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Liverpool Internationals Roundup: Kabak Triumphs Over Wijnaldum In World Cup Qualifying Opener

Ozan Kabak’s Turkey beat Gini Wijnaldum’s Netherlands 4-2 in the first match of the group stage of UEFA WC Qualifying.

Turkey v Netherlands - FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar Qualifier Photo by Marcel ter Bals/BSR Agency/Getty Images

On a day of international football that saw five Liverpool players feature for their national teams, the highlight was an entertaining World Cup Qualifying match between a Netherlands side captained by Liverpool midfielder Gini Wijnaldum and Ozan Kabak’s Turkey.

Kabak grabbed the headlines in Turkey’s 4-2 victory with a very solid performance that included a tasty bit of play where he collected the ball in his own half and sidestepped an oncoming Dutch player before carrying the ball into midfield and delivering an inch-perfect chipped through ball to Ozan Tufan that nearly led to a chance on goal.

The 20-year-old center-back did concede a late penalty when he fouled Matthijs de Ligt in the area in stoppage time, but Memphis Depay’s attempt was ultimately saved by keeper Uğurcan Çakır.

The win sees Turkey second in Group G after the first matchday with a trip to Norway on deck this Saturday. Wijnaldum’s Dutch squad will hope to rebound in a home meeting with Latvia, also on Saturday.

Gini wasn’t the only Red captaining his national side today. Naby Keïta wore the armband in Guinea’s 1-0 win over Mali in Africa Cup of Nations qualifying. The victory guarantees Guinea a spot in AFCON early next year.

They’ll have a chance to win their group with a victory over already-eliminated Namibia in the last match of qualifying on Sunday. Keïta will not feature due to an agreement between Guinea and Liverpool to send the midfielder back to England so he is eligible to play for the English champions when they face Arsenal on April 3rd. If Keïta were to stay with the national team, he would miss the Arsenal match due to COVID-19 quarantine requirements upon returning to England.

Finally, both Neco Williams and Harry Wilson (currently loaned to Cardiff City) started in Wales’ 3-1 loss to Belgium in the opening match of Group E in UEFA WC Qualifying. Wilson put the visitors ahead by finishing a quick counter featuring some slick passing after Wales recovered the ball in their own half.

Wales will play a pair of home matches in the coming days when they face Mexico in a friendly on Saturday before the second match of WCQ group play against the Czech Republic Tuesday.

Diogo Jota’s Portugal also began their WC Qualifying journey today with a 1-0 win over Azerbaijan, but Jota was left on the bench as an unused substitute. He will hope to play a role in Portugal’s upcoming trips to face Serbia and Luxembourg on Saturday and Tuesday.