Any hopes that Jurgen Klopp would have had of seeing his international players get through the weekend unscathed ended within a few minutes of Netherlands and England kicking off in Amsterdam, with Joe Gomez hobbling off with an ankle injury in the early stages and likely to miss the Reds’ Champions League quarter-final. It was a better night for the young defender’s colleagues Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, both of whom gave steady performances that will do their chances of making the World Cup squad no harm at all. By contrast, Liverpool’s Dutch duo of Virgil van Dijk, who captained the Oranje on Friday, and Georginio Wijnaldum were unconvincing, though with Ronald Koeman’s team not heading to Russia in June, there was no great incentive for either player on the night. A sixth Liverpool player, Adam Lallana, was an unused substitute for England, and an injury-plagued season has seen other midfielders take advantage of his inactivity.
Liverpool fans everywhere would have been casting a nervous eye on proceedings in Zurich on Friday night, where Mohamed Salah’s Egypt continued their World Cup preparations with a friendly against Portugal. The mercurial forward kept up his rich vein of scoring form by giving the Pharaohs a second half lead prior to being substituted on 79 minutes, but the European champions ended victorious after two goals in stoppage time from Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ryan Giggs’ tenure as Wales manager got off to a flying start with a resounding 6-0 victory over China in the China Cup mini-tournament. The headlines were grabbed by Gareth Bale, whose hat-trick made him the all-time leading Welsh national team goalscorer, and when he was substituted on 63 minutes as a history maker, it was Liverpool’s Ben Woodburn who took his place. The fourth Welsh goal, which came just before half-time, was scored by Harry Wilson, the young striker on loan at Hull from Anfield. The weekend wasn’t as enjoyable for Reds defender Andrew Robertson, who played the entirety of Scotland’s 0-1 defeat to Costa Rica in the first match of Alex McLeish’s second coming as manager of the Scots.
Brazil enhanced their claim to be one of the favourites to win the World Cup by thrashing hosts Russia 3-0 in Moscow, a result that will only add to the sense of apprehension among Russian supporters who are all too accustomed to seeing their team flop on the big stage. Roberto Firmino came on for the final 25 minutes of the match in place of Gabriel Jesus, just before Brazil got their third goal. Their second was scored by ex-Liverpool man Philippe Coutinho from the penalty spot.
England’s senior side weren’t the only Three Lions outfit to win this weekend; Aidy Boothroyd’s under-21s team defeated Romania 2-1 in their friendly at Molineux. Team captain Dominic Solanke was ruled out as his season of frustration continued, although Liverpool team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold was again impressive, setting up Jake Clarke-Salter for England’s second goal with a pinpoint cross. Ovie Ejaria, on loan to Sunderland from the Reds, was also among the standout performers for England on the day.
Some Liverpool players who might have been expected to win international caps over the weekend were not pressed into action. Dejan Lovren pulled out of the Croatia squad a few days before their 2-0 defeat to Peru, while Sadio Mane was an unused substitute in Senegal’s 1-1 draw against Uzbekistan. Emre Can, meanwhile, was not in Germany’s matchday squad for their 1-1 draw against Spain on Friday night.
While Klopp will have been pleased to see the likes of Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alexander-Arnold impressing, along with yet another goal for the outstanding Salah, the injury to Gomez will be a worry ahead of a crucial fortnight in Liverpool’s season.