The latest round of international fixtures threw up some thrilling, unexpected results, especially in Europe and the UEFA Nations League.
It was a good week for the Netherlands, but their counterparts Spain and Germany have plenty to worry about after a few disappointing results, while England’s resurgence continued and there were shock wins for one of the continent’s usual minnows.
Here’s a look at the winners and losers of the latest international break.
There are cases for several individual figures from the Three Lions side to make this list – Raheem Sterling ending a three-year scoring drought, Marcus Rashford playing with a vim that’s been spotted only occasionally in Manchester United colours recently, Gareth Southgate getting the first signature win of a managerial career that already included leading England to the World Cup semi-finals – which is why it’s just easier to put the whole team here.
Nobody would have expected a win of any kind on Spanish soil, let alone one in which they were 3-0 up at half-time having utterly destroyed a team that has aspirations of being called the best in the world again. England’s national team hasn’t been this exciting and noteworthy in over two decades.
11 - England's first goal against Spain last night (scored by Raheem Sterling) ended a 17-pass move that involved all 11 of England's players. Outsmart. pic.twitter.com/G0ZmbPIQUy— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 16, 2018
Le Oranje are back. Beating Germany is always a big statement for the Dutch, even if the version they faced over the weekend is a lost, broken team. It was still a dominant win over a team that won the World Cup four years ago and the Confederations Cup last year, not to mention reaching the semi-finals at the last European championships.
The result was a massive confidence boost for Ronald Koeman’s side, and it showed as they held their own in a 1-1 draw against Belgium on Tuesday, a creditable result playing away to the third-place finishers at this year’s World Cup. Things are looking up for the Dutch again.
3 - The Netherlands have beaten Germany with a 3+ goal margin for the first time in history. Historic. pic.twitter.com/rDscgOKO64— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) October 13, 2018
What a week it’s been for one of Europe’s much-derided minnows. Gibraltar had won just once in their history before the start of this year, and even the March win over Latvia was in a friendly. They’d never won a competitive fixture.
Now they’ve won two in a week. Gibraltar beat an Armenia side that was captained by Arsenal star Henrikh Mkhitaryan on Saturday in the Nations League, then topped that 1-0 victory with a 2-1 win over Liechtenstein four days later – the first time they’d ever scored more than one goal in a game. As things stands, they actually have a decent shot of qualifying for Euro 2020 – they’re three points behind group leaders Macedonia.
The Germany manager’s job is hanging by a thread. Die Mannschaft lost both of their Nations League fixtures during this international break, to Netherlands and then France, the first time they’ve lost back to back competitive games since 2000. Their 3-0 loss to the Dutch was their worst in the history of that particular rivalry.
They’ve won just twice in 11 games this year, only once in a competitive fixture. Low is trying all he can, from handing out caps to unheralded players to experimenting with his formations, but nothing’s working. That’s usually a sign that the jig is up.
Germany have lost six games in a calendar year for the first time in their history.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 16, 2018
Germany 0-1 Brazil
Austria 2-1 Germany
Germany 0-1 Mexico
South Korea 2-0 Germany
Netherlands 3-0 Germany
France 2-1 Germany
From heroes to zeros. pic.twitter.com/vmhL1vjnQC
Spain had scored 12 goals in three games under Luis Enrique, were unbeaten in 28 games – they were knocked out of this summer’s World Cup on penalties, having not lost a game – and hadn’t lost at home since 2003. They weren’t supposed to lose against England, of all teams.
But not only did they lose, the 3-2 loss in which they were down by three goals at half-time exposed familiar weaknesses. The way England tore through Spain on the counter-attack with their pace, and turned the hosts’ high defensive line against them, was eerily reminiscent of La Roja’s infamous 5-1 loss to the Netherlands in the 2014 World Cup. Enrique may be preaching evolution not revolution, but at the moment the former world and European champions aren’t even evolving.
4 - Luis Enrique has lost in his fourth game as Spain's manager (W3), sooner than any other Spain's manager since Vicente Miera in 1991 (2-0 vs Iceland in his second game). Patience pic.twitter.com/X7VFEui61P— OptaJose (@OptaJose) October 16, 2018
Goalkeeping howlers are a common enough occurrence – just ask Loris Karius. But three in one game?
Macedonian keeper Stole Dimitrievski was directly responsible for three of the four goals his side conceded in a 4-0 loss to Armenia on Tuesday, a collection of howlers that had some fans even wondering if the game was fixed. Whether it was something that nefarious, or just a particularly poor performance, Dimitrievski certainly had a night to forget.
