Real Madrid had players on international duty once more today, as the UEFA Nations League continued.
Players from four different nations took to the field as the group stages were heating up.
Croatia 1-2 France
In a rematch of the 2018 FIFA World Cup final, Luka Modric, who after this would be four caps away from equaling Darijo Srna as the leading appearance maker for Croatia, came face to face with Madrid teammates Raphael Varane and Ferland Mendy. It was the French pair who were the most impressive in the first half. Mendy playing as a right-back was ever comfortable defending, but contributed an assist for Antoine Griezmann’s opening goal. In the second half, after being given a life-line before the break by Real target Kylian Mbappe, Croatia grew into the contest as the World Champions sat back.
And the Balkan nation profited. Modric doing the work to keep the ball in play before whipping in a pass to the edge of the box finding Josip Brekalo. The substitute then teed up Nikola Vlašić for the leveller just after the hour mark. The issue for Croatia was always going to be containing the quality which Didier Deschamps had on the bench, and that’s what proved decisive in the end.
Two players linked with La Liga’s champions, Paul Pogba and Eduardo Camavinga, both came on for Les Bleus, and had an impact. Pogba particularly had an instant one, as he pinged a 50-yard diagonal pass for Lucas Digne, who’s volley across goal was on a plate for Mbappe for a 79th minute winner.
Norway 1-0 Northern Ireland
Elsewhere Martin Ødegaard got 78 minutes under his belt, and was instrumental in Norway’s first half chances. The 21 year old almost set-up a wonderful goal for Madrid target Erling Braut Haaland, but when the Borussia Dortmund forward latched onto Ødegaard’s incredible scoop, the shot was cleared off the line. But it was a solid showing by Ødegaard overall, which included three key passes and plenty of positive attacking play, which will no doubt encourage Zinedine Zidane for when club football returns.
Turkey 2-2 Serbia
And Luka Jovic was an unused substitute for Serbia on their travels to Turkey. Sergej Milinković-Savić and Aleksandar Mitrović gave the Serbians a 2-0 first half lead, but the hosts hit back with second half goals courtesy of Hakan Çalhanoğlu, and a Ozan Tufan equaliser 15 minutes from time. It doesn’t get any easier for Jovic, who returns to Madrid out of favour for both club and country.