New Eras And Record Breakers: What We Learned During The International Break

Harry Kane and Cristiano Ronaldo made history, Wales and Scotland made strides
17:00, 30 Mar 2023

Another international break is behind us, as the return of club football looms large. But before we get into the meat of the Premier League run-in, and the close of the continental season, we must draw a line under everything we’ve just seen. International football isn’t for everyone, particularly with so much to play for at club level. But when players go away with their countries, there is never any shortage of talking points.

The Sportsman have narrowed it down to four, which you can read below.


Kane Is The Latest Underappreciated Player

Harry Kane broke England’s all-time scoring record with a penalty against Italy, taking his total to 54 international goals. The ball had barely hit the net before the internet was awash with unfavourable comparisons.

Supporters were quick to point out that, despite beating Wayne Rooney’s record for the national team, Kane was unfit to lace the former Manchester United forward’s boots. This was particularly amusing for those of us that remember when Rooney was subject to the same crowing from the peanut gallery.

Rooney is widely accepted as a legend of English football now but for much of his playing career there was talk of how, despite breaking records for club and country, he had not quite reached his potential. 

Such talk seems laughable now, but Rooney was subject to unfair comparisons to the likes of Paul Gascoigne in the same way Kane is experiencing now. Something tells us that Kane will get his due when he retires, just like Rooney did.

Is Misused McTominay An Attacking Midfielder?

Going into this round of Euro 2024 qualifiers, Manchester United’s Scott McTominay had scored a single international goal in 37 Scotland appearances. He now has five in 39 after scoring braces against both Cyprus and Spain.

After putting two teams to the sword in such stunning fashion, it seems unthinkable that manager Steve Clarke has deployed McTominay as a centre back at times during his reign. Even the deep-lying midfield role the 26-year-old plays for United seems like a misuse of his talents at this point.

McTominay used to play as an attacking midfielder in youth football, before a growth spurt saw his physical gifts used further back. But the statuesque likes of Marouane Fellaini and Yaya Toure have played more attack-minded midfield roles with goalscoring aplomb. While nobody is saying McTominay is at that level, his performance across these two games justifies taking the shackles off in his next international appearances.

Wales Are More Than Gareth Bale

When Gareth Bale announced his retirement from the sport in January, talk quickly turned to how Wales would cope without him. The foundation upon which the country’s modern tournament success was built, how would manager Rob Page steer the ship without Wales’ first genuinely world class player since Ryan Giggs?

Page’s men passed their first post-Bale tests, albeit not quite with flying colours. A 1-1 draw with Croatia can be viewed as a solid result considering how well Luka Modric and co have performed at recent tournaments. 

Latvia at home in the second game was more straightforward, though Page will wish his side had scored more than a single goal in their 1-0 victory. Kieffer Moore’s header from a Daniel James cross was a moment of class on a tricky night, as Latvia sat back. An unbeaten start, including a point away at the best team in the group, is a solid beginning to life without Bale.

Cristiano Ronaldo Is Still An Asset, In Qualifying At Least

Cristiano Ronaldo now stands alone as the top appearance maker in international football history. Appearances for Portugal against Liechtenstein and Luxembourg during the international break saw him hit the 198-cap mark. 

‘CR7’ also found time to extend his record as the top goalscorer in recorded international football, netting two goals in each of the games. At the age of 38, Ronaldo is still useful for Portugal to have around.

Quite how far this usefulness extends remains to be seen. A player of his quality will always rattle in goals against the Luxembourgs and Liechtensteins of this world, no offence to those nations intended. But given he will be a year shy of his 40th birthday when Euro 2024 takes place, one wonders what he will offer at the tournament itself.

Ronaldo no longer plies his trade at the sharp end of the beautiful game. Current club Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia represent a significant step down from the likes of Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United. Coupled with his tame displays at the 2022 World Cup, one wonders whether we are witnessing the last hurrah of one of the all-time greats.

euro 2024 odds via betfred*

*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change

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