Thursday, 13 September 2012

International news: Jallet scores and Ibra becomes a legend (in Malmo)

The international break is over, hurrah and indeed hooray.

I’m sure some people enjoy it, but I for one struggle to get excited about international football when a World Cup or European Championships is such a distant prospect. Still, at least it gave England the chance to try out a new midfield combination of, er, Stephen Gerrard and Frank Lampard. I’m sure two such young, dynamic, level-headed players will be able to form a formidable partnership.

Like England, France are looking to rebuild ahead of the 2014 World Cup, and new boss Didier Deschamps was able to celewbrate two wins to get qualifying under way. First Les Bleus dispatched Finland 1-0 on Friday, before claiming a 3-1 win over Belarus on Tuesday night.

The French back-line for both matches had a distinctly Parisien flavour. Matthieu Debuchy’s injury meant Christophe Jallet started both matches at right-back, and notched his first France goal with a cross/shot that looped/arrowed past the keeper (delete as applicable). But it was the performances of Mamadou Sakho that particularly caught the eye, as he lined up alongside Montpellier’s Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa at the heart of the defence. Though the opposition were modest, the imposing defenders showed signs of forming an impressive – and frankly very scary – partnership which could be the bedrock of the French team for years to come.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been the bedrock of the Swedish team for a while, and though he didn’t enjoy a productive time with his national team, failing to score in wins over China and Kazakhstan, he was honoured by his home-town of Malmo by being granted a place on the “Walk of Fame” outside the city’s stadium, joining other Swedish sporting heroes such as, er. Um. Yeah. Sven maybe?

"It is a great honour, it means that I have done something during my career," said a typically modest Ibra. "We usually say that you cannot become a legend before death. But I am a living legend - at least in Malmo."

Bench-warming was the name of the game for Salvatore Sirigu and Marco Verratti, who both sat on the side-lines as Italy laboured to a 2-2 draw in Bulgaria before brushing aside Malta 2-0. Thiago Motta didn’t make the squad.

Over in South American qualifying, Diego Lugano got some rare game time, but probably didn’t enjoy himself very much as his team, Uruguay, got a 4-0 tonking off Colombia before drawing 1-1 with Ecuador. Lugano, who was left out of PSG’s Champions League squad when it was named last week, is apparently unworried by the fact he has yet to play for his club this season:

“It’s a challenge I’ve taken on [to get into the team], but there’s also the fact that my contract is really good,” he said. “I live in France, I play in a great team, and my salary is high, so I shouldn’t worry.”

It’s a fair point, I probably wouldn’t worry either.

There was no place for Javier Pastore in the Argentina squad for their qualifying matches, but Ezequiel Lavezzi started both the 3-1 win over Paraguay and the 1-1 draw in Peru.


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