Just days after completing a season where Liverpool played 63 competitive matches, and just a day after the parade to commemorate a sensational season, many of the Reds senior team players set off to join their national teams. Rather than getting much needed, and well deserved, rest the players were playing in a series of games of varying importance.
A couple of the matches really meant something. On Wednesday, Andy Robertson captained Scotland against Ukraine in a playoff semifinal. The winner would take on Wales for the last spot in next winter’s FIFA World Cup. Robertson and Scotland fell behind 2-0 before clawing a goal back in the second half, but could not find the equalizer.
Neco Williams, meanwhile, finished up a successful loan deal with Fulham before joining up with Wales. He came on in the 61st minute of a UEFA Nations League match against Poland on Wednesday. Unfortunately, Poland struck twice after Williams came on to win 2-1. On Sunday, however, Williams started at left wingback in the final playoff spot against Ukraine for a place in the World Cup. Neco was a creative force on the left, frequently getting involved in the attack. He also had a huge defensive play in the second half to help preserve the Welsh 1-0 lead. He was substituted off the great applause in the 93rd minute, and his team saw out the final moments to qualify for the World Cup!
Sadio Mané, who is still currently a Liverpool player, yet again suited up for Senegal in the early stages of the African Cup of Nations qualifying after winning the African Cup of Nations earlier this calendar year. Mané scored a hat trick against Benin, taking him past Henri Camara to be the top goalscorer for his country. He also clarified some comments about leaving Liverpool because that’s what Senegal fans wanted, comments that were pretty obviously said in a joking matter but taken all to seriously by people who went to the mat to defend Jürgen Klopp’s jokingly said “small tournament” when referring to AFCoN. Senegal will take on Rwanda on Tuesday in their last match this summer.
Elsewhere in AFCoN qualification, Mohamed Salah and Egypt took on Naby Keita and Guinea. Egypt found a late goal to win the match 1-0. Egypt will travel to take on Ethiopia on Thursday. Meanwhile, Guinea will host Malawi, also on Thursday.
“Meaningful” Matches To The UEFA Coffers (UEFA Nations League)
Quite a few other players were involved in, shall we say, much less important matches that are still touted by some as important. Virgil van Dijk played the full 90 minutes in a 4-1 UEFA Nations League match against Belgium. The large defender was released from international duty and will finally get a full month off before returning for preseason training.
Kostas Tsmimikas and Conor Bradley were line up across from one another on Thursday as Northern Ireland hosted Greece. Tsimikas started at left back and played the full match, while Bradley started at right back, but was withdrawn after 62 minutes. Greece would take the 1-0 win. Tsimikas again got the start at left back for Greece on Sunday against Kosovo, with his side again earning a 1-0 victory. Meanwhile, Bradley was an unused substitute as Northern Ireland drew 0-0 with Cyprus.
On Saturday, Trent Alexander-Arnold got a rare start for England as they took on Hungary in a UEFA Nations League match. Trent’s most memorable moment of the match was when he didn’t sing the national anthem before kick off, leading to fume from flag-waving, jubilee obsessed corners of twitter that never seemed to care when Gary Neville or Wayne Rooney failed to sing. Wonder why. Anyways, Trent came off in the 62nd minute for Reece “Definitely better than Trent” James, who promptly gave up a penalty to give Hungary the 1-0 win. England will play three more times before the players are released for their holiday.
Diogo Jota was not involved in Portugal’s first UEFA Nations League match on Thursday against Spain, but he did take the field against Switzerland on Sunday. Jota lined up on the right of a front three, providing a first half assist for a player who is currently not allowed to enter the United States. He was subbed off in the 67th minute. Portugal won the match 4-0. They are set to take on the Czech Republic and Switzerland again in the coming week before the players get a break.
Meaningless Matches — Just Let The Players Take a Nap on the Beach Edition
In totally meaningless friendlies, Fabinho came on as a substitute for Brazil as they walloped South Korea 5-1 on Thursday. Fabinho replace Casemiro in the 71st minute while Alisson spent the entire match on the bench. Brazil will play one more money grabs, er, friendlies against Japan on Monday before heading off for a break.