The second international window of the 2021/22 campaign is upon us and with it comes the continuation of World Cup qualification across the globe, as well as the culmination of the UEFA Nations League in Europe…
While the road to Qatar 2022 continues to draw attention from Africa to South America and beyond, there is also a trophy to be won over the next few days as six Chelsea players head to Italy to fight it out for their respective national teams.
The final stage of the UEFA Nations League, delayed from June due to the rescheduling of Euro 2020, has crept up on many but has four of Europe’s finest battling it out for the chance to follow inaugural champions Portugal as victors of the fledgling continental competition.
Elsewhere, the focus returns towards booking a trip to a winter World Cup finals, with qualification reaching a critical point for many. Meanwhile, at the younger age groups, the Under-21 European Championship finals in the summer of 2022 is in sight for six of our young Blues.
Here, we provide a comprehensive round-up of who is in action, when and where over the coming 11 days…
UEFA Nations League
Belgium: The Red Devils have fallen just short of glory in the past four major international tournaments, with a third-place finish at the 2018 World Cup their best showing under Roberto Martinez.
Now, with a place in the Nations League semi-finals secured back in November 2020, there is a chance for Belgium to finally lift some silverware, although they will first have to get past reigning world champions France in Turin this Thursday. Their squad contains Romelu Lukaku and Michy Batshuayi, currently on loan at Besiktas.
Les Bleus will be without N’Golo Kante, due to his isolation with Covid-19, while Martinez has both Romelu Lukaku and Michy Batshuayi at his disposal in attack. Both sides will be eyeing a short journey to Milan and the San Siro for the final on Sunday evening.
Italy: The Azzurri’s sensational summer could extend into an amazing autumn if Roberto Mancini’s men are able to add the Nations League crown to their Euro 2020 triumph. Emerson Palmieri, currently on loan in Ligue 1 with Lyon, and Jorginho are the two usual Chelsea representatives in the squad and both will be aiming to add to the their impressive medal hauls in 2021.
Certainly, if Jorginho can inspire the Italians to yet more silverware success, his own bid to win this year’s Ballon d’Or will be handed a significant boost. Italy kick off the week’s international action on Wednesday evening in Milan with a semi-final against Spain, before either the final or a third-place play-off on Sunday.
Spain: Marcos Alonso returns to the Spain squad following a three-year absence as La Roja aim to cause something of an upset in the Nations League final four. The left-back has had a brilliant start to the season for his club and will be looking to add to his three international caps when Luis Enrique’s side take on Euro 2020 champions and hosts Italy on Wednesday.
Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta has also retained his place among the group and could go head-to-head with team-mate Emerson down that flank in the semi-final. There will be a second game, either in Turin or Milan against either Belgium or France, depending on the outcome of both matches.
World Cup qualifying
Albania: Armando Broja and Albania continue their qualification campaign in Budapest with a behind-closed-doors game against Hungary on Saturday, before the Eagles host Poland on Tuesday.
Brazil: Following the introduction of new quarantine rules for players returning to the UK from ‘red list’ countries, Thiago Silva is one of eight Premier League players called up by the Selecao for three World Cup qualifiers spread over eight days. The first takes place away in Venezuela on Friday, before another trip to Colombia on Sunday is followed by a return to Manaus for a clash with Uruguay in the early hours on Friday morning UK time.
Croatia: Mateo Kovacic travels to Larnaca for Croatia’s opening game of this window away at Cyprus. They then host Slovakia in Osijek on Monday, with both games crucial given Croatia sit level on points with Russia in Group H with four games remaining.
Denmark: Andreas Christensen is in the Danish squad that heads to Moldova on Saturday and hosts Austria on Tuesday. The Danes have been flawless in qualifying so far, winning all six matches without conceding a goal in Group F.
England: Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell are in the latest Three Lions squad for qualifiers away in Andorra on Saturday and at Wembley against Hungary on Tuesday. England are four points clear at the top of Group I and could secure their place at Qatar 2022 over the coming days. Reece James has withdrawn through injury, while Chelsea Academy graduates Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham are also included.
Germany: Antonio Rudiger, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz all retain their places in the Die Mannschaft squad for qualifiers at home to Romania on Friday and away in North Macedonia on Monday. The Germans top Group J, with Werner and Rudiger both on target last time out against Iceland.
Ghana: After back-to-back 90 minutes for Reading, Baba Rahman will join up with the Black Stars for home and away qualifiers against Zimbabwe, starting in Cape Coast on Saturday before a trip to Harare on Tuesday. With only the group winners progressing, Ghana need to make up ground on the leaders South Africa in Group G, whom they trail by a point.
Morocco: Academy goalkeeper Sami Tlemcani has received his first senior call-up from Morocco for away games against Guinea-Bissau on Saturday and Guinea on Tuesday.
Scotland: Billy Gilmour and Scotland have a crucial pair of qualifiers coming up at home to Israel on Saturday and away to Faroe Islands on Tuesday. Steve Clarke’s men are unlikely to catch the determined Danes at the top of Group F but remain in contention to reach the play-offs and currently sit second.
Senegal: Edouard Mendy will hope to keep his place in goal for home and away qualifiers against Namibia, starting with a home game in Thies on Saturday before a visit to South Africa for the return fixture. The Lions of Teranga won both their opening group games last month.
Wales: Fresh from making his debut for loan club Venezia recently, Ethan Ampadu returns to the Wales set-up for matches against the Czech Republic on Friday and away in Estonia on Monday. The match in Prague could be particularly significant given both sides sit level on seven points in the race for the runners-up play-off spot, albeit with the Welsh also holding a game in hand.
Younger age groups
Austria U21s: Thierno Ballo travels to Estonia on Friday and Finland on Tuesday as Austria continue their European Championship qualification campaign at the Under-21 age group.
England U21s: Conor Gallagher and Levi Colwill are in the squad for European Championship qualifiers away in Slovenia on Thursday and in Andorra on Monday.
Finland U21s: Lucas Bergstrom will be hoping to feature for Finland at Under-21 level as they continue their European Championship qualification campaign away in Azerbaijan on Friday and at home to Austria on Tuesday.
Netherlands U21s: Ian Maatsen is in the Dutch Under-21 squad for European Championship qualifiers away at Switzerland on Friday and at home to Wales on Tuesday.
Northern Ireland U21s: Sam McClelland and Northern Ireland have a pair of European Championship qualifiers against Russia on Friday and Spain on Tuesday, both away from home.
England U20s: Goalkeeper Teddy Sharman-Lowe and Henry Lawrence, who is on loan at AFC Wimbledon, are the Chelsea duo in the Under-20s squad for friendlies at home to Italy on Thursday and away against the Czech Republic on Monday.
England U19s: It’s a trip to Marbella for Harvey Vale and the young Lions as they take part in a tournament in southern Spain that sees them face their counterparts from France on Wednesday, Mexico on Saturday and Belgium next Tuesday.
Norway U19s: Bryan Fiabema will be hoping for more goals when Norway Under-19s begin their European Championship qualification campaign with a trio of matches against Kosovo on Wednesday, Wales on Saturday and Georgia on Tuesday.
England U18s: There are a quintet of Chelsea Academy youngsters in the latest England Under-18s squad for games against Norway on Thursday and Russia on Monday, both also being played in Marbella. Brodi Hughes, Charlie Webster, Jude Soonsup-Bell, Lewis Hall and Silko Thomas are the Blues representatives.