Another international break is over and we now have nothing but club football until March. Before we head into this busy stretch of club fixtures, let’s reflect on the November international break by looking at three questions that it answered and three more questions that it generated.
1. Could Luka Jović qualify for the European Championship?
Some of the biggest matches of this set of international fixtures came on the first Thursday of the break with the playoffs for a place at next summer’s European Championship. Serbia and Luka Jović were in action at home to Scotland and were just one match away from making it. Could they do it? Well, no. After a 1-1 draw, Scotland triumphed on penalties. But, Jović did well as he was the one who scored his side’s equaliser to even take it that far. He also converted his spot kick in the shootout and then scored a brace against Russia a few days later in a huge 5-0 win in the Nations League. That means Jović has scored more goals this past week for Serbia than he has managed in a year and a half for Real Madrid, where he’s only netted twice.
2. Would Belgium really try to call up Hazard?
Despite the fact that Eden Hazard contracted COVID-19 and missed Real Madrid’s last league match before this international break, there were still reports that Belgium would call him up if and when he tested negative. Logically, this didn’t go down well in Real Madrid world considering that the forward has only just returned from an injury and considering there are so many big games coming up. In the end, Hazard didn’t link up with his national team for any of their games as he kept returning positive results. The relationship between Real Madrid and the Belgian national team, though, appears to be growing frostier.
3. Would Ramos speak about his contract situation?
Sergio Ramos has been quiet of late and that has been strategic. The Real Madrid captain’s contract is up at the end of the season and this is becoming an increasingly important talking point in the Spanish media. In an attempt to avoid having to discuss this in public, Ramos hasn’t done any of the pre-match press conferences ahead of Real Madrid’s Champions League games this season, instead leaving that to Thibaut Courtois, Toni Kroos and Raphaël Varane. It was, though, expected that he’d have to give at least one detailed press conference for Spain. He was scheduled to do so on Monday, ahead of the Germany match, but that was ultimately cancelled and Rodri spoke instead. Ramos, then, has been quiet about his contract this week – even if his representatives have been planting certain far-fetched rumours about PSG in certain media...
1. Was Vinícius’ trek worth it?
Around the world in eight days. That’s the story of Vinícius’ international break. The 20-year-old was called up by Brazil again and travelled 20,700 kilometres this past week for Brazil’s home World Cup qualifier against Venezuela and their away World Cup qualifier against Uruguay. Vini didn’t play a single minute, but those close to him have been insisting that he is happy just to have been called up by Tite and to have been part of the set-up. He’s clearly proud to represent his country even in this limited capacity, but was it really worth it?
2. Will Ramos and Varane be ready to go against Villarreal?
There was concern on Tuesday night as Sergio Ramos and Raphaël Varane both limped out of their respective international matches. Considering Nacho still isn’t fully fit and considering Éder Militão still hasn’t tested negative for COVID-19, this could leave Real Madrid without any senior centre-backs for Saturday’s match at Villarreal. When adding the right-back absences to that, this is a big concern. Surely one and maybe two of the above centre-backs will be ready to go come Saturday, but if not then this could present an opportunity for the likes of Victor Chust.
3. Will Ramos’ penalty misses linger with him?
It’s like buses. You wait ages for one, then two come along at once. This was the case with Sergio Ramos and penalty misses, as the centre-back had scored 25 penalties in row and then failed to convert two spot kicks against Switzerland while playing for Spain. Will this leave a lingering effect? I really don’t think so. Remember when he skied a penalty against Bayern Munich in the shootout in the 2011/12 Champions League? His next penalty after that was in the shootout of the Euro 2012 semi-final against Portugal and he calmly dispatched a Panenka. “People questioned my will or my ability to face that responsibility and to triumph and my pride was stung, so I decided right then to demonstrate in style that they were all wrong,” he said after that. I feel he’ll have a similar attitude when next places the ball on the spot, which will surely be for Real Madrid’s benefit.