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Internationals Recap and Taxidermy

Ashley Young England Villa Liverpool

Well, that certainly was a weekend chock full of internationals. And stuff. But mostly internationals. I liked the part where something exciting happened. No, not the Spain-USA match—though it was wall to wall excitement if you enjoy watching small, defenseless animals caught up in jet engines and also don't happen to be a US of American.

Which, now that I think of it, likely doesn't cast yours truly in the kindest light. Because really, I swear, watching small, defenseless animals get caught up in jet engines isn't something I normally enjoy doing. In fact it's not something I normally do at all. Or ever, if you get right down to it. Still, internationals, yeah? Last weekend was full of them...

England 2, Switzerland 2

Glen Johnson played the entire match for England against Switzerland on Saturday, and for all that Martin Tyler talked about determination and excitement once England had pulled level after falling behind early, it was a far from convincing match from the Three Lions unless your name was Jack Wilshire—or perhaps Leighton Baines, Everton's rising star at left back, who did put in a solid shift in the second half.

Reported Liverpool target Ashley Young (above) did appear lively when brought on along with Baines to change things up, scoring England's first with an impressive strike into the bottom corner of the net and momentarily convincing people that he was worth at least as much as £26-million dollar man James Milner. Probably more, even, given that neither Milner nor £24M rated Darren Bent played as though they were worth a tenth their transfer fees. Though that rather assumes that either of them is actually worth that much once you leave behind the malaria-induced fever dreams of Martin Samuel—there's a reason why he hates the far off and foreign, you know.

Of course, the more likely option might just be that English players tend to be overrated, overpriced, and puffed up to ridiculous levels by a shallow press pool eager to build them up both out of some desperate nationalistic streak as well as in the knowledge that if they don't pan out then at least there can be some good fun had in tearing them down. Or something, because that was a long and rambling sentence even by my own overly verbose standards. And it was a nice strike by Young, too.

Oh, and England stayed on top of Group G ahead of Montenegro on goal differential, but everybody's pretty sure England's qualifying regardless. The hard part comes when they go up against actual living, breathing, top-class opponents.

Spain 4, USA 0

Speaking of which, nothing showed the chasm between England and a quality national side better than Saturday's late prestige friendly where much of Spain's b-team treated America like they were the Poor Sisters of Christian Charity Philippine Mission for the Blind FC.

When you go from trying to convince yourself that a lively-looking Ashley Cole might justify his overblown price-tag because he just bloody ran around a little bit (as everybody's favourite London-based manager who please for the love of Jeebu will be buying Joe Cole any day now might say) to watching a side where half the players either used to play for Liverpool or were at one point seriously linked to Liverpool. And when that side is busy crushing their opponents so comprehensively it would have made Genghis Kahn proud. Well, when you go from the former that to the later that, then all of a sudden Ashley Cole starts to slip back into looking ridiculously overpriced territory. If you know what I mean, which I trust that you do because you're smart and I like you.

Oh, and Pepe Reina played most of the match. He might have faced one non-threatening shot in there somewhere. And he didn't face any actually threatening shots, either. Just in case there was some potential for confusion...

Brazil 0, Netherlands 0

Moving away from ritualised slaughter and back to something at least vaguely resembling football, Kuyt and Lucas both started and played 60-odd minutes in what was largely a technically slick but toothless friendly, as Brazil played their first game on home soil since Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. Kuyt looked good in the left sided role he has played of late for Holland, Lucas looked solid as usual anchoring the midfield, and everybody's next Ronaldinho (or something—I can't keep track of who's the next what any more) Neymar looked like a talented but lightweight prima-donna who'd better hope he ends up in Italy and not at Chelsea or he'll be lucky if people are calling him the new Robinho in a few years.

Other stuff and stuff. And games.

Rounding up the rest, Raul Meireles put in 90 minutes as Portugal defeated Norway 1-0, and Christian Poulsen came on as a substitute for Denmark as they beat Iceland 2-0. Meanwhile, maybe sort of who really knows Liverpool player Alberto Aquilani picked up a head injury in Italy's 3-0 romp over Estonia, and Emiliano Insua got another kick at the can as part of a 2-0 blitz of Polandand lost again as part of the Argentina b-team as Poland defeated them 2-1 on Sunday after he had previously taken part in a lifeless performance against Nigeria on Friday.

Also back on Friday, keeper prospect Peter Gulacsi was arguably Hungary's Man of the Match despite his side going down 2-0 to Mexico. In the modern game, it's often the third goalkeeper who is in fact a club's more likely future contributor, usually getting regular game time to develop with the reserves while the often older back-up largely sits on the bench during first team matches in case of emergency. So while Brad Jones is technically Liverpool's second keeper behind Reina right now, it's Gulacsi who's the more likely of the two to have any kind of future with the club, and a few more performances at the national level like Friday's won't do his cause any harm...

Note: Right, apologies for screwing up the Argentina-Poland result. I blame the internet. And also thank Gerrard's Boxing Coach for setting things straight.

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