Who are the winners and losers of the international break? (2023)

Another action-packed international break has come to an end and the players are now turning their attention back to their domestic duties.

But there was a lot to learn during this first series of Euro 2024 qualifiers and international friendlies, and clubs and fans alike will be keeping an eye on how their players have fared.

Some will have offered their clubs - and any potential suitors - reasons to invest in their talent, such as:Scott McTominayin his explosive display for Scotland andRomelu Lukaku, who may finally be rediscovering his form after a tumultuous 2022-23 season.

However, others will return to their clubs and seek to regroup after a less than successful stint.

Here,Sportmaillooks at the winners and losers of the last two weeks.

Mykhailo Mudryk (L) and Bukayo Saka (R) return to their clubs after wild breaks

Denmark's 20-year-old striker Rasmus Hojlund burst onto the international stage with a bang


Romelu Lukaku

The Belgian striker's struggles this season are well documented. Rather than rediscovering the form that had signed him to Chelsea - but then immediately vanished - with a move back to Inter Milan, Lukaku has found himself in a familiar pattern.

After picking up a hamstring injury shortly after the move was completed, he struggled to regain fitness ahead of the Serie A winter break. He failed to impress in Belgium's poor World Cup performance in Qatar and spent another stint on the sidelines in January.

His club appearances are scatteredfierce debate over where he will playnext season, unwanted by both the home club, who signed him to their record less than two years ago, and the loan side, where his return should feel like a homecoming.

Inter Milan loanee Romelu Lukaku has not had consistent form in Serie A this season

Against this background, it is all the more gratifying that the 29-year-old was able to draw positive attention to his international form. He thoroughly staged Serie A rival Zlatan Ibrahimovicgroundbreaking appearance for Swedenwith a hat-trick in Stockholm and a goal after nine minutes as Belgium beat Germany.

In a Belgium side that looked rejuvenated under new manager Domenico Tedesco, the ex-United man was an important piece of the puzzle. Should he be able to bring that form to Milan after the break, the thought of next season could get a little brighter.

Scott McTominay

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McTominay has not found his natural role in Erik ten Hag's Manchester United side and is increasingly sidelined under his manager. AMove to Newcastle in summer, who believes the 26-year-old will play a key role at St James' Park next season is a possibility.

Given his international form, it's easy to understand why a club with ambitions would be determined not to let the player slip through their fingers.

The United man came on as a substitute against Cyprus in the 67th minute and got to work. His immediate contributions electrified a Scotland side who, although ahead, were growing frustrated with their deep-seated visitors.

His first and second goals came within six minutes and deep in stoppage time the midfielder chased a third. His performance against Spain through the full 90 was no less comprehensive.

The Scotland international built on the confidence manager Steve Clarke had in him as a regular in his side and scored both goals in the 2-0 win over Spaineven in the history books.

Scott McTominay was in fine international form for Scotland as the hero of Spain's victory

McTominay scored his first three goals of Scotland's qualifying campaign in just 38 minutes

Bukayo Saka

Is Saka the best right winger in the world? Sportsmail's Chris Suttonthinks so, and made his case by praising the Arsenal star's thoughtfulness and ability to marry reading the game with impressive strength. North London legend Tony Adams went one step further and called the strikerthe best player in the worldPoint.

Saka's ability not only to create chances but to end them with enviable sharpness has not only spurred Arsenal's title win but has made it all but impossible to imagine Gareth Southgate's side without him.

Saka is one of the jewels in Gareth Southgate's England side, as he showed against Ukraine

His goal against Ukraine, shortly after contributing to Harry Kane's own tally, was a prime reminder of his quality and value in an England side forever encouraged to playoff the leash.

Just 14 months after his broken penalty in the Euro 2020 final against Italy, Saka has shown admirable confidence and mental toughness in an England shirt. Combined with hisdeveloped sense of recklessnessin front of the goal, the player can no longer be thrown for big games.

Rasmus Hojlund

The announcement of a player as the "new Erling Haaland" should raise an eyebrow and spark a burgeoning fear in the hearts of opposing teams. But should a player score a hat-trick on his first start for the national team, some exaggeration can be forgiven.

