The International Break is always rife with stories in world soccer news–from the brutal backstory that outlined the USA v Costa Rica, Roy’s selection dilemma for England, or the brutal force brewing at Belgium, there are plenty of items to touch on. Here’s my take:
- The USA lost 3-1 to Costa Rica in San Jose. As an avid supporter of my national team, I was a bit disappointed to see the result, but knew that we were up against a team desperate to maintain their record against us at home, and desperate for revenge after the frigid 1-0 defeat back in March. The Costa Ricans were far from welcome opponents, as there are stories of harsh treatment to the visiting Americans. Klinsmann seemed to get a few of his decisions wrong, in my opinion, while some of our key players failed to live up to their potential. Ultimately, Costa Rica triumphed for the eight successive time on home soil. Bleacher Report gives a pretty good account of everything that went wrong on the pitch for the Americans.
- Belgium cruised to a 2-0 victory over Scotland in what has to be one of the least surprising outcomes of this week’s International Break. The Belgians look to be certain for World Cup Qualification, and may do well to reach the semi-finals or even lift the trophy in Brazil. With a front line featuring the likes of Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku, seasoned EPL stars like Marouane Fellaini, fresh off his move to Manchester United, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, now teammates at Chelsea, and Jan Vertonghen and Thomas Vermaelen shoring up defenses at the North London clubs, it’s no wonder Belgium are a surefire candidate to trouble some established national teams. That they didn’t make it to the World Cup in 2010 is an absolute shame which can be saved for another article; for now, it’s a privilege to watch this generation come through the ranks.
- England beat Moldova 4-0. Though this victory was expected, I heard Hodgson describe it as a potential ‘banana skin’, foreshadowing the upcoming tricky test against the Ukraine this Tuesday. With Welbeck picking up a yellow card against Moldova, from what I understand was not a foul in the least, Roy now faces some tricky decisions: Ricky Lambert has been on top form while Wayne Rooney has failed to seem interested, Sturridge remains sidelined with an injury and Theo Walcott seemed anonymous in last night’s game. So, does Roy start with a forward three of Lambert, Walcott, and a 60%-fit Sturridge, or should he play Lambert up front on his own? I seem to think a front three of Walcott and a 60% Sturridge would surely pose enough of a threat with Lambert in his current form. Similarly, Roy could do well with some peace between Moyes and Rooney to get the English talisman firing on all cylinders once again. Shocked to see Fabian Delph or Gabby Agbonlahor not get a look from the English manager based on their current form. It seems foolish to include a player like Sterling over someone who is undoubtedly proving to become a fighting box-to-box midfielder at club level.
- It was nice to see Robbie Keane get his 60th goal for Ireland. After watching the California Classico between the LA Galaxy and San Jose, the evergreen Keane still looks miles ahead of his peers. The Galaxy captain must have enjoyed the week, setting up the first goal and bagging two for himself on a night where the club paid tribute to him with a custom bobble-head giveaway (Ah, American sport…), only to finish the week with another goal for his country.
- Poland hangs in the balance a bit; speaking to a Polish friend of mine, we were discussing how with a forward like Robert Lewandowski and some of his teammates dazzling at club level for Borussia Dortmund, it’s a travesty to see them not get better luck at the International level. They need a miracle.
There is plenty more to speak about in what has actually been a pretty intense set of Internationals, but we’ll cover that more as the week draws to a close. We’ll take another quick look at International Break Soccer near the end of the week.