With the build-up to Saturday’s match against Manchester United now underway, here is how some of the Liverpool players fared during the international break.
England confirmed their place in the 2018 World Cup with a 1–0 win against Slovenia at Wembley on Thursday evening. However their performance – along with the one against Lithuania on Sunday – was unimpressive, to say the least. Jordan Henderson, in particular, epitomised England’s insipid style. The central midfielder was accused of producing poor, scrappy, and uninspired performances. He very rarely directed the play forward – instead choosing to pass backwards and sideways. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was another Liverpool player who disappointed at Wembley – he had a desperately poor night, was subbed just after the hour mark and didn’t feature away in Vilnius. Daniel Sturridge – the only other Liverpool player with the current England squad – only managed twenty minutes in the second game; however, he appeared lively and had a couple of chances.
Dominic Solanke scored England U21’s 3rd goal in a 3–1 win over Scotland U21 – a game that also featured Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez.
Andy Robertson and his Scotland teammates were agonisingly close to reaching the play-off round – a 1–0 win at Hampden Park against Slovakia produced hope but the 2–2 draw against Slovenia produced broken hearts. Robertson, himself, exhibited the exciting, attacking wing-play and sound defensive ability that he has displayed when given opportunities at Anfield this season.
Wales also followed the same fate as Scotland by finishing 3rd in their group – defeat to the Republic of Ireland (1–0) meant that Wales failed to reach the World Cup. Ben Woodburn came on as a 64th minute substitute in Cardiff but, despite some nice touches, was unable to influence any comeback for the Welsh.
The Netherlands will not be at the 2018 World Cup after finishing 3rd in their qualifying group – thus missing their second consecutive international tournament. Georginio Wijnaldum has featured heavily in the centre of midfield for the Dutch despite the numerous managerial changes during qualification.
Emre Can came on for the last thirty minutes against Northern Ireland in Germany’s 3–1 win; however, it was in the match at home to Azerbaijan that he really shone. Can looked at ease playing as the defensive midfielder for the current World Champions and capped off his impressive display with a wonderful long-range goal.
Going into their final match away to Ukraine needing a win, Croatia, with Dejan Lovren in the centre of their defence, produced a superb display as they clinched a 2–0 victory to book their place in the playoffs.
Another one of Liverpool’s centre-backs, Ragnar Klavan, captained Estonia to the biggest victory (6–0) in their entire history – albeit against Gibraltar.
Rest of the World
Mohamed Salah converted a stoppage-time penalty to seal a dramatic 2–1 win for Egypt against Congo. The win in Alexandria meant that Egypt qualified for their first World Cup since 1990.
With Brazil already qualified for next year’s World Cup – and one of the favourites to win it – the South Americans could afford to relax and take it easy when they faced Bolivia (well, as easy as you can take it when you are playing at an altitude of almost 12,000 feet). Philippe Coutinho started, played reasonably well for an hour and then was substituted. If ever there was an international break that could drain a player out before a big clash in the league it was this one – a round-trip of over 12,000 miles and a match played in the clouds. Roberto Firmino remained amongst the substitutes.
Two late goals gave Senegal a 2–0 victory over Cape Verde and put them in a strong position for qualification. Africa’s qualifying campaign runs until November and so Sadio Mane and Senegal will not know if they’ll be in Russia until next month. Although Mane didn’t score against Cape Verde he did put in an industrious display and was a threat on the right-hand side. However, bad news arrived on Tuesday when it was announced that Mane had sustained a hamstring injury during a training session that leaves him facing up to six weeks on the sidelines.