Hojlund has been a headache for Serie A defenders at Atalanta this season. The 20-year-old has scored seven goals in 23 games, of which he started just 14.

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While the 20-year-old has ceded the lion's share of transfer rumors to Napoli forward Victor Oshimen, there is newsUnited took a close lookthe appearances of the Danish international will come as no surprise after this international break.

The player shot to the top of the scoresheet after Denmark's qualifiers against Finland and Kazakhstan, where his two goals provided a bright spot in his country's historic defeat by the former Soviet republic, putting him ahead of established goalscorers like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lukaku.

The former Sturm Graz player missed out on participating in Denmark's tepid World Cup season in December, but despite his rawness, Hojlund seems destined to become a permanent fixture in the national team.

Atalantas Hojlund has been dubbed the 'new Haaland' in the absence of the 'old' - the City man couldn't start for Norway with a groin injury


Still riding high on their World Cup win, it's an enviable time to be an Argentina fan - or, for that matter, a player. The team has spent the international break being lauded for their spectacular performances in Qatar, attending honors ceremonies or parties and complementing the rest of their time with international victories.

Messi has entered historic territory in both games for the Albiceleste, scoring his 800th career goal before scoring in the team's 2-0 win over Panamahis 100th for his countryin the team's 7-0 win over the island nation of Curacao.

The Argentine team has been celebrating non-stop since winning the World Cup in Qatar

Messi scored his 100th goal for the Albiceleste in a hat-trick against Curacao

While neither opponent would necessarily have worried the world champions, Argentina's friendly victories allowed the celebrations to escalate. The World Cup trophy was paraded on site in front of fans desperate to share in the triumph they missed out on in December and Messi has in return thanked the crowd for their unwavering support.

Bigger challenges could be ahead of us in the future, but for now Argentina can continue to ride on their victories.



The Spanish Pressdidn't hold backin their brutal assessment of La Roja's inability to stage any kind of challenge against Scotland, and neither should they. Manager Luis de la Fuente made eight changes to the team, which was able to record a routine win against Norway without Haaland on Saturday, and with this fatal underestimation could have decisively thrown back the overdue reconstruction of Spain.

De la Fuente took the helm after former coach Luis Enrique saw his side eliminated from the World Cup by Morocco in the round of 16, but sides were at times complacent.

There are concerns about the lack of emerging talent in Spain. The head coach handed full debuts to 29-year-old David Garcia, who proved underperforming, and Joselu, the former Newcastle and Stoke striker who failed to live up to his bill after scoring twice in his first appearance. Pedri, who has been injured and has not been called up to the squad, and Gavi - whom De la Fuente chose to rest rather than start at Hampden Park - cannot wear the mantle alone.

(Video) Winners and Losers of the Last International Break | 2022 World Cup

Left behind by a more guileful Scottish side, Spain are now second in Group A

Captain for the night Rodri was irritated by what he called a 'rubbish' performance in Scotland

But the manager also cannot rely on experienced minds to stabilize the ship. Manchester City's Rodri, who wore the captain's armband and was the most prominent name on the squad list, spent his post-match interviewshift the blame elsewhere, from a lax referee to Scotland's perceived waste of time and shenanigans.

Marca newspaper splashed their charge on the front page and asked: "What's the plan?". The national team hierarchy has a lot to do to create one.

Virgil van Dyke

The Netherlands captain has had an international break to forget, and one that was spentconstantly under siege. First came the Oranje's sobering 4-0 defeat by France in Paris. Ronald Koeman's side suffered a blow when suspected food poisoning thwarted his plans. But there were fewer excuses for the ensuing capitulation as Didier Deschamp's agile French team stripped the side to pieces.

The Liverpool man was specifically targeted with the majority of anger after the game, with former Netherlands internationals Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit taking the stinglack of suitability of the captainto lead the national team and Gullit's particular concerns about his "arrogance".

His side won EURO qualifiers by beating Gibraltar, but the performance was no less flawed - a 3-0 home win from 51 Dutch shots on target wasn't the confident response Koeman's men had hoped for.

