The recent break in domestic action in Germany did not mean that football was hard to come by. Part of playing in one of the best leagues in the world is courting the attention of your nations manager, press and fans. This week a host of Bundesliga stars will return from international action to resume their day jobs with their club sides. Some fared better than others whilst away with their countries and will come back hoping to carry their good form into their domestic game.
One of those players will be Robert Lewandowski, who, along with Kuba Blaszczykowski and Lukasz Piszcszek, helped Poland secure a place in next year’s World Cup. They beat Armenia 6-1 and Montenegro 4-2 to top Group E of the European qualifiers. Kuba found himself on the scoresheet against Armenia while Lewandowski was able to score four across the two games and break another record, becoming the highest goalscorer in a single qualifying campaign with 16 goals. Denmark and Romania was the other game in Group E which featured Bundesliga talent. Thomas Delaney and Yussuf Poulsen played for Denmark in a game that ended 1-1.
Arjen Robben will have been hoping to impress the incoming Bayern manager, Jupp Heynckes, with his good performances for Holland. He scored both goals in his country’s 2-0 win over Sweden. Red Bull Leipzig’s Emil Forsberg also played the 90 minutes and will be no doubt disappointed with the result, but pleased with that he still has a chance to qualify through the play-offs in November.
Switzerland started this week’s round of games top of their group, a position they had held throughout the qualification campaign. However they were unable to seal the deal and a 2-0 win for Portugal saw them sneak top spot in the final game, a result which will see Breel Embolo, Yann Sommer, Denis Zakaria and Steven Zubar having to help their country qualify through the play-offs.
Group H saw Belgium top the group in September but Thorgan Hazard was on the scoresheet in a 4-0 win over Cyprus which saw them finish the campaign undefeated. Izet Hajrovic and Vedad Ibisevic started for Bosnia as they beat Estonia 2-1 but it wasn’t enough to clinch a play-off spot. That instead went to Greece. With Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Konstantinis Stafylidis in their ranks, they battered Gibraltar 4-0 to keep their hopes of appearing in Russia next summer alive.
Filip Kostic came on late for Serbia in their 1-0 win over Georgia, which saw them seal automatic qualification into next summer’s tournament. Also in Group D, Phillip Leinhart, Julian Baumgartlinger and Guido Burgstaller all featured in Austria’s 1-0 win in Moldova.
Group I saw both sides feature Bundesliga talent. Joel Pohjanpalo scored a late equaliser in Finland’s 2-2 draw with Turkey, in which Lukas Hradecky started in goal. Omer Toprak and Caglar Soyuncu were partners in the heart of the Turkish defence. Andrej Kramaric scored both goals as Croatia beat Andriy Yarmolenko’s Ukraine 2-0. The real news from Group I though came from Iceland. They made history by qualifying for their first World Cup by beating Kosovo 2-0 in Rejkjavik, a game which Alfred Finnbogason will remember for a long time.
Group C was topped by reigning world champions Germany. They rounded off their qualifying campaign with a routine 5-1 win over Azerbaijan with Sandro Wagner back on the scoresheet for Germany and Leon Goretzka scoring a brace. Czech Republic left their push for a play-off spot too late, as Pavel Kadaberek played in their 5-0 win over San Marino. That went to Northern Ireland, who went down 1-0 in Oslo to Norway. Hoffenheim’s Havard Nordtveit played the full game for the home side.
Europe wasn’t the centre of the action however as Bundesliga based players also played further afield, in some of football’s far-flung outposts. In Asia, Matthew Leckie provided and assist for one of Australia’s goals as they beat Syria 3-2 on aggregate to set up a play-off with either the USA, Panama or Honduras. Shinji Kagawa clinched a draw in stoppage time for Japan who were held 3-3 by Haiti. Gotoku Sakai, Genki Haraguchi, Yuya Osako and Yoshinori Muto also played for already-qualified Japan in the friendly. Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood were both on target for the USA in their 4-0 win over Panama, while Carlos Salcedo played the full 90 minutes of Mexico’s 3-1 victory over Trinidad and Tobago in the Central American section.
The African section also saw a raft of Bundesliga players looking to help their countries advance to Russia. In Group A Naby Keita scored the Guinea’s only goal and was later sent off in their 4-1 defeat at the hands of Tunisia. Also in Group A, Marcel Tisserand played in DR Congo’s 2-1 win against Libya. In Group B Ishak Belfodil was unable to help Algeria avoid a 2-0 defeat against Cameroon. This group was topped by Nigeria, who had Leon Balogun play the full game in their 1-0 win over Zambia. Gabon went down 3-0 to Morocco in Group C. Pierre Emrick Aubameyang lasted from whistle to whistle, but it’ll be Amine Harit coming back to Germany smiling. Daniel Opare played in Ghana’s 0-0 draw with Uganda in Group E.