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The international break’s winners and losers – from Eriksen’s return to Salah’s heartbreak

The international break is almost over, and a host of players will be hoping to return to club action as soon as possible after suffering World Cup heartbreak.

Italy failed to qualify for Qatar after suffering defeat at the hands of North Macedonia, while the minnows themselves were then beaten by Portugal. 

However, there are also plenty of big names who will take pride in their heroics while away with their countries, with many of them popping up with crucial goals.

Christian Eriksen was on target for Denmark in his emotional return for his nation, while Gareth Bale defied his doubters in emphatic style with a memorable showing. 

Here, Sportsmail looks at the winners and losers from the last fortnight… 

Christian Eriksen enjoyed a fairytale return to action for Denmark over the international break

WINNERS

CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN 

It was a perfect return to the international fold for Denmark’s Christian Eriksen. 

His football comeback has been nothing short of remarkable, and his fairytale continued when he found the net against both Holland and Serbia.

Eriksen’s effort against the latter came in Copenhagen, the scene of his horrifying cardiac arrest at Euro 2020 last summer which saw him resuscitated. 

Having an ICD device fitted has allowed him to pick up where he left off in the professional game, and he was welcomed back with his open arms by his country.

He added a third goal for them in their most recent friendly victory, having collected a pass on the edge of the box and duly blasted a strike into the bottom left corner.

In another uplifting scene, the playmaker was handed the captain’s armband by regular skipper Kasper Schmeichel to mark his return during the break.

And he wasn’t done there, either. His goal against Holland in Amsterdam came 287 days after his medical emergency, capping off one of the sport’s greatest fairytales. 

Eriksen scored twice for his country over the fortnight, including a superb goal in Copenhagen

Eriksen scored twice for his country over the fortnight, including a superb goal in Copenhagen

BRUNO FERNANDES

It is all too easy to slip under Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow when playing in the same team as the superstar, and this is a dilemma Bruno Fernandes has suffered from. 

However, he was able to burst back into the spotlight during the international break, having scored twice in Portugal’s 2-0 victory against North Macedonia. 

‘Usually he scores and I assist, but today it was the other way around,’ he admitted post-match when questioned on his connection with his team-mate.

It was a pass from Ronaldo, a neat flick around the corner, which fed Fernandes for his first goal. The attacker whipped beyond the goalkeeper with a superb effort.

Then, in the 65th minute, Fernandes fired home a close-range volley from Diogo Jota’s cross, allowing both Portugal and himself to revel in their moment. 

Bruno Fernandes netted twice for Portugal as they sealed their spot at the World Cup this year

Bruno Fernandes netted twice for Portugal as they sealed their spot at the World Cup this year

GARETH BALE

Are you watching, Real Madrid? Gareth Bale responded to being labelled a ‘parasite’ by the press in Spain in defiant fashion, thanks to his brace against Austria.

The forward arrived at a wild Cardiff City Stadium with only 77 minutes of football under his belt with Madrid since winning his 100th cap for his country in November.

In only the first clash of the break, he surpassed that tally – and did so with two goals.

A free-kick on the edge of the box, whipped into the top corner with plenty of speed, saw him get off the mark, and his second finish was similarly unerring. 

‘It’s disgusting and they should all be ashamed of themselves,’ Bale said of his media treatment on the continent. His heroics showed he can still reach his brilliant best. 

Gareth Bale defied his critics in Spain in style after scoring a brace in the victory over Austria

Gareth Bale defied his critics in Spain in style after scoring a brace in the victory over Austria

STEVEN BERGWIJN

It was quite the international break for Tottenham’s players, with Harry Kane his usual prolific self for England. However, this time around, Steven Bergwijn bettered him.

In Holland’s clash against Denmark, forward Bergwijn played 77 minutes in a central position and flourished. He scored two goals and proved a constant threat.

Also on target in the 1-1 draw with Germany, his tally for the fortnight stands at three.

Ajax wanted to sign Bergwijn in the winter transfer window although the move failed to materialise, leaving him with a task to impress Spurs boss Antonio Conte.

Now, he will hope to replicate his heroics for his country at club level.  

This may prove tricky, however, considering he has played just 811 minutes across 25 appearances this season – a paltry average of half an hour per game. 

Tottenham's forgotten man Steven Bergwijn scored three goals over the course of the break

Tottenham’s forgotten man Steven Bergwijn scored three goals over the course of the break

OLIVIER GIROUD 

Thierry Henry’s all-time goal record for France looks set to be beaten. 

Prolific target man Olivier Giroud is now on 48 goals for Les Blues from 112 matches, meaning he is just three short of Henry’s impressive tally of 51 goals from 123 games.

