Internationals: Reds pair make senior debuts
Manchester United duo Facundo Pellistri and Zidane Iqbal made their senior international debuts during Thursday’s World Cup qualifiers.
Pellistri, who is spending the season on loan at Spanish side Alaves, was selected from the off for Uruguay’s crucial visit to Paraguay after making it into Diego Alonso’s squad for the first time.
The world champions of 1930 and 1950 were under huge pressure to win: they started the matchday in seventh place in the CONMEBOL table and with their place at the Qatar finals in doubt.
Pellistri played on the right side of midfield but it was two of the Celeste’s more experienced players who made the difference, as Luis Suarez latched on to Diego Godin’s through ball to fire home the only goal of the game.
🇺🇾🤩 @AUFOficial @Uruguay pic.twitter.com/c6flvI3fGj— Facu Pellistri (@FPellistri07) January 28, 2022
Facundo played 70 minutes before being replaced by Agustin Canobbio, with Edinson Cavani also being introduced in the same minute to help Uruguay seal a vital three points which lifts them into the fourth and final automatic qualifying slot.
Colombia and Peru are two points behind but play each other tonight (Friday), while next up for Uruguay is a home game against bottom side Venezuela.
Earlier in the day, Iqbal was brought on for the final eight minutes of Iraq’s visit to Iran at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran.
The 18-year-old spoke to us earlier this week about how much of an honour it would be to represent the Lions of Mesopotamia and he has now achieved that.
“I’ve grown up in Manchester my whole life so I’d say I’m a proud Mancunian,” Zidane explained. “But I’m also proud of my heritage as well. I’m proud of being English, Pakistani and Iraqi.
“Me choosing to play for Iraq doesn’t mean I’m not a proud Mancunian or a proud Pakistani. I just feel this is the right opportunity for me as a player, the right step in my career and an honour, but it definitely doesn’t take away the fact that I’m a Mancunian and a Pakistani as well.”
Unfortunately, Iran ran out 1-0 winners, securing a place at Qatar and leaving Iraq five points away from a play-off spot in Group A with just three games to play. A key game in Lebanon awaits on Tuesday and we hope to see Zidane involved once more.
Iqbal "very excited" ahead of Iraq debutArticle
The 18-year-old midfielder speaks to us about why he's chosen to play for Iraq and being a role model.
Finally, back in South America, Fred completed an eventful game as South American table-toppers Brazil were held to a 1-1 draw in Ecuador.
Casemiro and Felix Torres traded goals but the talking points were two red cards – one for Tottenham’s Emerson Royal – and several VAR referrals, which resulted in the officials twice overturning sending-offs for Liverpool keeper Alisson Becker.
Alex Telles was an unused substitute but could get another chance to make his first international appearance since 2020 when the Selecao host Paraguay next Wednesday.
The debuts for Facundo and Zidane take United’s current number of full internationals up to an incredible 33, with the pair following on from Diogo Dalot, Amad and Hannibal, who made their bows in 2021.