With Chelsea players taking center stage at both senior and youth international level over the last couple days, Saturday was relatively more subdued.
Our day started in Africa, where Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ghana, and Nigeria were all still looking to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations coming up in a few months, now set to take place in Equatorial Guinea after Morocco quit. After today's results, most of the field is set, though in terms of Chelsea interest, only Burkina Faso have sealed their passage so far. The Stallions' 1-0 win in Lesotho has assured Bertrand Traoré (who started on the bench) and friends of at least second place in Group C. Information is notoriously hard to come by regarding Burkinabé internationals, so I'm not sure if Traoré has gotten any closer to a potential English work permit by making an appearance.
It's looking distinctly less rosy for Egypt, whose disastrous qualifying campaign continued with a 1-0 loss at home to Senegal. The Pharaohs now must hope for a minor miracle to qualify as the best third-place team in the qualifying group stages. Mohamed Salah started and played the full 90, but failed to produce any telling bit of actual quality as Egypt struggled to break down the visitors.
Similar fate awaited Christian Atsu who played the first 70 minutes in Ghana's 1-0 defeat in Uganda. Unlike Egypt, the Black Stars remain atop their qualification group, though the four teams are separated by just two points. Ghana (8 points) host Togo (6 points) on Wednesday, while the two teams on 7 points, Guinea and Uganda play against each other. Anything can happen!
Lastly, on a better note, Nigeria continued to salvage the pieces of their previously tragic campaign with a 2-0 win away to Congo. With Kenneth Omeruo out due to a knock picked up in training yesterday and Victor Moses not picked at all for whatever strange reason, John Obi Mikel was the only Chelsea player present. Though the big star of the day was goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who apparently produced a world class display that included a penalty save. At the other end, Mikel did provide at least one great throughball, which resulted in Emenike winning a penalty kick.
Back in Europe, Cesar Azpilicueta watched from the bench as Spain beat Belarus 3-0, while young Jake Clarke-Salter did the same for England U18's 3-2 win over Poland U18. Dominic Solanke made a ten-minute cameo at the end.
For the England senior team, Gary Cahill -- that's Vice Captain Gary Cahill to you, young man -- spent roughly 90 minutes admiring the back of everybody else's shirts as England took care of business against Slovenia. Not exactly the most thrilling match since Slovenia offered very little threat and England were often uninspiring, but the Three Lions still managed to score four goals. And since only one of those went in at the wrong end, they walked away 3-1 winners on the night. By most accounts, Cahill was his usual fairly solid self, though surprisingly poor on the ball.