Pulisic, Lukaku and Havertz provide fitness update after international action

Christian Pulisic reported feeling ‘pretty good’ on his return to action for the first time since testing positive for Covid-19 as he played 90 minutes in a 1-1 draw for the USA against Canada.

The forward started in attack and struck the woodwork for the Americans, who had to settle for a second point from two games in their World Cup qualifying campaign.

It was Pulisic’s first runout since the opening weekend of the Premier League season following an absence due to self-isolation, with the 22-year-old having missed the first USA game in El Salvador last week, as well as Chelsea matches against Arsenal and Liverpool.

‘Obviously it was tough for me,’ he said of his enforced spell on the sidelines. ‘I wanted to be part of the team but I wasn’t 100 per cent ready.

‘We made the decision to play today [against Canada] and I felt pretty good. It’s good to be back with the team and I just want to be here to help in whatever way I can.’

Back-to-back draws is not the ideal start for the USA in their bid to make it to Qatar 2022, particularly after their failure to qualify for the last World Cup finals in Russia. 

It was an inability to convert possession and territorial control into goals that harmed them in Nashville, though Pulisic insisted it was too early in the campaign to panic.

‘We were on the front foot for most of the game but Canada defended well,’ he continued.

‘It felt like we couldn’t break them down, we couldn’t go from side to side quickly enough and make them run. We just need to find different solutions and new ideas at times.

‘It’s not exactly where we want to be but we have a lot of games left to play. It’s not time to drop our heads. We have one more game in this window and we just have to keep going.’

'I felt pretty good. It’s good to be back with the team and I just want to be here to help in whatever way I can.’

photo of Christian Pulisic Christian Pulisic

USA head coach Gregg Berhalter also provided an update on the individual work Pulisic was doing to get himself up to full fitness.

‘Christian did a good job to get himself back to where he could compete for 90 minutes,’ he added. ‘That was the most important thing because he hasn’t played soccer in a while.

‘He didn’t travel to El Salvador, he’s doing individual training so to step into a match and give that type of effort says a lot about him and who he is.’

There was more concerning news emanating from the Belgium camp regarding the fitness of Romelu Lukaku following the Red Devils’ 3-0 victory against Czech Republic, in which the striker scored the opening goal.

Following the game, the 28-year-old reported a slight issue with his thigh that would be looked into in the coming days. A second-half booking against the Czechs means Lukaku is suspended for Belgium’s midweek encounter with Belarus anyway.

‘I have been struggling with a minor issue for a while,’ he said after the match in Brussels.

‘I’ll have a scan of my thigh first and then I will return to Chelsea.’

Meanwhile, Kai Havertz missed Germany’s big win over Armenia on Sunday evening and Die Mannschaft’s new boss Hansi Flick indicated the reason why.

‘Kai has a mild flu-like infection but it’s not that bad,’ he said.

The midfielder could be back for the qualifier against Iceland in Reykjavik in midweek.

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