After a relatively uneventful opening day, the week of international football stepped up a gear on Thursday.
There were over 50 Fantasy Premier League assets scheduled to be in action yesterday, so we will be splitting our Scout Notes into two parts.
This first article deals with European Championship qualifiers for the Netherlands, Croatia, Northern Ireland and Slovakia as well as England under-21’s 1-1 draw with their Polish counterparts.
The Netherlands 4-0 Belarus
- Virgil van Dijk (£6.6m) – 90 minutes
- Georginio Wijnaldum (£5.5m) – 90 minutes
- Ryan Babel (£5.5m) – 59 minutes
- Davy Propper (£4.8m) – 45 minutes
- Nathan Ake (£5.1m) – 0 minutes
- Patrick van Aanholt (£5.4m) – 0 minutes
Georginio Wijnaldum (£5.5m) and Virgil van Dijk (£6.6m) were on the scoresheet as the Netherlands got their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign off to a winning start against Belarus.
The Liverpool duo played the full 90 minutes, with Wijnaldum – playing in a more advanced role than we are used to seeing him for the Reds – also claiming a “Fantasy assist” after being fouled for the penalty that Memphis Depay subsequently converted.
Depay, the scorer of two of the Netherlands’ four goals, turned provider for his country’s other two strikes.
Wijnaldum was left with a simple finish from seven yards out after Depay’s backheeled pass set him free, while van Dijk capped off his nation’s victory with a header from point-blank range after staying upfield from a corner-kick situation.
The former Southampton centre-back now has seven goals for club and country in the last five months.
Fulham’s Ryan Babel (£5.5m) played the first hour of this most comfortable of victories, setting up Depay for a presentable chance in the first half with some tricky wing-play down the left flank.
Davy Propper (£4.8m) came on at half-time and slotted into the double-pivot in midfield, while Nathan Ake (£5.1m) and Patrick van Aanholt (£5.4m) remained unused substitutes.
Belarus had only one shot on target and this effortless win for the Dutch would be exactly what owners of van Dijk and co. would have hoped for going into Gameweek 32.
The Netherlands are likely to face a sterner test on Sunday, however, when they face Germany in another Euro 2020 qualifying fixture.
England under-21s 1-1 Poland under-21s
- Angus Gunn (£4.3m) – 90 minutes
- Jonjoe Kenny (£4.2m) – 90 minutes
- James Maddison (£6.8m) – 90 minutes
- Phil Foden (£4.5m) – 73 minutes
- Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£5.3m) – 72 minutes
- Ademola Lookman (£5.0m) – 72 minutes
- Harvey Barnes (£5.5m) – 18 minutes
- Dominic Solanke (£4.7m) – 18 minutes
- Demarai Gray (£5,4m) – 18 minutes
- Tom Davies (£5.1m) – 17 minutes
- Hamza Choudhury (£4.3m) – 10 minutes
- Ryan Sessegnon (£6.0m) – 0 minutes
- Kyle Walker-Peters (£4.2m) – 0 minutes
- Freddie Woodman (£4.0m) – 0 minutes
- Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£4.5m) – 0 minutes
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£4.5m) was the only FPL asset called up by Aidy Boothroyd who wasn’t involved in England under-21s’ matchday squad at Ashton Gate.
Reports in the media suggest Wan-Bissaka is on standby for a promotion to the injury-hit senior team should Gareth Southgate suffer any further withdrawals after Friday’s game against the Czech Republic but Boothroyd was quoted as saying yesterday:
I am expecting all three of those boys [Wan-Bissaka, Tammy Abraham and Dean Henderson] to be available to play against the Germans [next Tuesday].
James Maddison (£6.8m) played the full 90 minutes in Bristol but was relatively quiet in terms of goal threat, having started the match in a central midfield three alongside Phil Foden (£4.5m) and the more deep-lying Kieran Dowell.
Foden was excellent and created several presentable chances for his side, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£5.3m) wasting an early one-on-one opportunity following fine work from the City midfielder before missing Foden’s inswinging cross by mere inches 20 minutes later.
Reiss Nelson then skewed wide from Foden’s flicked header before the City prospect fired narrowly off-target just after half-time.
Calvert-Lewin, who has started Everton’s last four Premier League matches, tapped in England’s opener after good work from Nelson down the England left.
Poland’s equaliser was a spectacular free-kick from distance but Bothroyd expressed surprise that Southampton goalkeeper Angus Gunn (£4.3m) hadn’t asked for a defensive wall to prevent such a strike:
I was really surprised. More than surprised, you know, because of the size of their team. Obviously, the players decided they thought it was going to get flipped over to the far post where all the big guys were.
And we ended up not having a wall and it was almost a free shot on goal. I was very disappointed with that but it’s one of those things we can put right straight away.
Foden, Calvert-Lewin and Ademola Lookman (£5.0m) were all substituted just after the 70-minute mark, with Harvey Barnes (£5.5m), Dominic Solanke (£4.7m), Demarai Gray (£5.4m), Tom Davies (£5.1m) and Hamza Choudhury (£4.3m) handed cameo appearances off the bench.
Ryan Sessegnon (£6.0m), Kyle Walker-Peters (£4.2m) and Freddie Woodman (£4.0m) were unused substitutes.
Apart from Gunn and Maddison, Jonjoe Kenny (£4.2m) was the only FPL representative to be given a full 90-minute run-out.
The Everton right-back twice went close to scoring, first seeing a shot brilliantly tipped wide and then later striking the woodwork with a deflected effort.
Croatia 2-1 Azerbaijan
- Mateo Kovacic (£5.7m) – 73 minutes
- Dejan Lovren (£4.9m) – 0 minutes
Dejan Lovren (£4.9m) wasn’t involved in his country’s matchday squad as Croatia edged past Azerbaijan on Wednesday evening.
Lovren was serving a one-match international ban but will be eligible to play against Hungary on Sunday.
The Liverpool centre-back hasn’t featured in a competitive fixture since being injured in the FA Cup tie against Wolves in early January but was on the bench in Gameweeks 30 and 31.
Mateo Kovacic (£5.7m) lined up in central midfield and played a more disciplined role in the double pivot, allowing Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic more freedom in the middle of the park.
Kovacic was culpable for Azerbaijan’s opening goal, however, having lost the ball before the visitors scored on the break.
The Chelsea midfielder, who has been substituted in every single one of his 18 Premier League starts this season, was withdrawn on 73 minutes.
Northern Ireland 2-0 Estonia
- Jonny Evans (£4.8m) – 90 minutes
- Craig Cathcart (£4.5m) – 90 minutes
Leicester’s Jonny Evans (£4.8m) and Watford’s Craig Cathcart (£4.5m) had a comfortable night at centre-back as Northern Ireland secured three points in their opening Euro 2020 qualifier.
Estonia rarely threatened apart from a two-minute spell midway through the second half, when Fulham youngster Mattias Kait (not listed in FPL) blazed over and Henri Anier got in behind the two Premier League-based defenders only to see his shot saved by home goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell.
Cathcart had a presentable opportunity himself before the interval but could only head a Niall McGinn cross straight at Sergei Lepmets.
Slovakia 2-0 Hungary
- Martin Dubravka (£5.0m) – 90 minutes
Martin Dubravka (£5.0m) kept a clean sheet as Slovakia kicked off their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a victory over Hungary.
The Newcastle goalkeeper made five stops in all – all of them in the second half – including a fine save to keep out Adam Szalai volley on 62 minutes.