England’s under-21 team followed up their extra-dominant 9-1 thumping of Serbia last week with a rather un-dominant 3-2 defeat against Ukraine last night, with the two teams thus swapping places at the top of Group F. The top team will automatically qualify for the 2025 U21 Euros in Slovakia while the runners-up will have to go through a playoff — though there’s still a long way to go with just three of ten games played.
In any case, it wasn’t all bad news from a Chelsea perspective, with Bashir Humphreys getting another start and Noni Madueke getting another goal. Madueke has three goals and one assist in the three qualifying games so far. That bit of extra coaching advice from Ashley Cole is paying off!
One name conspicuously absent from this game was Cole Palmer, whose absence unfortunately was not voluntary or tactical. The 21-year-old came off with a knock in England’s previous game, and it was deemed prudent to not risk anything further on international duty.
And that’s certainly the right call and hopefully this indeed proves precautionary and nothing more. Palmer had been excellent in his three starts for us before the break and it would be amazing if we could generate some continuity in attack without injuries forcing constant reshuffling.
“I think Cole would be fine, but we don’t take any chances with any of the players. If there is a slight doubt that they’re going to miss a game at the weekend, we get them back to the clubs as quickly as we can. We could’ve kept Cole here another day and see how it was, but we didn’t think it was right.”
-Lee Carsley; source: Evening Standard
Elsewhere, Ian Maatsen once again failed to make his debut for the Netherlands, watching their last-gasp 1-0 win over Greece from the bench, and Romelu Lukaku was once again on the scoresheet for Belgium.
However that (ultimately meaningless) qualifier against Sweden was abandoned at half-time due to a (“suspected terrorist”) shooting in Brussels near the stadium that took place just before kick-off. The match initially went ahead as the stadium itself was deemed the safest place for fans to be in that moment. It seems like everyone eventually made it home safe, but it was certainly a scary situation.
Following a suspected terrorist attack in Brussels this evening, it has been decided, after consultation with the two teams and the local police authorities, that the UEFA EURO 2024 qualifying match between Belgium and Sweden is abandoned. Further communication will be made in…— UEFA (@UEFA) October 16, 2023