The International Preview: Ten players away with their countries
Just when things were starting to get interesting FIFA decide we should have a raft of international friendlies because nothing disrupts the domestic season quite so well. I suppose we look ahead to it then and see exactly which Borussia Dortmund players we will be fretting about over the next week or so, hoping no one comes back injured. There have been ten players called up for international games, while Christian Pulisic is being rested by the USA, and Shinji Kagawa (Japan) and Andriy Yarmolenko (Ukraine) have been omitted due to injury.
Mahmoud Dahoud (Germany under-21’s)
Germany under-21’s have two fixtures over the next few days, firstly against Israel and then against Kosovo. Dahoud is likely to play some part in at least one of these games. He has had a steady first season at Signal Iduna Park and is seen as a future star of German football. He has three under-21 caps already to his name and is seemingly liked by manager Stefan Kuntz. Don’t be surprised to see Dahoud in one or both of these games.
Lukasz Piszcszek (Poland)
Piszcszek is a staple of the Polish national team, as he is the Dortmund side. With fifty nine caps and three international goals to his name, there is no doubt that Piszcszek is a vital part of this team and first choice in his position. Poland play Nigeria and Korea Republic, both at home, on the 23rd and 27th March respectively.
Manuel Akanji and Roman Burki (Switzerland)
While Roman Burki has a fair amount of international experience, it’s fair to say that Manuel Akanji is a newcomer to football at this level. Their games with Sweden on the 23rd March and Panama on 27th March will be stern tests against sides who will be following them to Russia in the summer. In these experimental games it wouldn’t be amiss for the fresh blood of Akanji and the unfancied Burki (Yann Sommer is usually first choice since Diego Benaglio retired) to feature here.
Raphael Guerreiro (Portugal)
Guerreiro has had his fair share of injuries this season but has been called up by Fernando Santos nonetheless for Portugals home games with Egypt on Friday and Holland on Monday. His versatility is an asset to any team though and it is obvious that Santos, who used Guerreiro as first choice left back when Portugal won Euro 2016, is willing to look beyond Guerreiro’s injuries for that reason. He is more likely to see of the competition from veteran Antunes at left-back than he is to get into central midfield however.
Michy Batshuayi (Belgium)
Batshuayi has been called up to the Belgium squad for the only friendly they have over this international break, which comes at home against Saudi Arabia on Friday night. It is sure to be a test of some sorts against the Saudi’s with both teams qualifying for the World Cup, nevertheless it is one they should navigate with a certain amount of ease. Batshuayi is sure to play some part in this fixture with Belgium manager Roberto Martinez likely to experiment and throw down the gauntlet to his two big strikers – Batman and Romelu Lukaku.
Sergio Gomez (Spain under-19’s)
Spain’s under-19’s have already played out a 0-0 draw against Bulgaria last night, which Gomez was a part of. However, there are still two more games for Luis de la Fuente’s side to navigate. First up are Belgium on Friday night followed by France on Monday. These are group games for the UEFA Under-19 Championship so there is a fir amount of pressure for a result here.
Alexander Isak (Sweden)
Sweden will play Chile on 24th March and Romania on 27th March. While Chile haven’t qualified that doesn’t mean the Swedes are in for an easy ride against the 2015 Copa America winners. Isak made his international debut during the last international break against Ivory Coast and scored on his second appearance, a 6-0 win over Slovakia days later. Again, with experimenting looking like the order of the day this close to the World Cup don’t be too surprised to see the eighteen year old feature in one or both of these games.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Greece)
Despite failing to qualify for the World Cup, Greece are still involved in this international break playing games against Switzerland at home on Friday night and Egypt away on Monday night. Sokratis is currently the national teams vice-captain and is sitting on seventy eight national caps, so is clearly a integral component. He might not play in both of these games but is likely to feature at some point.
Jadon Sancho (England under-21’s)
Since winning the under-20’s World Cup last summer Jadon Sancho was expected to step to a higher level, possibly even the senior side, in the aftermath of that triumph. The prophecy has come to pass and Sancho now lines up for Aidy Boothroyd’s under-21’s. They play Romania in a friendly on Friday night and Ukraine in a UEFA European under-21 Championship qualifier on Monday, both at home. Sancho has featured heavily since Peter Stoeger took charge in December so is likely to start at least one of these games.