Giroud found the back of the net once again in his country’s win over South Africa, after he added their second goal with a low shot following neat footwork.

He also opened his account for the international break by scoring the first goal of the game in a 2-1 victory against Ivory Coast for Didier Deschamps’ side. 

On the prospect of breaking the record, he said: ‘We’re getting closer to Titi. I have the record in mind but it’s not an obsession. If I have to pass, I’ll pass it. 

‘My priority is the team and the good of the squad. [The record] will come by itself.’

Olivier Giroud is just three goals away from Thierry Henry's all-time scoring record for France

Olivier Giroud is just three goals away from Thierry Henry’s all-time scoring record for France

LOSERS

MOHAMED SALAH 

Disgraceful scenes marred the end of Egypt’s decisive World Cup qualifying defeat by Senegal, with Mohamed Salah escorted off the pitch by security guards. 

That is because he was targeted by Senegal supporters after the final whistle, with one fan even confronting him after parts of the crowd flooded onto the field.

Liverpool talisman Salah was then subjected to several objects being thrown from the stands and down towards him at the Diamniadio Olympic Stadium in Dakar.

In the match’s aftermath, the Egyptian FA claimed that their team, and Salah ‘in particular’ was also subjected to racial abuse from Senegal fans. 

Salah’s misery was compounded when, with the play-off game sent to penalties after finishing 1-1 on aggregate, he blazed over a nightmare spot-kick. 

A number of lasers were shone into his eyes before his strike rocketed over the bar. 

Mohamed Salah missed a penalty against Senegal as Egypt failed to qualify for the World Cup

Mohamed Salah missed a penalty against Senegal as Egypt failed to qualify for the World Cup

SERGE AURIER

Being sent-off in a friendly can defeat the purpose of the game – and England were left frustrated after Serge Aurier was dismissed in their 3-0 victory at Wembley. 

Jack Grealish even revealed that he asked the referee not to hand the hot-headed full back his marching orders because it was a better ‘challenge’ to play 11 vs 11.

Aurier was sent off after just 40 minutes after picking up two yellow cards.

The first was for a soft challenge on Grealish, while the second was for dissent. 

At the time, England were leading by a goal, and they breezed to a comfortable win after the red card – with Ollie Watkins, Raheem Sterling and Tyrone Mings on target.

‘I wanted [Serge Aurier] to stay on because it’s a friendly and you get more from playing against 11,’ Grealish told Sky Sports. 

‘I think it would have been more of a challenge for us. I said to the referee ‘come on!”

Serge Aurier was sent-off after just 40 minutes in Ivory Coast's friendly defeat by England

Serge Aurier was sent-off after just 40 minutes in Ivory Coast’s friendly defeat by England

JORGINHO

A deflated Jorginho has admitted that the penalties he missed for Italy during their qualifying campaign for the World Cup will haunt him for the rest of his life. 

The midfielder saw one spot-kick saved by Switzerland Yann Sommer and sent another off target during one of his country’s must-win group stage fixtures. 

In the end, the costly misses have come back to hurt the Azzurri in the worst possible manner, with Italy losing to North Macedonia and failing to qualify. 

Jorginho told Rai Sports: ‘It hurts when I think about (the missed penalties), because I do still think about it, and it will haunt me for the rest of my life.

‘Stepping up there twice and not being able to help your team and your country is something that I will carry with me forever, and it weighs on me.’

Roberto Mancini allowed several players to return to their clubs ahead of their friendly against Turkey earlier this week, with Jorginho heading back to Chelsea. 

Jorginho's two missed penalties against Switzerland were pivotal in Italy's qualifying collapse

Jorginho’s two missed penalties against Switzerland were pivotal in Italy’s qualifying collapse

ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC 

One man continuing to defy his advancing age is the evergreen Zlatan Ibrahimovic. 

Despite Sweden missing out on this year’s World Cup and being aged 40, he has revealed that he is not yet ready to call time on his international career. 

Goals from Robert Lewandowski and Piotr Zielinski saw Poland reach Qatar at the expense of Ibrahimovic and his team-mates after their play-off showdown.

Ibrahimovic came off the bench in the 79th minute but was not able to turn the tide for his country, meaning that they will not be at the tournament this winter.

After the game, and with his 41st birthday approaching in October, the frontman understandably faced questions over his future with his national side. 

When asked if he will still play for Sweden, he told C More: ‘I hope so.

‘As long as I can stay healthy and play and contribute something.’  

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was unable to prevent Sweden from failing to reach Qatar this winter

 Zlatan Ibrahimovic was unable to prevent Sweden from failing to reach Qatar this winter

Reference-www.dailymail.co.uk

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