As preparation goes for playing the Premier League leaders a midweek international might not be ideal. After David Moyes was unable to really strengthen the Everton squad during the transfer window the manager would doubtless prefer his players to spend the time between club fixtures resting up, not playing – or warming the bench – for their respective national teams.
Of the three Everton players in Roy Hodgson’s England squad, only Leighton Baines saw action, playing the second-half against Brazil, while Leon Osman and Phil Jagielka went unused, the latter carrying a slight injury, according to the manager.
Jagielka’s situation was replicated by Marouane Fellaini, who was prevented by a hip injury from appearing for Belgium against Slovakia. Kevin Mirallas though played the first-half of the 2-1 win.
Nikica Jelavic came off the bench for Croatia to score against South Korea at Fulham’s Craven Cottage, netting the third goal of a 4-0 win. And Steven Naismith played for Croatia’s World Cup qualification Group A rivals Scotland in the first match of the Gordon Strachan era, a 1-0 win over Estonia in Aberdeen.
If those members of Moyes’ squad remained relatively close to home – Fellaini and Mirallas venturing furthest away to Bruges – the week has seen much more jet setting for Tim Howard and Bryan Oviedo, representing the United States and Costa Rica respectively.
Howard was in Honduras for a World Cup qualifier, and a mix-up with Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron led to a goal for the home side in a poor 2-1 defeat for Jurgen Klinsmann’s Americans. Oviedo, meanwhile, was an unused substitute as Costa Rica drew away from home against Panama.
A mixed bag, then, for Everton’s internationals, but even those not with their national team didn’t get to spend too much time at home. Everton spent part of the week in Marbella, catching some sun and doing some training – judging by the pictures posted on Twitter, they were mostly boxing training, too.
Jagielka and Fellaini likely arrived at their national teams carrying the knocks that rendered them unable to play, and the Belgian certainly took a clattering in one particular incident against Aston Villa that left him holding his hip. But with arguably the most challenging game of the season to come on Sunday, a quiet, incident-free week would have been preferable.
A year ago, when Everton went to Old Trafford and drew 4-4, the week earlier had seen recrimination over defeat to Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final, maybe not the best preparation either but at least the players were together, not flung around the world for matches that mostly had little meaning. The turnaround between returning to club duty and playing on Sunday is fast, and the extra day’s gap to satisfy the whims of the television broadcaster could be crucial.
The match last year was astounding, and telling in the title race. It also helped Everton regain their dignity after failing at Wembley. This year, any lack of cohesion by players with minds still in other countries will be ruthlessly exploited by the champions-elect.
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