Mateo Kovacic and Ethan Ampadu were both in UEFA Nations League action on Thursday evening, while two Chelsea youngsters were involved in England Under-21’s’ win over Italy.
Kovacic and Croatia knew that if they beat Denmark on home soil they would overtake the Danes and top Group A1 heading into the final matchday on Sunday, where they face Austria.
Croatia’s head coach Zlatko Dalic has played the Chelsea star in all four of their Nations League contests prior to tonight, and he selected him once again in the engine room in Zagreb.
Kovacic started in a midfield three alongside Luka Modric and Marcelo Brozovic, and Croatia took the lead just minutes after the second half whistle, with Stuttgart’s Borna Sosa netting for the hosts.
Manchester United’s Christian Eriksen then levelled the score line with an exquisite hit from 25-yards. Mateo Kovacic was substituted off moments later, before Lovro Majer restored Croatia’s lead with another fantastic goal – this time a left-footed effort from outside the area.
Kovacic attempted two shots and 63 passes in Zagreb.
Chelsea and Wales defender Ethan Ampadu, currently on loan at Serie A side Spezia, faced off with Belgium in Group A4, with the Welsh sat bottom of the pile before kick-off with just one point from a possible 12.
Wales were without key midfield figures Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen and that meant Chelsea’s Ampadu started in central midfield, with three former Blues spearheading the Belgium attack, with Kevin De Bruyne, Michy Batshuayi and Eden Hazard leading the line.
And it was De Bruyne who put the hosts ahead, brilliantly firing a first-time left-footed shot into the bottom corner, despite a hand from Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.
It was Batshuayi who passed to De Bruyne for the opener and the latter then repaid the favour and set up the striker to double Belgium’s lead before half-time.
Wales then pulled one back through a Keiffer Moore header, but it was not enough as Wales suffered a fourth defeat in their first five Nations League contests.
Romelu Lukaku, on loan from Chelsea at Inter Milan, has missed the last four Serie A matches due to a muscle injury and was therefore not called up to the Belgium squad.
Elsewhere in youth internationals…
England’s Under-21s are replicating the fixtures of the men’s team, first playing Italy before hosting Germany at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane on Tuesday.
The Young Lions have already qualified for the 2023 Under-21 Euros in Romania and Georgia next summer after topping their group.
Conor Gallagher and Levi Colwill started for Lee Carsley’s men against Italy. The former, who made his Chelsea debut on the opening day of the season, won a penalty for the away side just three minutes in, after being fouled by Edoardo Bove.
A quickfire double from Sheffield United’s Rhian Brewster was enough to see the Young Lions prevail in Pescara.
England could have had more than the two goals, with defender Levi Colwill hitting thepost with a header from a corner in first-half injury time, before Chelsea midfielder Gallagher was denied by a last-ditch block from Caleb Okoli later on.
Both of Chelsea’s connections were substituted around the 70th minute.
Chelsea’s Sam McClelland, who is plying his trade at high-flying League Two Barrow this season, was in Northern Ireland Under-21 action as they hosted Scotland in a friendly.
The hosts were 0-2 behind at half-time and then went three down after the break, before pulling a consolation goal back to see the match end 3-1 to Scotland.
They will travel to Scotland on Sunday for a repeat fixture.