October’s international break should be a fascinating watch as European Championship qualification reaches a crucial point.
Ahead of the international fixtures, we look at five talking points from across the European scene.
Five things to look out for during the international break:
Can Bellingham take goal-glut to national team?
Jude Bellingham has made a stunning start to his career at Real Madrid, exceeding even the greatest expectations for his adaptation at the Bernabeu. Bellingham’s brilliant form has seen him score 10 goals in just 10 appearances in all competitions, taking an early lead at the top of La Liga’s goal chart and matching Cristiano Ronaldo’s record from his first 10 games in a Real Madrid shirt.
Bellingham’s run of goals has underlined his status as arguably football’s brightest talent, with former Real Madrid midfielder Guti having said the 20-year-old is heading towards becoming the world’s best.
“Bellingham is playing games that are incredible,” the Spaniard told Marca. “It was the throne of Vinicius, Mbappe, Haaland… But Bellingham is the only one who has realised that the throne of Messi and Cristiano is free… and goes for him.”
Ex-Real Madrid player, Guti, says Jude Bellingham is coming for the throne left by Messi and Ronaldo 👑 pic.twitter.com/0Suvqo33ft
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) October 10, 2023
Bellingham was outstanding during England’s friendly win against Scotland last month, but has failed to replicate his goalscoring form with the Three Lions to date. He has two goals from 26 caps for England, a record he will be keen to improve.
Given a lack of international goals beyond Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford in the current squad, now would be an ideal time for Bellingham to deliver as England take on Italy in a crucial qualifier at Wembley.
Neto keen to make up for lost time
Pedro Neto is back in the Portugal squad with the winger keen to make up for lost time after his fitness issues in recent seasons.
Neto made just 19 league starts across the last two seasons for Wolves after a serious knee injury halted his exciting emergence, but he has started the new campaign in electric form and leads the Premier League for assists (5).
The 23-year-old has a goal and five assists in eight games for Wolves this season, while his all-round game has attracted interest from larger clubs as Neto has breezed past full-backs with ease.
That @pedrolneto7 x Hee Chan Hwang combo 😍 pic.twitter.com/ylJGnqx1Zn
— Wolves (@Wolves) October 8, 2023
Portugal are not short on firepower and have made a perfect start to Euro 2024 qualification, with six wins from six, 24 goals scored, and none conceded. However, Neto – forced to miss last winter’s World Cup – has the form and potential to break into Roberto Martínez’s frontline.
Inexperienced Dutch take on formidable France
When the draw was made for Euro 2024 qualification, Group B placed together the Netherlands and France in a glamour draw between two European heavyweights. The first meeting between the teams proved to be a mismatch however, as France ran riot at the Stade de France to record a 4-0 win and take control of the group.
The two teams meet again during October’s break, with the Netherlands having recovered to record three consecutive qualification wins since that loss. The Dutch, however, are a team in transition under head coach Ronald Koeman and have named an inexperienced squad for October’s crucial games with the French and third-placed Greece.
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Just three players – Daley Blind, Stefan de Vrij and captain Virgil van Dijk – have won more than 50 caps for the Oranje, while there are six uncapped faces in Koeman’s squad. Among them are Tottenham’s Micky van de Ven and Chelsea’s Ian Maatsen, each of who will be hoping to take their chance in the senior set-up.
France, meanwhile, are looking to extend a perfect record of five consecutive wins without a goal conceded.
Can Scotland bounce back from England setback?
Scotland’s qualification campaign has been perfect to date, with Steve Clarke’s side recording five consecutive wins to move within reach of Euro 2024. The Tartan Army are well-organised, aggressive and a solid unit, traits which have seen famous wins over Spain and Norway in qualification so far.
Scotland suffered a setback during last month’s break after a home defeat to England however, a friendly fixture which showed a gap in class between the Scots and world football’s top nations. The roar of Hampden helped Scotland to an upset win over Spain in March, but can Clarke guide his team to a statement result on foreign shores?
Our away trips have been memorable so far this campaign…
Let’s do it all again tomorrow 🙌#ESPSCO pic.twitter.com/ecwawfRy4R
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) October 11, 2023
Spain responded to that loss with three straight wins, while La Roja emphatically answered questions over their end product with 13 goals in wins over Georgia and Cyprus. A strong Scotland performance in Seville will raise real confidence that Clarke’s side can be competitive next summer should, as expected, they earn the points required to reach the finals.
New look for England’s u-21 champions
England were crowned winners of the u-21 European Championship for the first time since 1984 during the summer, a triumph which indicated the emerging generation are one of real class.
Levi Colwill has already been included in the senior set-up since that win, while several of that victorious group – including Morgan Gibbs-White, Emile Smith Rowe, Curtis Jones, Max Aarons, Anthony Gordon and James Garner – are now too old to feature in the Young Lions’ defence of the crown.
Lee Carsley’s latest squad has a new feel, with 14 of the 23-man group owning just two caps or less. Among the names who will hope to become prominent parts of this team are Jarrad Branthwaite, who has had an excellent start to the season at Everton, and Manchester City’s Rico Lewis, who Pep Guardiola last week called ‘one of the best’ players he’s ever coached.
Samuel Iling-Junior of Juventus and Borussia Dortmund’s Jamie Bynoe-Gittens will look to become familiar faces with English fans, while much will be expected of Cole Palmer. The 21-year-old is now experienced at his level and the leading scorer in Carsley’s squad, with five goals from 14 caps. Having signed for Chelsea from Manchester City during the summer, Palmer is keen to prove he is ready for regular football at the top level.
He’s hit that one 💥@Jonathanrowe__ 👏 pic.twitter.com/on3ziNFSHh
— Norwich City FC (@NorwichCityFC) August 5, 2023
Keep an eye out for Norwich City’s Jonathan Rowe. The 20-year-old has scored six Championship goals already this season and is in the squad for the first time.
Read – Five fixtures to watch during October’s international break
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