of San Marino. Sterling scored twice and assisted another as England showed the ruthlessness Gareth Southgate had been calling for. Sterling’s first came after he’d initially scuffed his first shot before tapping in from less than a yard out at the second attempt. The winger’s second goal was delicious in every sense as Thomas Ince threaded a perfectly chipped through ball over the San Marino back four before Sterling chipped the on rushing ‘keeper. Sterling wasn’t finished yet though and he grabbed an assist too when his pass found Will Hughes who blasted into the ‘keeper’s left hand post with his right foot. Jack Robinson played the full ninety minutes but didn’t have a lot to do, in all honesty.
So, all in all, not as good a set of results as last week although it was good to see Sakho and Suarez reach the World Cup via their play-off ties. Overall, the Reds recorded three wins, three draws and two losses from the week’s action – although the most important game of the week is still to be played.
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