Il s'appelle Stole Dimitrievski, gardien de la Macédoine, et ce soir c'est mon héros. pic.twitter.com/lRHp2BzWp0— be INUTILE (@be_INUTILE) October 16, 2018
Sergio Ramos has declared his innocence over a tangle with Raheem Sterling during England’s 3-2 victory over Spain in Seville on Monday.
There was contact between the Spain centre-back and Sterling after the England forward had gone down under a challenge from another home player in the Nations League fixture.
Ramos posted a video of the incident on Twitter in which footage seems to show he merely tripped over Sterling’s trailing leg while the Manchester City man was on the ground.
Alongside the video, Ramos wrote in both Spanish and English: “Nothing else to say.”
🛑🤔🤐— Sergio Ramos (@SergioRamos) October 17, 2018
Nada más que decir.
Nothing else to say. pic.twitter.com/BCuQI3n7hT
Press Association Sport understands UEFA is not reviewing the incident as it was not mentioned in the report by the match officials.
Ramos’ disciplinary record precedes him as the Real Madrid defender holds the record for being the most carded player in La Liga, the Champions League as well as the Spanish national team.
His challenges on Liverpool pair Mohamed Salah and Loris Karius, who suffered a concussion, came under scrutiny after Real defeated the Reds in the Champions League final.
Portugal’s World Cup campaign was a disappointing one. A Round of 16 exit to Uruguay brought a premature end to a tournament in which they won just once, against Morocco, and the only real highlight of their tournament was Cristiano Ronaldo‘s stunning hat-trick, topped off with a dramatic late free-kick, in a 3-3 draw with Spain.
But what their early exit masked the excellent run of form that Portugal’s surprise Euro 2016 triumph kicked off. Since the beginning of World Cup qualifiers later that year, they’ve lost just three times in 25 games, not counting a defeat to Chile on penalties in last year’s Confederations Cup.
And while Ronaldo remains the biggest star, their latest run of fixtures has also given them enough confidence that life after talisman’s career ends will still be good.
There’s a young core of highly talented players ready to lead the next generation. Bernardo Silva has found a new gear at Manchester City this season, and after a disappointing World Cup he has a point to prove for his country. Juventus man Joao Cancelo has developed into one of the world’s best right-backs, Ruben Neves has made the step up from Championship to Premier League with aplomb for newly-promoted Wolves, and Renato Sanches looks back to his best at Bayern Munich after putting a dismal season on loan to Swansea City behind him.
Up front, they have a 22-year-old striker who’s already in the country’s top 15 all-time goalscorers.
29 caps. 14 goals.— Scouted Football (@ScoutedFtbl) October 11, 2018
That ratio isn’t half bad.
André Silva (22) is now joint-thirteenth on the all-time Portuguese national team top goalscorers list. pic.twitter.com/350u1JJk0Y
Andre Silva may have not lit the world alight at AC Milan last season after joining from Porto, but a move to Sevilla has seen the striker rediscover his best for both club and country. The youngster’s seven goals in eight games has propelled his side to the top of the table in La Liga, while he’s been in superb form for his nation, scoring seven times in Portugal’s last six competitive away matches.
His international record at the moment stands at a goal just about every other game, which makes Fernando Santos’ decision to start him only once at the World Cup all the more baffling. Pairing Ronaldo with Goncalo Guedes was a good idea in theory, with the winger’s pace making him a good foil for the Juventus star, but it didn’t work.
Silva’s current form should render the argument moot in any case, as his scoring run makes him undroppable for now. It’s all the more impressive because the former Porto striker is hitting these heights as his country’s main striker.
Ronaldo hasn’t played for Portugal since the World Cup, as he skipped last month’s friendlies in order to prioritise hitting top form for Juventus after his summer move, and was left out of the squad for the latest round of international fixtures after an agreement with the Portuguese FA amid controversy surrounding recently-unearthed rape allegations.
His future availability is still up in the air, but meanwhile, Silva is thriving as the lead man.
He’s a prototypical modern striker, strong in the air, capable of putting attacks together with his link-up play and ending them with traditional goal-poachers’ instincts. When on song, he’s a ruthless finisher.
More importantly, Silva has a knack for scoring just when his team needs it. He found an equaliser for Portugal last week after they’d fallen behind early to Poland in an eventual 3-2 win, bagged the only goal in a 1-0 win over Italy last month, scored twice for Sevilla in their stunning upset of Real Madrid this season, and though he gave Milan fans little to cheer during his spell in Italy, his first Serie A goal was a priceless last-gasp header against Genoa last season that kept the team in the hunt for a top-six finish.
There’s no telling whether Portugal need to be thinking about life after Ronaldo already, but thanks to Silva and the rest of the young brigade, they don’t have much to worry about.