Celtic Stars and The Call of Duty

It is safe to say some Celtic supporters would have been excused for being slightly nervy heading into this international break, after Odsonne Edouard, Nir Bitton and Hatem Abd Elhamed all being sidelined after contracting COVID-19 whilst on international duty last time around, as well as Ryan Christie having to self-isolate after being a close contact with Stuart Armstrong. Neil Lennon would have his fingers crossed that the thirteen Celtic players all come back safe and sound.

Four Celtic players were called up for Scotland duty this month, Ryan Christie, Callum McGregor, Greg Taylor and a recall for Leigh Griffiths. It was a time of celebration for Scotland with Ryan Christie both featuring and playing pivotal roles in Scotland Euro triumph over Serbia as they sealed their place at Euro 2021 after some penalty drama.

Christie scored Scotland’s only goal of the game after some neat link-up play with Callum McGregor, and was running for the entire game until he was subbed off. His energy was noticeably missed when he was replaced.

Callum McGregor was his usual reliable self in the midfield, and Leigh Griffths made an appearance late into extra time. McGregor and Griffiths both scored in the shootout. Be sure to check out Ryan Christie’s emotional interview post-match, as it’s a real tearjerker. Up next was Slovakia away, where Callum McGregor got a well deserved rest, whilst Ryan Christie was in from the start. Christie was his usual energetic self, whilst Leigh Griffiths made an appearance from the bench and had some great chances to equalise.

Sadly, Scotland lost out 1-0 at the Stadion Antona Malatinskeho. Finally, a trip away to Israel, a team which Scottish fans will be delighted to see the back of after consistently drawing them in the Nations League groups. Scotland missed out on promotion, trailing 1-0 to Israel in the end. Callum McGregor was in from the start and was replaced by Kenny McLean with 10 to go. Ryan Christie was also in from the start and was denied a penalty by a stern referee, and Leigh Griffiths made a late appearance and fluffed a half volley to equalise late on. Greg Taylor was an unused sub throughout the triple header.

David Turnbull and Ross Doohan (on loan at Ross County) both were called up to Scotland’s U21s. Ross Doohan was helpless for both goals and Scotland drew 2-2 with Croatia’s U21’s. David Turnbull made an appearance in the 1-0 loss to Greece as Scotland narrowly missed out on qualification to the Euros, failing to replicate the Senior squad’s feats. Turnbull volleyed a decent chance over the bar and Doohan had no chance for the goal but made a great save in the second half.

The pressure was on Shane Duffy for Celtic and Ireland duty as the captain was called up. Duffy featured in all 3 or Ireland’s games, beginning with a 3-0 friendly defeat to England at Wembley. He had a decent chance from a corner as Ireland lost out 1-0 to Wales. Duffy was again a threat in the opposition box, with a decent header going wide in a 0-0 draw at home to Bulgaria. Duffy captained Ireland in all 3 games.

Goals were needed from Odsonne Edouard as he looked to bag some goals as a confidence booster and to break a goalscoring record held by former teammate Moussa Dembele. Having tested positive for Coronavirus and missing some key fixtures last time out, he would be hoping for a turn of fortune. He failed to break the goalscoring record, starting up front and failing to hit the mark in a 5-0 win over Liechtenstein’s U21’s, but he got a second chance to break that scoring record against Switzerland and he did just that. He scored the goal that took him to 14 goals in 10 games for the France U21’s, breaking Moussa Dembele’s record of 13 goals in 23 games. Outstanding record for Odsonne.

Nir Bitton and Hatem Abd Elhamed were again called up to the Israeli squad after their COVID-19 scares last month where they both contracted the virus. They faced a minor scare early on into the break with Israeli players testing positive and having to self isolate. They were set to face off against Moi Elyounoussi’s Norway side but the match was cancelled by Norwegian football authorities. Both featured in a 1-0 loss to Czech Republic with Hatem Abd Elhamed being sent off with 10 to go. Bitton played in Israel’s 1-0 win over Scotland and looked his usual calm self at the back.

Off the back of some great form for Celtic, Elyounoussi was called up to the Norway squad. As previously mentioned, Norway’s match against Israel was cancelled. Foreign-based Norway players were then forced to travel back to the country where they play their domestic football to finish their quarantines. Luckily for Neil Lennon, both Elyounoussi and Kris Ajer are available for Hibs on Saturday. A rare piece of good news on the Covid front for Celtic coming from international duty.

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Vasilis Barkas was called up to the Greece national team after losing his place in the first team to Scott Bain. Greece had a friendly against Cyprus before Nations League ties against Moldova and Slovenia. Barkas started in goals for the Cyprus game and didn’t have much to do. For Cyprus’s goal, Barkas just didn’t get down quick enough but he can’t be put to blame for the goal. Greece ran out 2-1 winners. Barkas didn’t feature in either of their Nations League games.

Patryk Klimala was called up to the Poland U21’s game against Latvia. Klimala scored as Poland won 3-1 against Latvia and clinched 2nd place in group 5 of U21 Euro Qualifiers.

Conor Hazard was called up for the Northern Ireland national team, usually as a backup keeper, for their play off final against Slovakia and Nations League games against Austria and Romania. Hazard was benched for the play-off game loss to Slovakia. He was also benched for the Nations League games.

James McKenzie

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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