The final international break of the year got underway on Wednesday with mixed fortunes for our Blues in action...
The only competitive action of the evening came in West Africa as Edouard Mendy and Senegal continued their qualification campaign for the Africa Cup of Nations.
The goalkeeper has made an excellent start to life at Stamford Bridge and continued that form with another clean sheet for the Teranga Lions in Thies. Liverpool forward Sadio Mane did the damage with a converted penalty smashed high into the Guinea Bissau net late in the first half before teeing up Opa Nguette to wrap up the points with 17 minutes remaining.
Mendy made a couple of smart saves and drew praise from the opposition manager, who cited the 28-year-old’s impact as one reason why his side failed to get back into the game. The result leaves Senegal on maximum points in Group I after three games played.
In Europe, Michy Batshuayi inspired Belgium to a come-from-behind victory over Switzerland with two second-half goals in 21 minutes. The Red Devils were trailing to Admir Mehmedi’s early opener before the striker, on loan this season at Crystal Palace, took advantage of some slack passing at the back to fire expertly into the bottom corner.
With 70 minutes on the clock, he grabbed what proved to be the winner, swiveling swiftly in the box to smash in a right-footed effort from eight yards out. Roberto Martinez’s side take on England in Brussels next as the UEFA Nations League resumes this weekend.
Toni Rudiger played the duration as Germany recorded a 1-0 victory over Czech Republic in Leipzig. The defender lined up in a back three and helped the hosts to their first clean sheet in almost a year, with Gian-Luca Waldschmidt’s effort proving the difference between the sides. Rudiger wore the captain's armband after Ilkay Gundogan's withdrawal at half-time.
Joachim Low, the Germany head coach, had earlier confirmed that Timo Werner would be among a group of eight players afforded some extra rest and would join up with the squad for the Nations League games.
Also recording a clean sheet was Emerson Palmieri and Italy, who beat Estonia 4-0 in Florence. The left-back started for Roberto Mancini’s men, who raced into a two-goal lead inside the opening half an hour.
Emerson was replaced after 71 minutes with the score still 2-0 and watched from the bench as two further goals were added. Jorginho was also an unused substitute, which may have irked the midfield man somewhat as Italy’s final two goals came from the penalty spot, a role he usually performs when on the field.
World champions France suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Finland in Paris, with Kurt Zouma and Olivier Giroud among the starters for Didier Deschamps’s side, the latter collecting his 103rd cap for Les Bleus.
Yet it was young forward Marcus Forss, a man who also plays his club football in west London with Brentford, who fired the Finns in front and then Onni Valakari made it 2-0 a few minutes later.
Giroud was replaced by Anthony Martial just before the hour mark, while N’Golo Kante came on for Paul Pogba at the same time, but the changes could not inspire a turnaround for the hosts, who suffered their first home defeat since March 2018, when former Blue Radamel Falcao helped Colombia to victory.
Elsewhere, Mateo Kovacic was an unused substitute as Croatia played out a topsy-turvy 3-3 draw with Turkey in Istanbul. Former Chelsea midfielder Mario Pasalic was among the scorers, as was Everton striker Cenk Tosun.
Kepa Arrizabalaga also watched from the bench as Spain drew 1-1 with the Netherlands in Amsterdam, Donny van de Beek’s goal cancelling Sergio Canales’s opener. Nathan Ake left the field with a hamstring injury after just six minutes.
Denmark played without their Premier League contingent, including Andreas Christensen, due to Covid-19 travel restrictions between the country and the UK. The Danes took on Sweden in Brondby and won 2-0.
Earlier in the day, USA national team head coach Gregg Berhalter announced that Christian Pulisic would return to Chelsea to continue his recovery from a hamstring injury.