There was to be no shortage of drama on Friday and Saturday as four Juventus players continued on their paths to the 2018 World Cup in Russia with their respective national teams.
The big winner of the weekend was surely Stephan Lichtsteiner, whose Switzerland side prevailed over Hungary in Budapest on Friday with the odd goal in five, deep into stoppage time. Goalless at interval, the game burst to life in the second half with the Swiss twice taking the lead, only to be pinned by their hosts within 20 minutes.
Valetin Stocker’s dramatic late winner sees Lichtsteiner’s men top Group B on maximum points having also defeated Portugal in their opening fixture.
It was a case of another night, another convincing home success for the reigning world champions Germany, 3-0 victors over Czech Republic on Saturday. With Sami Khedira playing the full 90 minutes, the Germans dominated proceedings in Hamburg, Thomas Muller scoring twice either side of a strike from Toni Kroos.
Mario Lemina and Gabon meanwhile made a steady start to their journey to Russia, drawing 0-0 with Morocco in the opening match of qualifying in the African section. Like Khedira, Lemina featured from start to finish for the home side.
Finally, Miralem Pjanic and Bosnia were sent home empty-handed from Brussels in Friday’s other game, succumbing to a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of hosts Belgium. An own goal from Emir Spahic set the Red Devils on their way with Eden Hazard, Toby Alderweireld and Romelu Lukaku adding the gloss to a comfortable win. Pjanic was withdrawn from the action ten minutes before full-time.
Sunday brings the second round of international fixtures as Mario Mandzukic’s Croatia, fresh from a 6-0 thumping of Kosovo on Thursday, take on Finland while Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci’s Italy head to Skopje to meet Macedonia looking to build on their 1-1 draw with Spain at Juventus Stadium.