Van Dijk returns to Liverpool from deadlock His club form has been mixed, with the defender making a number of mistakes in defense with disastrous consequences. The Reds are out of the question after a bumpy Champions League end to last year's opponents Real Madrid in the final and a bid for European competition next season.

The player hasn't seen the international break change his form, only questioned it more. Van Dijk goes into Liverpool's upcoming clash with City on Saturday with more pressure than ever.

The Liverpool defender had an international break to forget after a poor showing from the Netherlands


While many clubs have watched their players with some concern during the international break, no Premier League side has been harder hit than Leeds.

The Yorkshire side currently sit 14th in the table but are just two points above the relegation zone. Their season has literally been inconsistent, with dips and ups in form linked in no small part to the players available. That's why the recent spate of potential absences - as the club prepares to fight for a place at top-flight football next season - could prove particularly worrying.

Maximilian Wober, who played every minute for new coach Javi Gracia, suffered a muscle injury while representing Austria in the qualifier against Azerbaijan. However, that could threaten the stability of Leeds' successful defensive partnership, which pairs the 25-year-old with Robin Koch.

Teenager Wilfried Gnonto, who has dazzled at almost every chance this season, injured his ankle in Italy's 2-1 defeat by England in Napoli after coming on as a 69th-minute substitute.

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Wilfried Gnonto (R) was only on the pitch briefly in Naples, but sustained an injury

Finally, Tyler faces Adams for £20m in the summera long time on the sidelinesafter withdrawing from the US men's setup ahead of their international friendlies. Adams subsequently underwent hamstring surgery and it is not yet known how long the midfielder will be out with the club. Neither of those absences will calm Gracia as he prepares to face leaders Arsenal in the first game after the break.

Mikhail Mudryk

The Ukraine striker was signed for £88million in January amid flashbulbs in a wave of attention after crosstown rivals Chelsea swiped Mykhailo Mudryk from under Arsenal's nose. The Ukrainian striker's time on English soil was checked.

The former Shakhtar Donetsk player has had an uneven time under new coach Graham Potter, gaining confidence before finding himself back on the bench. The opportunity to impress at international level against England at Wembley on Sunday was to be seized.

Instead, Mudryk stuttered. He had just two touches in the England penalty area all evening and looked particularly flawed in a team performance already rendered anonymous by an England side in control.

It was a performance that raised familiar questions that ring particularly loudly in the ears of Chelsea fans - those used to the characteristic ruthlessness of the Abramovich era that stretched to players and managers alike.

Mudryk's role in Sunday's game will do little for his already tarnished confidence. It will be up to his manager to see thishow to best track the player downfor the rest of the season.

Chelsea's £88m man Mudryk failed to use the international break to inspire his club

Mudryk spoke to Chelsea team-mate Ben Chillwell after a disappointing game at Wembley


casemiro warpresented the captain's armbandfor the first time since January 2022, when Brazil looked to try out a refreshed side under caretaker manager Ramon Menezes. Instead of experienced minds like Thiago Silva and Neymar, who are both injured, the head coach's pick was heralded as a glimpse of the new wave, with high-profile youth players like Chelsea teenager Andrey Santos.

But instead of starting the post-Tite era with the forefoot, Brazil emerged as yet another football giant to succumb tothe sword of dynamic Morocco.

Casemiro's captaincy may not have shaped his United manager Erik ten Hag

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Their historic success in Qatar should not be viewed as a one-off and the Atlas Lions were determined to prove it and kept their cool after the United player gave his side an equaliser. Abdelhamid Sabiri's goal in the 79th minute saw Morocco break through and defeat the five-time world champions for the first time in the club's history.

While an international friendly can't always rely on ironclad judgments, Brazil keeps moving. There is still work to be done when it comes to bringing young superstars like Vinicius Jr into the squad and question marks remain as to how a fully fit Neymar can prove the difference at international level.

With the national team's search for a permanent new head coach expected to bear fruit over the course of the summer, there will be no time to waste preparing for the 2024 Copa America.


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