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Joachim Low, Jude Bellingham, Klopp and Ronaldo: The winners and losers of the international break

The international break has satisfied the football needs of many for the past two weeks, but now the dust is settling and a return to business is on the cards.

Players and coaches are returning to more familiar domestic settings, but the international break isn’t always a pleasant interlude for all.

Indeed, just ask any of the Germany senior XI, or perhaps a still irate Cristiano Ronaldo.

With the many highs come several lows, impacting players, managers and club teams alike.

Sportsmail took a look back over the last few weeks of football to determine the ultimate winners and losers of the international break… 

The Winners 

Jude Bellingham

Everybody remembers when a fresh faced Michael Owen was slaloming through Argentina’s defence at the tender age of 18.

Back then, to feature so prominently for your country as a teenager was all but unheard of. Today, while it still remains unusual, players are beginning to break through that little bit earlier.

Jude Bellingham, however, could well be a trailblazer.

The Borussia Dortmund starlet, who doesn’t turn 18 until the end of June, came off the bench to put in a majestic performance for the Three Lions against San Marino.

He doesn’t turn 18 until June but Jude Bellingham looked a natural in the England midfield

He was a picture of perfect poise and elegance, gliding through the centre of midfield with remarkably tight footwork. 

While some people may remain sceptical that Bellingham dazzled against the lowest ranked side in international football, certain pundits of the old vintage enthused about his well-rounded performance.

One of those was the notoriously hard to please Roy Keane, who hailed Bellingham as a ‘complete midfielder’ with the potential to go right to the very top. 

Diogo Jota

Despite a minor set-back in the form of the knee injury he sustained in December, this has been one hell of a season so far for the Portuguese star.

‘Jota the slotter,’ Jamie Carragher has previously labelled him on Sky Sports, while Liverpool’s official social media pages regularly dub him ‘Diogoal.’ 

Jota has stepped up his game immeasurably this season, and is now providing the goods on the international stage.

Finding the back of the net twice against Serbia and once against Luxembourg, Jota returns from the international break with three sublime headers to show for his work.

Diogo Jota concluded his international break with three sublime headers for Portugal

Diogo Jota concluded his international break with three sublime headers for Portugal

The 24-year-old is in a rich vein of form and the goals are pouring.

Portugal are experiencing the emergence of a golden generation right now, with the likes of Joao Felix, Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva and Ruben Neves – each playing around veteran talisman Cristiano Ronaldo.

Yet time and time again it is Jota who comes to the fore and does the business on the big stage for his nation.

Returning to Merseyside after the break, his confidence is set to be sky high. 

Turkey

Who saw Turkey coming, then?

Starting their World Cup qualifying campaign against both Holland and Norway, few people would have given Senol Gunes’s side a hope. 

But Turkey came out fighting and have caught everybody off guard.

A well-run team littered with exciting players, a 4-2 victory over Holland was quickly built upon with a 3-0 humbling of Erling Haaland’s Norway.

Turkey put in stunning performances against Holland and Norway to take maximum points

Turkey put in stunning performances against Holland and Norway to take maximum points

Liverpool youngster Ozan Kabak and Leicester’s Caglar Soyuncu formed a solid understanding at the heart of the defence, which could provide a perfect base for Turkey to become dark horses in future competition football.

Veteran star Burak Yilmaz is still smashing home goals for fun at the other end of the field, and Turkey simply took to the matches looking like they were enjoying themselves. 

They now sit a point clear at the top of Group G as a result.

A late 3-3 draw to Latvia after being 3-1 up will leave a stinging sensation, though many encouraging signs are there to be built upon. 

Liverpool

Let’s be honest, Jurgen Klopp hasn’t had much to smile about this season.

His Liverpool side has been ravaged by injuries and players have been ran into the ground as a result, working overtime in order to stop the rot from within.

The international break therefore came at the perfect time, and the reigning champions hardly had to excuse any of their stars.

Due to travel and quarantine regulations amid the pandemic, Liverpool retained their Brazilian contingent meaning the likes of Alisson Becker, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino earned vital rests.

Jurgen Klopp finally has something to smile about after the majority of his side got a rest

Jurgen Klopp finally has something to smile about after the majority of his side got a rest

In other areas Klopp was able to give Trent Alexander-Arnold something to focus on, after he was subbed by Gareth Southgate and denied the chance to add to his England caps.

The omission could play nicely into Liverpool’s favour. Young Alexander-Arnold will now feel like he has everything to prove, which could be just the ticket to getting back to his sensational form which helped the Reds surge to the title last season.

Of the players who have departed, Liverpool have been pleased to note no further injuries.

Jota, as aforementioned, greatly benefited from being away with Portugal, while Mohamed Salah grabbed a brace for Egypt against Comoros. 

Kasper Hjulmand

Seven days, three matches, 14 goals scored, zero conceded, three wins.

What an international break it’s been for Denmark and manager Hjulmand.

It was a managerial masterclass from the Danish coach, who oversaw comfortable victories over Israel, Moldova and Austria.

Hjulmand followed a policy of total rotation during the Scandinavians’ opening three World Cup qualifiers. 

Denmark boss Kasper Hjulmand pulled off a rotational masterclass with three stunning wins

Denmark boss Kasper Hjulmand pulled off a rotational masterclass with three stunning wins

After beginning their campaign with a 2-0 win over Israel, he changed all ten outfield players for the match against Moldova, with only Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel making a second successive start.

His move paid off with a free-scoring 8-0 win from a Danish team that is generally more attack-minded than that of his predecessor Age Hareide. 

