Chelsea Academy graduates Tammy Abraham and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, both of whom are having pretty good loan campaigns in the Premier League at Swansea City and Crystal Palace, respectively, made their England national team debuts on Friday in a lively, but ultimately scoreless draw against Germany, for whom Antonio Rudiger completed the full 90 minutes.
In fact, the Rudiger vs. Abraham match-up was one of the main attractions of the tie with the younger Chelsea hopeful winning a few individual battles against his more seasoned counterpart, but overall looking a bit nervy on the night. Then again, he could’ve (should’ve?) scored with his first touch and the night could’ve turned out markedly better.
There were no such growing pains for Ruben Loftus-Cheek however. Deployed as the furthest forward midfield in England’s 3-5-2, Ruben ran the show, orchestrating attacks, keeping possession, creating chances, and even making his presence felt without the ball. His performance has garnered universal praise, which is a tall ask for any England player and would’ve surely been a consensus pick for Man of the Match were it not for fellow debutant Jordan Pickford who made a string of excellent saves in the first-half to keep Germany at bay. RLC did collect the official award at the end of the game.
Jordan Pickford and Loftus Cheek have been excellent. The rest of Everton and Palace must be worse than we thought.— Paddy Power (@paddypower) November 10, 2017
Oh, and Lofus-Cheek also pulled off this double nutmeg, for which he surely deserves at lest three Ballon d’Ors.
Former Chelsea prospect Jack Cork also made his debut as the game eventually petered out, but there was reasonable entertainment to be had on this night from England, despite the wasteful finishing by both sides.
The same couldn’t be said Sweden vs. Italy, which was supposed to be a competitive affair, the first leg to their World Cup playoff, but was by all accounts a dour, uninspired, lucky 1-0 win for the Swedes. Davide Zappacosta did not play as Italy are suddenly flirting with not making it to the World Cup for the first time since 1958. After the promise of Euro 2016 with Conte’s passion, the Azzurri have fallen on relatively harsher times.
Elsewhere, Willian captained Brazil to a 3-1 friendly win over Japan and Eden Hazard captain Belgium to a 3-3 friendly draw with Mexico. Eden created and scored Belgium’s first goal.
As ever, the problem will Belgium (and Roberto Martinez) will be their defending, though they were missing both Alderweireld and Vertonghen for this one, while Hirving “Chucky” Lozano decided to also serve notice of his oodles of talent on the international stage with a brace. The 22-year-old has 10 goals in 12 games for PSV in his first European season so far. (Courtois probably could’ve done better on a couple of these as well, but whatever.)
Meanwhile, Ola Aina played the full 90 at left back as Nigeria wrapped up their qualification campaign with a 1-1 draw against Algeria. The Super Eagles had already qualified for the World Cup back in October.
Last but certainly not least, 17-year-old Ethan Ampadu became Chelsea’s youngest ever international when he replaced Joe Ledley in the 64th minute of Wales’ 2-0 loss to France. Congrats!