Despite Chelsea’s slow start to the campaign, they had plenty first-team players on international duty as two more Blues confirmed their places at next year’s World Cup in Russia this week.
We are now aware of each of the 32 nations competing at the tournament next summer, but one of the big omissions is Italy, which means Davide Zappacosta will not feature. He stayed on the bench for both playoff fixtures against Sweden as they missed out on their first World Cup since 1958.
There were two Chelsea youngsters who saw their countries qualify via the playoffs as Andreas Christensen’s Denmark demolished the Republic of Ireland 5-1 after a goalless first leg with the 21-year-old scoring the opening goal. Mario Palasic came on for the last minute in their first-leg victory over Greece before remaining on the bench for the second leg as they secured their place at next summer’s tournament.
Loanees impress for England
It was a good international break for Chelsea’s young loanees as Ruben Loftus-Cheek earned the Man of the Match award on his first start in a 0-0 draw with Germany while Tammy Abraham also made his Three Lions debut. The former came off injured in the second fixture against Brazil while the latter featured for the last 15 minutes in another goalless draw. Willian came on with just over 20 minutes left for the Brazilians and was very lively against an inexperienced English defence. As Gareth Southgate opted for a youthful side, Gary Cahill wasn’t used but is expected to be in the starting XI next June in Russia.
Antonio Rudiger played the full 90 minutes at Wembley and didn’t have to worry about too many dangerous England attacks before he was brought on for Mats Hummels at half-time in Germany’s 2-2 stalemate with France at the RheinEnergieStadion.
Antonio Conte will have been happy to see Eden Hazard rested for Belgium in their 1-0 win over Japan and to make it even better, Thibaut Courtois also watched on from the bench as Romelu Lukaku became the highest-scoring Belgian international of all-time. Both Chelsea stars played full matches in the 3-3 draw with Mexico, with Hazard opening the scoring in the 17th minute.
Two players who weren’t able to play for their countries through injury were N’Golo Kante and Victor Moses, for France and Nigeria, respectively. Both nations drew one and won one of their two fixtures, with Nigeria picking up a massive 4-2 victory over Argentina, a game where loanee Ola Aina played the first half at left wing-back.
Alvaro Morata was another welcome absentee for Conte as he missed out on Spain’s entertaining 3-3 draw with next year’s hosts, Russia. This came after he scored his country’s second goal in their 5-0 rout of Costa Rica in their first of the two fixtures.
Wales debut for Ampadu
It was a huge week for 17-year-old Ethan Ampadu, as the Chelsea teenager became the second-youngest player to start a match for Wales (behind Gareth Bale). He made his Welsh debut against France just four days earlier as goals from Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud condemned them to a 2-0 away defeat at the Stade de France.
Elsewhere, Matt Miazga, who is on loan at Vitesse, played in USA’s 1-1 draw with Portugal while Marco van Ginkel, on loan at PSV, played in the Netherlands’ 3-0 win over Romania after sitting on the bench for their narrow 1-0 victory against Scotland.
It’s back to Premier League business for Conte’s Blues this weekend as they take the trip to the Hawthorns to face an out-of-form West Brom side.