Two former Chelsea players faced off as managers last night, as defending world champions France, led by Didier Deschamps just as they’ve been for nearly a decade, began their World Cup qualification campaign by failing to beat Ukraine, led by Andriy Shevchenko just as they’ve been for half a decade.
The 1-1 draw featured two current Chelsea players as well, with N’Golo Kanté playing the full 90 — grumble, grumble — and Olivier Giroud the first hour and missing at least one excellent chance. Kurt Zouma was on the bench but did not feature. Hopefully he does get to play in one of the next two games for France in the next seven days, while ideally Kanté just gets to sit and rest. Unlikely, but one can hope.
Meanwhile, the defending runners-up, Croatia, got off to an even worse start, losing 1-0 to neighboring Slovenia. Kovačić played over 80 minutes as his team were unable to beat Jan Oblak in goal this time. He was replaced by former Chelsea loan warrior Mario Pašalić inside the final ten.
Lastly, for the first day of this busy international break, defending third place finishers Belgium took care of business against Wales, for whom Ethan Ampadu played the full game. Wales took the lead early, but the home side hit back quickly with a paid before the half-hour mark, then added a third for good measure in the second half to run out 3-1 winners. All three goals were scored by former Chelsea players: Kevin De Bruyne, Thorgan Hazard, and Romelu Lukaku. (With Thibaut Courtois in goal as usual.) Sigh. The one (sort of) remaining Chelsea Belgian, Michy Batshuayi, did not feature off the bench.