International round-up: Martial stars for world champions
Manchester United forward Anthony Martial said he was ‘very happy’ to contribute to France’s 4-2 win over Croatia, in his first start for the world champions since March 2018.
Our no.9 set up Antoine Griezmann for an equaliser late in the first half, before turning the ball home himself – unfortunately, it was later ruled as an own-goal by Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.
Still, Martial was content with his night’s work for the world champions as he played the full 90 minutes and helped his country keep pace with Portugal at the top of UEFA Nations League A3.
"It's been a long time since I played for France and it was important to me to have a good match," Martial told TF1.
"I managed to score and provide an assist. We won and I'm very happy.
"It was a bit complicated in the front three at the start because we didn't have the ball but, as soon as we managed to combine, we knew how to put them in danger. The victory was great. We scored points and that's important."
Coach Didier Deschamps was full of praise for the 24-year-old too: "I wouldn't say that Martial has undergone a metamorphosis but he has changed. I have noticed as well off of the pitch.
“He is capable of making a difference, he is very solid. He is on the right track.”
Elsewhere in Group A3, Bruno Fernandes started and finished Portugal’s 2-0 win over a Sweden side without United centre-back Victor Lindelof, days after putting Croatia to the sword - Lindelof himself had played as France edged out the Scandinavians on Saturday.
The headlines in Stockholm were grabbed by – surprise, surprise – former Red Cristiano Ronaldo, as he fired home his 100th international goal, becoming only the second male player in history to do so.
A 101st effort soon followed as the reigning Nations League champions took full advantage of a first-half red card for the home side.
Dean Henderson remained on the substitutes’ bench for England’s goalless draw with Denmark in Copenhagen, meaning he’s still waiting to make his senior international bow.
Mason Greenwood and Dylan Levitt are two Reds who did win their first caps over the international break, the former playing the final 12 minutes in England’s win over Iceland and the latter starting Wales’ 1-0 victory in Finland, during which Daniel James set up the winning goal.
Three days later, James featured while Levitt remained on the bench as Ryan Giggs's men secured a last-gasp three points against Bulgaria in Cardiff.
United supporters were given their first glimpses of Donny van de Beek since his arrival from Ajax last week. The midfielder came off the bench to help the Netherlands to a 1-0 home win against Poland, before starting in the no.10 role in a 1-0 defeat to Italy.
David De Gea put in a Man-of-the-Match performance in Spain’s 1-1 draw with Germany and kept a clean sheet in the subsequent 4-0 thrashing of Ukraine.
In League B, Scott McTominay had a somewhat unusual international break.
First, our no.39 was asked to feature in a back three as Steve Clarke’s drew with Israel and then he shifted back into midfield as the Scots came from behind to defeat an inexperienced Czech Republic side in Olomouc, after the hosts’ initial squad was forced to sit out due to a coronavirus outbreak.
Finally, youngster Ethan Galbraith – who made his senior Northern Ireland debut in 2019 – was an unused substitute, wearing no.3 for the 5-1 home defeat to Norway. He did play in both of his country’s Under-21 internationals, beating Malta before losing to Denmark.