If the Diego Costa situation has been at the forefront of our minds for the past couple days, the international football that’s also been going on in the meantime has been relegated to the furthest back-reaches and dustiest shelves of our mind palaces. But now it’s time to bring them back out into the light. Just for a second. I won’t bother you with this crap for too long, I promise.
First up are the low countries, with both Belgium and the Netherlands registering easy World Cup qualifying victories on Friday. Belgium, with Courtois in goal and Lukaku up front dispatched hosts Estonia, 2-0, without giving up a single shot let alone a single goal. Michy Batshuayi joined Lukaku for the final ten minutes, though neither forward played a direct part in either of Belgium’s goals, both of which were set up by a certain Kevin De Bruyne. Estonia were reduced to ten men just before half-time, but they were never really in it.
Netherlands had an even easier time, facing lowly Luxembourg and running out 5-0 victors. The most significant thing that happened here as far as we’re concerned was Nathan Aké making his first competitive appearance for the Netherlands, thus losing his eligibility for the Cote d’Ivoire for good. Aké, who played the final 10 minutes, replaced the history-making Wesley Sneijder who become the Netherlands’ all-time leader in international caps with 131.
Earlier in the day, over in Australia, Brazil played Argentina in a glorified friendly known as the Superclásico de las Américas, an annual showdown being held for the first time in three years. Argentina, featuring the likes of Messi, Dybala, Higuaín, Di María and playing under Jorge Sampaoli for the first time ground out an impressive 1-0 win over a fairly fluid Brazil, who lost for the first time ever under head coach Tite. In Neymar’s absence, Willian stepped up as the attacking fulcrum of the team and was unlucky to be not rewarded with at least one goal. In one hilarious sequence, both he and Gabriel Jesus hit the post. Clearly, a glitch in the fabric of the universe there. David Luiz unfortunately did not feature.
On Thursday, England U20 swung into action against Italy in the semifinals of the U20 World Cup, and after a slow opening, came back from a 1-0 deficit to win 3-1 and advance to Sunday’s final against Venezuela. Former Chelsea prospect Dominic Solanke continued his impressive tournament with a brace (one a tap-in, the other a long-range gaffe by the goalkeeper), while Fikayo Tomori and Jake Clarke-Salter were reunited as the central defensive partnership. England should be favored for capturing their first ever U20 World Cup title, having already bettered their best ever finish in this competition, a third-place in 1993 with a certain Chelsea youngster named Andy Myers (now Chelsea/Vitesse coach) in the squad.
And even earlier in the week, Pedro and César Azpilicueta played as Spain drew 2-2 with Colombia (and afterwards Costa talked to the media) while Andreas Christensen’s Denmark drew 1-1 with Germany, with the Germans equalizing at the death after Christensen’s day was done.