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International break round-up

No more international breaks for four months.

Croatia v Greece - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off: First Leg Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

With the third international break of the season having drawn to a close, here’s a quick round-up of how Inter’s players have fared for their countries over the past seven days. (Spoiler: nobody got injured. If that’s all you’re interested in then you no longer need to read on.)

Antonio Candreva, Danilo D’Ambrosio, Éder, Roberto Gagliardini - Italy

Undoubtedly the most remarkable story of the November international break was Italy’s failure to qualify for the FIFA World Cup for the first time since 1958. All the Azzurri had to do in order to secure a 15th consecutive appearance at the tournament was get the better of Sweden over two legs, but extraordinarily they were unable to do so, instead being eliminated thanks to a 1-0 defeat in Sweden and a 0-0 draw at San Siro on Monday night.

Sweden v Italy - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off: First Leg
Antonio Candreva failed to make an impact in Italy’s first leg against Sweden.
Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Gian Piero Ventura included four Inter players in his 27-man squad for the tie, but of those four players only two actually saw the pitch. Antonio Candreva played the full 90 minutes in the first leg and 76 minutes of the return game - failing to impress on either occasion (lots of poor crosses, would you believe...) - while Éder was given 25 minutes as a substitute in Sweden.

Roberto Gagliardini was an unused substitute for both games, while Danilo D’Ambrosio was not included in either match-day squad and so watched a national disaster unfold from the comfort of the stands.

Having said that this must have been an unbelievably stressful and soul-destroying experience for all four of them, for obvious reasons, so we’ll have to hope they don’t suffer too much of a psychological hangover during the next few weeks. Luciano Spalletti may have his hands full ensuring that doesn’t happen; this is a national disgrace and these players will now be tarred with it for as long as they live.

Oh, and another thing: aren’t Inter fans just the best?

Marcelo Brozovic, Ivan Perisic - Croatia

Croatia v Greece - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off: First Leg
Marcelo Brozovic impressed in Croatia’s first leg against Greece.
Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

If there’s a risk of our Italian Interisti returning to club duty with their morale on the floor, there’s no such danger as far as our Croatian pair are concerned.

Like Candreva and Co. Marcelo Brozovic and Ivan Perisic were also involved in a stressful two-legged play-off to qualify for the World Cup, but unlike their team-mates they emerged victorious and will be present in Russia next summer.

Brozovic and Perisic played the full 90’ in both matches as Zlatko Dalic’s side secured a comfortable aggregate win over Greece, courtesy of a 4-1 win in Zagreb and a goalless draw in Athens. Ivan also had the pleasure of scoring one of Croatia’s four goals in the first leg, converting a lovely team move that was started by Inter team-mate Brozovic. (See the video below.)

Perisic also came close to scoring in the second leg with what was probably the best chance of the match, but on that occasion his long-range shot crashed back off the post and flew to safety. Never mind; it matters little in the grand scheme of things.

Amongst other things Croatia’s qualification means that, barring injuries, surprise exclusions or January transfer business, Inter will have 7 representatives at next summer’s World Cup - along with Perisic and Brozovic there will also be Joao Mario, Mauro Icardi, Miranda, Matias Vecino and Yuto Nagatomo. (In theory Joao Cancelo could make it 8, but that relies on Inter deciding to sign him permanently at the end of the season, which right now is unlikely.)

Joao Mario, Joao Cancelo - Portugal

Speaking of Cancelo, he and Joao Mario were also both in action this week as Portugal took on Saudi Arabia and the USMNT in two friendly matches. Fernando Santos’ side recorded a 3-0 win over the former on Friday night, before being held to a 1-1 draw by the latter on Tuesday.

Between the two games Joao Mario played 135 minutes of a possible 180 (90 vs Saudi Arabia, 45 vs the USMNT), while Cancelo played just 45 (all of which against Saudi Arabia), but the real news from these two friendlies is that Joao Mario scored a goal. A goal from outside the penalty area, for that matter.

First Italy not qualifying for the World Cup and now this; what on earth is the world coming to?

Milan Skrinar - Slovakia

Another man involved in friendly action for his country was Milan Skriniar, who suffered heartbreak with Slovakia last month as they were eliminated from World Cup qualification.

Slovakia lost 2-1 to Ukraine on Friday evening before bouncing back to beat Norway 1-0 on Tuesday - Skriniar played all 90 minutes against Ukraine and 65 minutes against Norway, before being substituted midway through the second half.

On both occasions head coach Jan Kozak played him in central midfield, as he always does, which is a position Skriniar doesn’t love but is happy to fulfil. Speaking to reporters after Slovakia’s defeat in Ukraine, he said: “I feel more at ease when I play at centre-back, it’s better suited to me than central midfield. Having said that I’ve got no problem playing a bit further forward, even though there are better players than me in that position.”

Miranda - Brazil

With Brazil qualified for the World Cup as early as March, Miranda was another man who enjoyed a relaxing international break. Brazil were involved in European-based friendlies against Japan - whom they beat 3-1 - and England - with whom they drew 0-0 - and the Inter centre-back played the entirety of the second match after sitting out the first one. 90 minutes of game-time in total, then.

Matias Vecino - Uruguay

A similar story for Matias Vecino, who had a stress-free week following Uruguay’s qualification for the World Cup in October. Uruguay played out a goalless draw against Poland in Warsaw before falling to a 2-1 loss against Austria in Vienna, and just like Luciano Spalletti head coach Oscar Tabarez decided he couldn’t afford to do without Mati: 90 minutes on both occasions.

Japan v Brazil - International Friendly
Yuto Nagatomo was made captain for Japan’s friendly against Brazil in celebration of him reaching 100 international caps.
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Yuto Nagatomo - Japan

Another man who didn’t miss a minute of his country’s action this week was Yuto Nagatomo, who played all 180 minutes of Japan’s friendlies against Brazil (which they lost 3-1) and Belgium (which they lost 1-0).

The defeat to Belgium is unlikely to live long in anybody’s memory, but Yuto will remember the Brazil game with much fondness as it was his 100th appearance for Japan - and he was given the honour of wearing the captain’s armband for the occasion. Congratulations Yuto!

Yann Karamoh - France (Under-20)

Last but not least we come to Yann Karamoh, who finally got the chance to play some football again after spending the last seven weeks glued to Inter’s substitutes bench. Karamoh was part of the France under-20 squad that took on Morocco in two friendly matches this week, and on both occasions the Inter forward was named in Philippe Montanier’s starting XI.

In the first match (which ended 1-1) he made his debut for the U20s, playing 86 minutes in total, while in the second match (which ended in a 2-1 win for France) he scored his first ever goal for them. According to the internet he’s already played and scored for the under-21s, so that’s not quite as special an achievement as it sounds, but still. He’s had some game-time. So that’s nice.

And that’s that. The good news, other than the fact nobody got injured? There are no more international breaks until the end of March. Between now and then we’ve got four months of uninterrupted Inter to enjoy.