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Havertz scores for Germany; Azpilicueta all good after Zlatan cheapshot as Spain qualify for World Cup

Sunday internationals


He may not be first in the headline, but let’s start with Chelsea captain César Azpilicueta, who started for Spain yet again — it’s taken them a long, long time, but they’re finally giving Dave his due: this was his 10th straight appearance (8 starts), all since halfway through Euro 2020/1. He had made 10 total appearances for Spain in the five years (years!) prior to that.

And there was plenty to celebrate, too, as the 1-0 win over Sweden secured their spot in next year’s World Cup. Former Chelsea striker Álvaro Morata scored the only goal of the game, but perhaps the most noteworthy incident of the whole 90 minutes was this absolute cheapshot from behind delivered by Zlatan Ibrahimović to the Chelsea captain.

Certainly plenty of pushing and shoving and all sorts of jostling can happen in the penalty area on corners and such, but there is a difference between two active participants trying to gain an advantage and pushing the limits of the rules, and a blindside hit by the captain of the opposing team nonetheless!

Fortunately, as nasty and concussion-y as it looked, Azpi says he is all good.

In other good news, Kai Havertz was back from his thigh contusion and starting for Germany, and as has been his habit for the national team recently, also finding the back of the net. Havertz has four goals in his last eight appearances for Germany, including one in each of his last two starts.

This one came early on against Armenia, kickstarting an easy 4-1 win for Die Mannschaft. Havertz played the full game after not playing at all last week. Rüdiger got to rest, which is good.

Speaking of resting, Édouard Mendy got to do that as well, with Senegal taking care of business against Congo easily enough, 2-0. Alfred Gomis, the current Rennes goalkeeper, got the start, but the most impactful news from here may be the injury suffered by Sadio Mané during the previous game, with Liverpool apparently sweating his condition following x-rays on the problem initially played down by the national team as nothing serious.

Senegal were already assured of a place in the second round of qualifying, and they will be joined by Ghana as well, who beat South Africa, 1-0 in a crucial winner-take-all showdown. André Ayew, who already plies his trade in Qatar these days, scored the only goal, from the penalty spot. Baba Rahman played the full 90.

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