We’re barely past the end of last season in England and the world over, yet games are still happening before we turn our full-time attention to the pre-season matches and official transfer news.
UEFA, in its relentless effort to keep making money wherever and however that’s possible, opted to organize a bunch of Nations League games during the first two weeks of June because, well, it’s not that 50+ games played add any weight and stress to professional footballers’ bodies, right?
Whatever the reasons, this is the world we live in these days. Better embrace it, I guess. That’s the case for a handful of Newcastle United players that got international call-ups for June’s games with their international senior sides.
Let’s review what’s been going on for them at the largest of stages since games started last Thursday and got played through late Saturday. We’ll keep on providing international updates here at Coming Home Newcastle as matches keep getting played over the next few days and weeks.
Kieran Trippier (England)
Match: ENG vs Hungary (UEFA Nations League, Group A3)
England’s manager Gareth Southgate called up Magpie Legend Trippier for the Three Lions games against the three NL rivals of the British side. No joke, considering Hungary, Germany, and Italy are the sides the lads are facing in their group stage.
Not the brightest of starts was it for the English side, as they dropped their opening game against Hungary losing by 1-0 and surrendering a 66th-minute goal to Hungarian prodigy Dominik Szoboszlai from the penalty spot that sealed the loss by England to the hands of Hungary.
Trippier started and finished the game sitting on the bench as Southgate didn’t play him, opting instead for Kyle Walker as the starting right full-back and then substituting the Citizen by John Stones (62 minutes into the game). Here’s hoping Trips gets a call to start—or at least gets substitute minutes—against Germany or (most probably) Italy next week.
Bruno Guimaraes (Brazil)
Match: BRA vs South Korea (Friendly)
We can’t be happier about Bruno’s steady progress in Brazil’s football ranks. With the Canarinha taking on South Korea last Thursday—and trouncing them for a 5-1 victory in their home country playing in the Seoul World Cup Stadium—Bruno got to play for the seventh time in his still-short-but-always-evolving international career.
Bruno had to sit on the bench for 81 minutes of the game until he was brought onto it by Tite in replacement of Manchester United midfielder Fred. Brazil absolutely dominated the Koreans with overall statistics bordering insanity. The South American nation shot 21 times (12 of them on goal) compared to Korea’s four, held the possession of the ball for 55 of the 90 minutes, won nine corners to Korea’s none, etc, etc...
Of course, this wasn’t the ultimate game by Bruno because his playing time couldn’t have been more limited against the Asian nation. Neymar bagged a couple of penalties, Richarlison opened the scoreboard, and both Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho graced the scoreboard too. Brazil is taking on fellow Asian nation Japan on Monday, and will face fierce rival Argentina next Saturday after Messi’s team lifted the first Finalissima since the mid-90s against Italy earlier this week by stomping the reigning European champions to the tune of a 3-0 victory.
While Bruno might not start the outing against Argentina in Australia’s Melbourne Cricket Ground come Saturday, odds are he gets heavy minutes on Monday against Japan as the Brazilians rotate the squad that featured against South Korea last Thursday.
Fabian Schär (Switzerland)
Match: SWI vs Czech Republic (UEFA Nations League, Group A2)
Same as Trippier, Schar missed a bit of time with Newcastle late in the season but he came back to the pitch before it was all said and done and thus was fit enough to get the call-up by manager Murat Yakin. The Swiss faced a good-not-great Czech side last Thursday with odds favoring them (nearly a 50% win probability).
Schar started at the center of the defensive line along with Nico Elvedi but it just wasn’t the best day for the Magpie backliner. Schar played the full 90 minutes for his national side, but he WhoScored handed him the worst mark among teammates (6.0) tied at it with goalie Haris Seferovic. Schar completed 83% of his 77 passes attempted and cleared four balls while intercepting four in those 90 minutes, but his error led to one of the two Czech Republic goals that undid everything Switzerland's attackers tried to put together.
Fabian found himself in the path of a silly cross from the left side, didn’t know how to react and deal with the ball after a teammate let it pass by him, then softly headed it toward his keeper, and the Czech Jan Kuchta had just to tap it into the goal to hand his side a 1-0 lead that would turn into a final-whistle victory by 2-1. Schar and Switzerland take on Portugal today.
Emil Krafth (Sweden)
Match: SWE vs Slovenia (UEFA Nations League, Group B2)
Although called up for this game and the upcoming ones in the UEFA NL, Krafth had to accept his reserve role and only came onto the pitch at the 66th minute with his team already up a goal after Emil Forsberg had put the 1-0 up from the PK with 39 on the clock.
Krafth replaced Joel Andersson on the right flank of the defensive line with the starter having a very forgettable game with the Swedish last Thursday. This game was never one for the Vikings to fear a lot as Slovenia is expected to drop points in bunches as part of a group that features Sweden, Serbia, and Erling Haaland’s Norway.
We’ll see how things go for Krafth going forward, though, as none of those two sides should be considered lower in the talent scale than Slovenia, making a breakthrough hard for the right-back when it comes to getting into Sweden’s starting lineups.
Jeff Hendrick (Ireland)
Match: IRL vs Armenia (UEFA Nations League, Group B12)
Though Hendrick spent the year on loan at Queens Park Ranger, he gets the mention here because we deeply care about our lovely Magpies.
Hendrick couldn’t help Ireland against Armenia as the former dropped their first game to the latter losing by 1-0 thanks to an effort by Eduard Spertsyan in the 74th minute of play. The underdogs got away with the victory as Ireland was the heavy favorite to get the W in this one.
Although he could help his nation to kick the group-stage games off with a win, Hendrick was still one of the better players of his side playing the full 90 minutes, completing 44/52 passes—four of six long balls and one-of-one cross included—while also dodging a couple of defenders going two-for-two on his dribbles. Not enough for him nor his Ireland, which will be facing Ukraine in three days after they take on Wales later today for a place in Qatar’s World Cup.