Southampton’s international break was a busy one as several of its current and former stars were called to service in the mad dash toward the 2018 World Cup.
Though the biggest show in the world is still two summers away, the race to Russia is already on in World Cup qualifying rounds. With Premiership action taking a break this week, several Southampton players found themselves called to action for their countries.
Among them was to have been keeper Fraser Forster, representing England. A late scratch from a training injury saw Forster come back home and second-choice Alex McCarthy take his place. McCarthy did not feature in Sunday’s 1-0 away win versus Slovakia, though former Southampton player Adam Lallana clinched the match for the Three Lions in stoppage time.
Across the Irish Sea, Southampton stars featured in games for both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Longtime Saint Steven Davis captained Northern Ireland through its first outing, a respectable 0-0 draw versus the Czech Republic. Shane Long, meanwhile, will start for the Republic of Ireland in their match tonight versus Serbia.
Dusan Tadic will get the call for Serbia in that match, turning teammates into adversaries for the night. One imagines that, aside from national pride and glory, a fair bit of bragging rights will be at stake in that one.
Rounding out the laundry list of internationals, new signing Pierre-Emile Højbjerg played the 80 minutes of Denmark’s 1-0 victory over Armenia, the Danish side’s sole goal coming from Tottenham Hotspur man Christian Eriksen.
While it’s a long, long road to the World Cup, it’s nevertheless encouraging to see five Southampton players capped for their countries. While larger clubs may see international call-ups as their birthright, the national team managers who look to the South Coast are right to do so. Such exposure only continues to validate Southampton’s reputation as a talent factory and grow the club’s profile on a global scale.
Here’s hoping the Saints of all flags continue to march on toward the greatest prize in all of sport.