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International break update: Euro 2020 picture comes into focus

Saúl and Spain are in, but Portugal and Slovenia face upcoming must-wins.

Norway v Spain -EURO Qualifier Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Nine internationals departed Atlético Madrid a week-and-a-half ago to link up with their national teams. Some of Atlético’s representatives enjoyed their break (as it were) while a few had to come to grips with fresh realities. Let’s take a look at what’s happened during this time as the players slowly start to trickle back to training ahead of Saturday’s game versus Valencia.

  • Spain officially secured a place at Euro 2020 on Tuesday night with the second of two 1-1 draws. First, on Saturday in Oslo, Saúl Ñíguez scored his third goal for the national team with an outside-the-box effort (I hope Cholo was watching). That strike nearly held up as the winning goal — that is, until Kepa Arrizabalaga gave away a penalty deep into stoppage time. Joshua King duly buried it.

Saúl did not play against Sweden in Stockholm, where Rodrigo Moreno (whom Atlético really should have signed) scored in the 92nd minute to clinch Spain’s berth at the Euros. La Roja have impressed at times under Robert Moreno, but they have also produced some poor displays which don’t inspire much confidence in their prospects for next summer.

  • France beat Iceland last week, but the world champions were held by Turkey in Saint-Denis on Monday night. Thomas Lemar entered with 15 minutes to go in the 1-1 draw with Turkey, shortly after Olivier Giroud had put Didier Deschamps’ men ahead. Kaan Ayhan equalized on 81 minutes.
  • Kieran Trippier started ahead of Trent Alexander-Arnold and played all 90 minutes in England’s shock loss in the Czech Republic on Friday. He added 90 more on Tuesday, when the Three Lions pounded Bulgaria in a match blighted by repeated racist gestures and insults. Those heinous, unjustifiable events caused the resignation of Borislav Mihaylov, the head of Bulgaria’s FA.

England are three points clear of the Czech Republic atop Group A — and while nobody expects Trippier to seriously challenge Alexander-Arnold’s place in Gareth Southgate’s best XI, the coach has grown to trust him as a reliable deputy for the Liverpool star.

Portugal v Luxembourg - UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier Photo by Gualter Fatia/Getty Images
  • Portugal. Oh, Portugal. There’s still plenty of time for the reigning European champions, but Ukraine have already grabbed Group B’s first automatic qualifying place — plus, Serbia are just a point behind Golden Boy nominee João Félix and co.

Ukraine secured their automatic berth at Portugal’s expense Monday night in Kiev. A Cristiano Ronaldo penalty was all the visitors could muster from 24 shots after they fell behind 2-0. Félix played the second half in this one and played 88 minutes of his country’s comfy 3-0 win over Luxembourg.

  • Jan Oblak and Slovenia saw their chances of qualification take a massive hit with losses to North Macedonia and Austria this past week. Slovenia can no longer qualify through the playoff and the team’s only chance is through direct advancement through Group G — where Poland and Austria occupy the top two places. The Slovenes visit Poland in the final group match on Nov. 19 but likely will have been eliminated by that time.
  • Stefan Savić suffered a muscular injury while on Montenegro duty. The club has said it’s to his left thigh and there is not yet a timetable for his return.

(Get ready to see a lot more of Felipe Monteiro.)

  • Uruguay beat Peru 1-0 in a friendly last Friday and played the same opposition Tuesday night — that match ended a 1-1 draw.. José Giménez started next to his pal Diego Godín in Friday’s victory and Tuesday’s draw.
  • Finally, Renán Lodi played the entirety of Brazil’s 1-1 draw versus Nigeria, and Héctor Herrera scored in a 5-1 CONCACAF Nations League win over Bermuda. It was a golazo.