With the final international break of 2020 coming to a close, Premier League managers can rejoice in the fact that they won’t have to watch their players succumb to injury anymore.
Around the world, countries faced important tests including Euro 2021, AFCON 2021, World Cup qualifying matches, and more.
Premier League players encountered a wide spectrum of fates during this period. Some celebrated advancements to major tournaments, while others picked up injuries that will keep them sidelined in the immediate future.
With so much going on in such a short time span, here are the biggest storylines from the international break:
This international break was 100% unnecessary
We all know the impact that the fixture schedule has had on players, leading to an alarming amount of soft tissue injuries thus far this season.
This week could have been used to allow players to rehab injuries and recover prior to the holiday period. Instead, players traveled across borders to play 2 or 3 games in just over a week.
Unsurprisingly, the number of players who picked up injuries while on international duty proves this.
No team were affected more than Liverpool, with Joe Gomez suffering a long-term knee tendon in training. Jordan Henderson will also miss time nursing a hamstring injury, while Andy Robertson and young defender Rhys Williams also picked up minor knocks.
Manchester United may also find themselves in a sticky centerback situation. Victor Lindelof was substituted after injuring his back in a match with Sweden and Harry Maguire complained of a knock following England’s 4-0 victory over Iceland on Wednesday.
Nathan Ake also limped off six minutes into a match against Spain while with Holland, while Raheem Sterling also picked up a minor calf injury in training.
Pep Guardiola reiterated his frustration with the current demand on players, stating “LeBron James won the NBA title and now he is on holiday for one or two months. Our guys had eight days. It’s games, games, games, because TV decided to do it.”
As a fan who loves the abundance of games on television, enough is enough. Protect the players.
Oh, and COVID is still a thing
The list of players who tested positive for COVID-19 over the international break is almost as long as the injury.
Liverpool attacker Mohamed Salah and Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny contracted the virus on international duty with Egypt. Conor Coady tested positive while away with England, while Tottenham defender Matt Doherty and Crystal Palace midfielder Luka Milivojevic faced similar fortunes.
Elsewhere, Luis Suarez, Lucas Torreira, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Marcelo Brozovic, and more also fell victim to the disease. Hell, Croatian defender Domagoj Vida was substituted in the middle of a friendly after being informed of his positive test.
Countries have different protocols to protect players from the virus. However, all of the travel and exposure was always going to make players more susceptible.
Especially with the recent rise in cases worldwide, this international break was really, really unnecessary.
The emergence of young stars
On a more positive note, we saw a plethora of young players earn their stripes for their countries this weekend.
England had a rocky international break (more on that later), but Gareth Southgate will be delighted to see 20-year-old Phil Foden and 21-year-olds Mason Mount and Declan Rice get on the scoresheet in their victory over Iceland.
Elsewhere, Belgium impressed, earning qualification to the Nations League finals. Youri Tielemans starred, scoring from outside the box in games against England and Denmark.
Ferran Torres was the main man in Spain’s astonishing 6-0 rout over Germany, netting his first international hat trick.
Managers have shown more trust in their youth in recent years, and it seems that these players are repaying their managers’ faith.
But don’t forget about the old guard!
This international break also showed us that many of the older household names still carry major roles for their nations ahead of upcoming international tournaments.
36-year-old Thiago Silva looks to be a mainstay for Brazil, especially given his synergy with Brazil. Despite the wealth of talent in the France national team, Olivier Giroud is still producing, scoring twice in France’s 4-2 victory over Sweden.
Elsewhere, former Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen and current Spurs defender Toby Alderweireld remain key components to a Belgium side that hopes to capitalize on its golden generation ahead of this summer’s Euros.
Finally, Germany’s thrashing at the hands of Spain demonstrates that maybe Joachim Low should reconsider bringing back the likes of Thomas Muller and Jerome Boateng.
As usual, we really don’t know what to expect from England
And what’s an international break without the rollercoaster ride that is the England national team?
The Three Lions went through all the emotions in the past two weeks. It seems like half the squad succumbed to some sort of injury or ailment.
On the pitch, impressive 3-0 and 4-0 victories over Ireland and Iceland sandwiched a thorough 2-0 defeat to Belgium. These results will leave fans worried that Gareth Southgate’s side doesn’t have the tools to compete with the world’s best.
There are reasons for optimism. Jack Grealish and Mason Mount are solidifying long-term spots in the squad, Declan Rice is cementing his place in the starting 11, and Harry Kane has recaptured his form.
However, there are still questions over who will line up in goal and in defense. England are also still trying to figure out the combination of players and formation that is best suited to support Harry Kane in attack.
These questions don’t need immediate answers, but they will demand solutions before this summer’s European Championship.