Even then, after such resounding wins, he changed things up once again for the final clash against the Austrians.

Hjulmand once again rotated all ten outfield players en route to a 4-0 victory in Vienna, meaning he used 21 players in total and had 11 different goalscorers.

The losers 

Timo Werner and Joachim Low

It’s been a bad, bad week for Germany.

Joachim Low recently announced he will be bringing his time in the dug-out to an end after the European Championships, meaning now should be a great time for a late German flourish under his command.

Instead, they lost at home to 65th ranked North Macedonia.

Joachim Low is under heavy fire after his nation lost at home to the minnows

Joachim Low is under heavy fire after his nation lost at home to the minnows

Germany even went behind in the MSV-Arena, before Ilkay Gundogan pulled his side back into things from the penalty spot.

The hosts were very much expected to go on and see the match out in ruthless style, but instead they simply fell apart.

Low cut a frustrated figure from the touchline, seemingly unable to have any influence on his men.

Then came the ultimate humiliation. Timo Werner proved his Chelsea woes have followed him onto the international stage, after missing a sitter from point-blank range by scuffing the ball.

Timo Werner had nowhere to hide after missing a close range sitter against North Macedonia

Timo Werner had nowhere to hide after missing a close range sitter against North Macedonia

He failed miserably to put his side ahead and, to add insult to injury, North Macedonia then went on to win the match courtesy of an Eljif Elmas goal in the 85th minute.

Low slammed his side in the aftermath, blaming ‘tiredness’ for the dismal display. 

Cristiano Ronaldo

When Ronaldo has an on-field meltdown, we sure know about it.

The Portugal captain was rightly incensed after his injury-time winner against Serbia was not given.

It was the perfect scene for Ronaldo, just how he likes it. The final seconds had ticked down from the clock as he rounded the keeper and slotted the ball into an open goal.

Cristiano Ronaldo saw red after his late goal against Serbia was not given

Cristiano Ronaldo saw red after his late goal against Serbia was not given

Defender Stefan Mitrovic raced to clear on the goal line and hacked the ball away, leaving the officials to declare it had not gone over and to continue playing.

Replays showed the ball appearing to comfortably cross the line as Mitrovic tried in vain to keep it out, and Ronaldo was furious that the officials were not in agreement.

Screaming to the heavens before punching the air and tearing off his captain’s armband, Ronaldo slammed it to the turf and walked off the pitch.

Extraordinary scenes. Even though the referee apologised to Portugal in the aftermath, it certainly goes down as an international break Ronaldo will be wanting to forget in a hurry.

Republic of Ireland

Maybe it was complacency or maybe just a case of being under-prepared, but Republic of Ireland’s loss to Luxembourg will certainly leave scars.

Stephen Kenny’s men looked pedestrian and lacklustre against the minnows, who grabbed an 85th minute winner through Gerson Fernandes.

Captain Seamus Coleman didn’t mince his words following the match, saying the performance had been ‘shocking.’

Seamus Coleman labelled Ireland's defeat to Luxembourg on Saturday as 'embarrassing'

Seamus Coleman labelled Ireland’s defeat to Luxembourg on Saturday as ’embarrassing’ 

The Republic of Ireland now find themselves bottom of Group A alongside Azerbaijan after also losing to Serbia.

To make matters worse, a draw was then recorded against Qatar.

Bad signs indeed for a national side who look badly out of sorts. Their work will now be strongly cut out if they are to have any hope of turning around the qualifying campaign. 

England Under-21s

Domogoj Bradaric’s injury-time goal denied England a place in the knock-out stages of Euro 2021 and Aidy Boothroyd is under much scrutiny once again.

The Young Lions ranked are laden with talent, yet getting to the latter stages of tournament football always appears to be an almighty ask.

England exited under a dark cloud, with Liverpool starlet Curtis Jones involved in physical confrontation with Croatia players who loudly celebrated in front of their rivals.

Jones had to be dragged away by team-mates, while Boothroyd looked like a man lost at sea.

Liverpool youngster Curtis Jones was furious after England exited the tournament in Slovenia

Liverpool youngster Curtis Jones was furious after England exited the tournament in Slovenia

He later defended his work as England U21s manager after another European Championships exit – insisting he is doing well at his job in producing players ready for the Three Lions senior team. 

The Young Lions finished bottom of their Under-21s Euros group stage for the second successive edition of the tournament.

Boothroyd said after the Croatia defeat: ‘I’m fielding a lot of questions about my future. The other key thing we are talking about is the role – is it winning or development? It’s a little bit foggy at the minute. 

Bayern Munich

It’s every team’s worst nightmare.

Send your best player off for international duty only for them to return injured.

Bayern Munich have counted on the relentless goals of Robert Lewandowski season upon season.

Now, after picking up a knock with Poland, his omission has the potential to shape the remainder of Bayern’s season.

Robert Lewandowski is now set to be out for a month after injuring his knee with Poland

Robert Lewandowski is now set to be out for a month after injuring his knee with Poland

The veteran striker is set to be out for a month with a knee injury, meaning he will miss Bayern’s crucial upcoming Champions League clashes with Paris Saint Germain.

It is a re-run of last season’s final, and Lewandowski was undoubtedly set to lead the line for the Bavarians.

Now, in his absence, Hansi Flick must shuffle the pack.

Likewise of course, Poland also missed out. Lewandowski was absent as Poland almost shared points with a lacklustre England side, before Harry Maguire scored a late winner from a corner.

It’s safe to say Bayern won’t want Lewandowski on international duty any time soon. 

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