As you are aware, it is currently the International break. To most people’s despair, that means a pause in club football so that the world’s stars and prospects can join up with their respective national sides and strut their stuff on the national stage. As usual, a large chunk of the Real Madrid first team will get the call up, but what about the younger players out on loan and at Castilla? Unfortunately, none of the current Castilla team received any invitations, but a few of the loanees were fortunate enough, and it turned out to be a very eventful time for them.
Paraguay 1-2 Uruguay
This was a huge week for Fede Valverde. His hard work and good showing over the past year did not go unnoticed, and this international break, he was called up to the Uruguayan senior squad for the very first time. They had to travel to Paraguay for an all-important World Cup qualifying fixture. Win, and a place in Russia was practically booked.
Incredibly, Fede was given the nod to start, and was in a line-up alongside the likes of Luis Suárez and Diego Godin. Similarly to Castilla, his start was actually pretty reserved and nervy. He tried to play a few passes forward that didn’t come off, and was dispossessed too easily a few times. His positional play, however, was clear to see. He dropped back to pick up the ball from deep, and always looked to play up the pitch. It was this positional play that had made him such an important part of the Castilla team during the 2016\17 season. There was one moment towards half time, where he picked up the ball and played a beautiful pass through to Edison Cavani, who spurned the chance wide.
It was 0-0 at half time.
The second half proved to be a far greater spectacle. Valverde saw a lot of the ball for Uruguay, and slowly started to control their game. A lot of the play went through him, and he imposed himself very well. Paraguay were playing some good stuff, and Fede was an important defensive figure in that midfield throughout the game. In the 76th minute, Paraguay cleared away an Uruguayan attack. The ball bobbled outside the box, and it was met cleanly with Fede Valverde’s right boot. The ball bounced through the crowd of players, and just beyond the goalkeepers reach to hand Uruguay the lead, and Valverde an International goal of massive importance on his debut. Amazing.
Minutes later, and it was two. Suárez saw his effort bounce of the crossbar and cross the line after hitting a Paraguayan defender. Paraguay put up a good fight and got one back late, but their efforts went without reward. The game finished 2-1 to Uruguay, but more importantly, this was the night that Fede Valverde became a national hero in Uruguay. This was Uruguay’s first ever win on Paraguayan soil. Expect this to be the first of many call-ups for Fede.
Fede Valverde was the player with the most touches (79) of any player in Uruguay's 2-1 win over Paraguay.— Warriors of Uruguay (@UruguayanHeroes) September 6, 2017
Kosovo U-21 3-2 Norway U-21
For all of Martin’s good work, another senior team call-up mindbogglingly eludes him. Still, the Under-21’s provide perhaps a better environment for the wonder-kid. He’s surrounded by good friends, and having watched plenty of both teams, the U-21’s often already offer a better insight to the game than a lot of the seniors. However, this International break would end up being a very (unfortunately) similar sight to most Norwegians. It doesn’t seem to matter how well they play, there is always something that will go wrong. Martin starred last time out against Kosovo as the Scandinavians came out 5-0 winners, only to see the win rescinded as they recklessly fielded an ineligible player without realizing it.
This time, Kosovo were without star man Bersant Celina, so it looked to be another relatively easy game. Norway went 1-0 up very quickly, with Ødegaard stealing the ball, before teasing the defence and playing a delightful through-ball to his club-mate Thorsby, who squared it for Bjordal to finish easily. Martin was in good form during this game, as he often is for Norway. He was at the centre of their attacks, and demonstrated his passing ability time and time again.
36 minutes in, Norway won a free-kick in what seemed like crossing-only range. Ødegaard stepped up, and I remember envisioning him scoring a screamer and envisioning the scenes in my head as he took his run up. I could not believe my eyes as he curled a strike straight past the keeper and into the net. The Norwegian commentators were screaming, and rightfully so. Jubilations for Norway, who were surely going to go on another rampage now, right? Wrong.
Minutes later, Kosovo somehow scrambled in their first goal of the night, and literally one minute after that, they fired past the keeper to even things up. What was I witnessing?
Half-time calmed things down, and Norway came back out looking to set things right. They dominated the half, and created chance after chance, but could not finish. How Norwegian would it be to have dominated this game, and end up losing late on? Sadly, very. Just as they turned their backs, Kosovo pounced, and scored a powerful low shot past the keeper that was met with a huge roar from the passionate crowd. Norway desperately attempted to salvage something from the game, but did not have it in them.
Norway u21 0-0 Israel u21
To stay with a chance of qualifying for the next Under-21 European championships, Norway now needed a win from this game. Israel were not a strong team, and Norway were the obvious favourites. This game was tedious, and although there were chances created, neither team really looked like scoring. The best chances did, thankfully, come through Martin Ødegaard. He hit the post with one of his own efforts, before beating the Israeli defence and playing a dangerous low cross into the box, only for it to be met by nobody.
The game ended 0-0, and Norway once again were left disappointed. For such a good team, this happens far too often. I would like to see Martin Ødegaard really push on now and take his destined place in the senior side, but from what I’ve been told, the management aren’t too keen on attacking players. This could be massively damaging for Norway as a nation, and they should be looking at integrating these talents into the first team whenever possible. This is very much a story that has a few more turns to take yet.
Austria U-21s only had friendly fixtures to fulfil this time around, but it was still a chance for Lienhart to put on the captain’s armband for his country. He led the team out for both of their games — the first one being a 2-2 draw with Finland, and the second a 1-1 draw against a talented Croatian side. He has had a reasonably good start in Germany with Freiburg, and being the captain of the very strong Austria U-21’s will only aid his application to one day get the nod at the Santiago Bernebeu.
It is worth noting that both Achraf Hakimi and Borja Mayoral found the net for their respective National teams. They both now have earned themselves a place in the first team, but they are very much a part of this Castilla generation. Achraf scored his first International goal for Morocco against Mali, whilst Mayoral scored a great goal for Spain U-21’s against Italy.
So, thats it for now! The next International break is within the next two months, and I am expecting a few more players to receive the invitation. I’m looking forward to continuing to follow the early careers of these talented players, and I’ll leave you with a video of Fede Valverde’s debut! Enjoy: