Eight Leicester City stars featured for their countries in World Cup qualifiers over the last two weeks, as well as three who played for the youth teams. We saw an international debut for one Fox, a captain’s armband for another, and some bitter disappointment for our longest-serving player.
Leicester City centre-half and Fosse Posse legend Harry Maguire made his debut for England in The Three Lions 1-0 win over Lithuania. Maguire played on the left side of a 3-man defense (Are you watching, Craig Shakespeare?). He looked confident on the ball and did nothing to hurt his chances of making the final squad for Russia next summer.
Wilfred Ndidi, Ahmed Musa, and Kelechi Iheanacho also booked their trip to the World Cup when Nigeria upended Zambia 1-0. Ndidi played the full 90 minutes, while Musa and Iheanacho were unused substitutes. The bad news for City is that Ndidi tweaked his hamstring late in the match, and apparently injured it further during the post-match celebration. He insists that he will ready for training on Thursday, but it’s still a cause for concern.
Kasper Schmeichel’s Denmark claimed a place in the UEFA playoffs for the final four spots in the Cup with a 1-1 draw against Romania. Schmeichel lost his clean sheet in the 88th minute, but it was another impressive performance from the Leicester netminder. Earlier, the former Leeds man managed to keep Montenegro off the score sheet in a 1-0 win.
Austria and Leicester centre-half Aleksandar Dragovic fell short of qualifying despite defeating Serbia 3-2. Dragovic played the full match and looked solid in defense, but other results just didn’t go Austria’s way.
Daniel Amartey and Ghana also missed out on qualifying after drawing 0-0 against Uganda. Amartey wore the captain’s armband and had a header ruled out as he strove to keep the Black Stars’ World Cup dream alive.
In what comes as something of a shock, Andy King and Wales also failed to qualify. King played a key role in the midfield as Wales upended Georgia 1-0 (thanks to a strike by former Fox Tom Lawrence). King started against the Republic of Ireland but was substituted as Wales chased an equalizer in an eventual 1-0 defeat.
Several Foxes international stalwarts didn’t participate in qualifying action this break. Shinji Okazaki, who has scored 50 goals for Japan, was given time off as Japan had already qualified for the tournament. Neither Riyad Mahrez nor Islam Slimani were called into the Algeria squad with the team already eliminated from qualification. England star Jamie Vardy missed out due to a hip injury, and Portugal ace Adrien Silva was left out of the squad because nothing to do with Adrien Silva makes sense this year.
Three of Leicester’s young stars featured in international action as well. Demarai Gray played 71’ of the England U21s win over the Scotland U21s. He came on at a 70th minute substitute in the match against Andorra. Harvey Barnes and Darnell Johnson both got on the scoresheet in England U20s 4-0 victory over the Czech Republic U20s.
There was no shortage of excitement during this last round of World Cup qualifiers, and it was lovely to see former manager Martin O’Neill’s tactical masterclass against Wales to get the Republic of Ireland into the playoffs, but the league can’t resume quickly enough. Let’s hope Ndidi is OK, and then bring on West Brom.