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Thursday internationals: Spain struggle, England cruise

Fabregas and Costa were on the losing end as Slovakia pulled off a major upset on Thursday. Meanwhile, Gary Cahill and San Marino got together for tea and crumpets.

Laurence Griffiths

Three Chelsea players started and the same three Chelsea players finished the day as well as England (against San Marino) and Spain (against Slovakia) -- plus a few other countries without any Chelsea representation -- kicked off the proceedings of this latest FIFA-mandated international distraction.

The one Chelsea man left out completely was Spanish right back Cesar Azpilicueta who only got to watch from the bench as the rest of his once all-conquering teammates struggled to their first qualifying loss in eight years.  Despite almost 75% (mostly useless) possession and over 20 (mostly non-threatening) shots, Spain needed an offside goal (courtesy of Paco Alcacer) to break past the wall that was Slovakia goalkeeper Matúš Kozáčik.  Earning just his 6th cap at 30 years of age, one must wonder where he's been hiding all this time.  In stark contrast, 33-year-old Iker Casillas was making his 158th appearance for Spain and one must wonder how he continues to be picked ahead of the likes of David de Gea.  The way "St. Iker" dove out of the way of Slovakia's first goal was simply majestic, while his lack of agility and reflexes showed on the second when he tried to desperately get across his goalmouth and guess where ex-Chelsea trainee Miroslav Stoch's header might be heading before it even left the little winger's head.

While Casillas's errors and Vicente Del Bosque's seemingly crumbling aura might make the biggest headlines, the two Chelsea boys involved in the match didn't exactly cover themselves in glory either.  Cesc Fabregas may have created a chance or two and Diego Costa may have had a chance or two, in the end neither could find paydirt.  We certainly expect better, especially from the latter, but perhaps we should be thankful that Costa's doing his regressing to the mean in terms of shooting and finishing percentages for country rather than club.  Thanks, Diego!  On the plus side, we got a preview of the fireworks that will be Costa vs. Skrtel when we head up to Anfield on November 8th.

Meanwhile in England, Gary Cahill & Co dispatched San Marino 5-0.  Scoring only five should practically go down as a loss for the Three Lions, no?  All kidding aside, I did not bother to watch this match, so if you did, maybe you can tell us how well even Cahill played as England cemented their credentials as Euro 2016 favorites by destroying continental superpowers San Marino.  Or something.

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