No more World Cup games to recap but definitely some international matches around the globe involving our beloved Magpies. That’s because we’re in the middle of the last in-season international break of the campaign, bringing friendlies and EURO qualifiers to the table.
Of course, this being Newcastle, a bunch of players have and will be involved in matchups during the past and upcoming days before either 1) attending a warm-weather camp or 2) returning to Tyneside to start training ahead of the clash against Man Red on April 2nd.
Here’s a recap of all that went on Friday, Mar. 24, with more updates to come in the following days as games keep getting played throughout the final international break before the season ends in late May.
Garang Kuol (Australia)
Match: AUS vs Ecuador (Friendly)
What a game! Kuol might be on loan at Scottish Premier League side Hearts but he belongs to us, so we cannot bypass this game. Australia hosted Ecuador for their first of two games between the nations through this international break and earned an extraordinary 3-1 victory.
Although Kuol had to wait for his chance on the bench for nearly 80 minutes, it cannot be said that he didn’t make the most of that brief spell of playing time. Fellow substitute and youngster Alex Robertson (in his debut) started a play in which Aziz Behich ended up assisting Kuol in his first international goal for the Socceroos in his baby senior career, with this game marking just his fourth appearance at the highest level.
Kuol, who turned 18 last September, became the fourth-youngest goalscorer in Socceroos' history after bagging one in Sidney. He had already become the youngest player to perform in the World Cup knockout stages, beating Pele (!) in the preciousness category. Exciting times ahead, folks.
Alexander Isak (Sweden)
Match: SWE vs Belgium (Euro 2024 Qualifier)
Isak made the Swedish starting XI along with fellow Premier League player Dejan Kulusevski at the front of their nation's lineup but none could help Sweden score even just one goal against a powerful Belgium side that got the three points after an easy 3-0 trashing of their opponents.
While Kulusevski spent the whole game on the pitch, Isak was eventually substituted by the 73rd minute, making way for 41-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who returned to a football pitch donning Swedish threads for the first time since March 2022. Ibra also became the oldest player ever to feature in a European qualifier.
Isak only attempted one (blocked) shot all game long while completing barely half of his passes (8-of-14) touching the ball 21 times and getting stripped of it twice. He recovered one ball on the lone tackle he attempted and he was called for a foul once.
This was perhaps the worst game Isak has played this month and in a good while after scoring in back-to-back EPL games against Wolves and Nott Forest most recently and having another reasonably good cameo (27 minutes) against Man City on Mar. 4th.