With Paris Saint-Germain’s squad bursting with talent, a number of stars represented their countries over the weekend after being called up for the World Cup qualifying double-header. Mamadou Sakho, Blaise Matuidi, Jeremy Menez and Christophe Jallet were in the France squad whilst Salvatore Sirigu, Marco Verratti, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Diego Lugano were amongst the others in action. Gregory Van der Wiel, a regular first choice for Netherlands was relieved of international duty by new Dutch boss Louis Van Gaal because of his recent move and Javier Pastore was overlooked in the Argentine selection.
Les Bleus ran out 1-0 winners in Finland on Friday night thanks to Abou Diaby’s first half winner and three PSG players helped them to the victory. Mamadou Sakho, Blaise Matuidi and Jeremy Menez all saw game time whilst Christophe Jallet watched on from the bench but will surely be involved on Tuesday night. Sakho played the entire game as he partnered Montpellier captain and defensive revelation of recent seasons Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa who finally was given a competitive start at international level. The pair managed to keep a clean sheet as Didier Deschamps’ side opened their qualification account without a problem. Menez played an hour and was part of an improved France display since their previous outing against Uruguay. Matuidi entered the field in the 73rd minute and helped ensure that Deschamps’ first clean sheet in charge was kept intact.
This season has been a breakthrough for Marco Verratti which has already resulted in international recognition despite having only played a handful of matches for the capital club. The youngster, who has impressed at the heart of the PSG midfield since joining this summer, is part of Azzurri manager Cesare Prandelli’s planned overhaul of the national side that involves injecting young blood into certain areas of an ageing squad. Despite featuring prominently in Prandelli’s plans for the future, the youngster still faces a challenge to work his way into the first team immediately and had to settle for a spot on the bench as the Italians were held to a disappointing 2-2 draw in Sofia.
Verratti’s PSG team-mate Salvatore Sirigu faces a slightly longer wait than the former Pescara wonderkid. The 25-year old former Palermo stopper is unfortunate to be behind legendary netminder Gianluigi Buffon in the pecking order for the Azzurri and therefore, barring injury or bad luck, Sirigu has found first team chances hard to come by with only three to his name so far. The future is bright for Sirigu who is one of Ligue 1’s most reliable goalkeepers but with Buffon showing no signs of slowing down just yet, he might have to wait until after Brazil 2014 for a chance to establish himself as Italy’s first choice.
Despite a mixed start to the season for les Rouges-et-Bleus, Ezequiel Lavezzi remains integral to Argentina’s international plans going into the South American qualifiers. The 27-year old attacker started la Albiceleste’s match against Paraguay and helped inspire them to a 3-1 win enjoying an hour on the pitch on Friday night. Suspended since his red card against Ajaccio in the second matchweek, Lavezzi has been keeping sharp in training and demonstrated exactly what PSG fans can expect to see from him upon his return when he capped an all-round attacking performance by providing the crucial pass to set up Angel Di Maria’s opener in Cordoba. The Argentines have now taken control of their qualifying section.
There was no such luck for Diego Lugano as he captained his Uruguay side to a humiliating 4-0 defeat to a Radamel Falcao-inspired Colombia. Lugano was on the pitch for the full 90 minutes, a rarity for the former Fenerbahce man, but was unable to prevent the Colombians from running riot. The defeat caps a miserable period for Lugano who also missed out on selection for PSG’s Champions League squad as his role at the Parc des Princes is minimalised further.
Whilst some of his team-mates are away on international duty, new signing Gregory Van der Wiel has taken some time to settle in to the club and adjust to his new surroundings. Speaking to the media for the first time on Friday, he told PSG’s official website:
“I am really pleased to be here at Paris Saint-Germain. There are great players here and everyone is nice. I am delighted at last to be able to train with them."
"I have already chatted a little with Maxwell, Camara and Alex. They have told me good things. I don't know my other teammates yet, but I will get to know them little by little."
"It helps that English is one of the main languages spoken at the club. I am very happy to be here in Paris. As a city, I know some of the most famous places already. I have followed PSG's results for some time. This is a very good team and project. I am happy to be a part of it."
Next up for France are Belarus whilst Italy host Malta, Argentina travel to Peru as Uruguay tackle Ecuador. Those matches take place on Tuesday.