It was a disappointing opening to the UEFA Nations League for the Chelsea players on international duty tonight, as N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic, Romelu Lukaku and Michy Batshuayi all suffered defeat with their countries, although Batshuayi did get his name on the scoresheet.

Lukaku was leading the line for Belgium against the Netherlands in their first match of the Nations League and nearly helped them into an early lead, doing well to hold up the ball under pressure before laying it off for Timothy Castagne, but the Leicester wing-back struck his shot against the crossbar.

However, the striker’s game didn’t last much longer. He was pulled down in a tangle with former Chelsea defender Nathan Ake and came off worse. Lukaku tried to continue after treatment, but was forced to leave the field for good by that injury after just under half-an-hour.

Belgium’s control of the game fell away after Lukaku’s early withdrawal and the Netherlands powered away into a 4-0 lead, but there was late consolation for the home team as another Chelsea striker, Batshuayi, who had come off the bench shortly after the fourth Dutch goal, fired in Toby Alderweireld’s cross in added time to make the final score 4-1.

Kante and France started their defence of the UEFA Nations League trophy in an enthralling game against Denmark in Paris. There was little sign of what was to come in a high-quality but cautious first half, which ended goalless, but Karim Benzema’s brilliant goal sparked things into life after the break.

That resulted in a fast-paced, end-to-end second half, with Denmark equalising through Andreas Cornelius and both goalkeepers making vital saves, although Kante came desperately close to winning the game for France with 10 minutes left.

He stepped inside from the left to make room for the shot and his curling effort from the edge of the box looked destined for the corner. However, it came back off the top of the post and Cornelius got a late second on the break to give the Danes a 2-1 win.

Also in Group 1, Kovacic captained Croatia as they hosted Austria in their opening match. In a strong start for the home side, the midfielder came close to opening the scoring when he weaved past a couple of defenders and fired a powerful low shot towards goal, but the keeper got down low to save.

Instead, it was Austria captain Marko Arnautovic who provided the opener with a fine solo effort shortly before half-time, putting the visitors in the ascendancy. Two more clinical goals in the space of three second-half minutes sealed a 3-0 victory for Austria, although the result was harsh on Croatia, who controlled possession for much of the game.

At youth level, it was a tough afternoon for Sam McClelland and Northern Ireland in European Under-21 Championship qualifying, as their chances of reaching next year’s tournament officially came to an end.

Hosting Spain, Northern Ireland needed a win to keep their slim hopes of qualification alive, but they weren’t able to prevent the group leaders extending their 100 per cent record, succumbing to a 6-0 defeat against a side which has now scored 30 goals in their seven games in the competition so far.