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International Round-Up: Women’s World Cup Kicks Off And Barrett Into Toulon Semis

No, the football season is still not over.

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Scotland Women’s National Team Training Session Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Women’s World Cup

The eighth Women’s World Cup kicked off last week, with the nations of Reading’s two representatives facing off on Sunday. England, who named Jade Moore on the bench, won 2-1 against Scotland, who lined up with Sophie Howard at right-back. Former Royal Fran Kirby also featured for the Lionesses.

England and Scotland’s other two opponents in Group D, Japan and Argentina played out a 0-0 draw on Monday. Matchday two is on Friday and matchday three is next Wednesday, before the knockout stages - which England and Scotland will both have aspirations of reaching - begin that same Saturday.

To get to know the World Cup Royals a little better, we’ve selected a couple of pieces published in the lead up to the tournament. Firstly, Howard spoke to The Telegraph about her global upbringing and representing Germany at the Under-20 World Cup, while Moore opened up to various outlets about how football literally saved her life thanks to a routine heart scan. Both articles are well worth a read.

Toulon Tournament

It’s fair to say that the Toulon Tournament didn’t go as planned for Danny Loader and England, who had won the previous three tournaments and were the favourites for this one before finishing a miserable ninth. ‘How can you finish ninth in a knockout tournament?’ I hear you ask. Well, after the group stages, classification matches take place to decide the official order for all teams except for the four that reach the semi-finals.

It’s probably a game that England didn’t want to play, as they lost all three group matches, with Loader appearing for a total of just 24 minutes as a substitute. He did though then start the ninth place play-off match against Guatemala as the Young Lions won 4-0, so perhaps Paul Simpson missed a trick in not playing him more. Although it may be a good thing for Reading that the multiple teams reportedly interested in signing Loader this summer didn’t get much of a look at him.

Michael Olise’s France fared slightly better but also failed to make it through to the semi-finals. They won twice but lost to Brazil (coincidentally the only game that Olise didn’t feature in), meaning that they’ll face Portugal on Thursday in the fifth place play-off. It’s difficult to find out exactly how Olise himself played, but it seems he struck the bar with a free-kick against Guatemala, while one French tweet said that the 17-year-old showed ‘elegance’.

It means that the only Reading youngster still in with a chance of silverware at Toulon is Josh Barrett, whose Republic of Ireland side topped Group C with two wins and a draw and now play Brazil in the semi-finals. Barrett didn’t appear in the first two games, but started the 1-0 win over Bahrain, proving hugely effective. The winger forced the goalkeeper into a number of excellent saves and also won a penalty for his side, which was missed.

European Qualifiers

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson played competitive football for the first time in fourth months as he started Iceland’s 2-1 victory over Turkey in Euro 2020 qualifying on Tuesday. Although the striker didn’t get on the scoresheet, he certainly proved a handful for the opposition as he was fouled five times before being substituted in the 64th minute. For context, no player in the Championship was fouled more than 4.7 times per game on average last season. The result puts Iceland third in their qualifying group after four games, but only behind France and Turkey on goal difference.

In contrast, it was Chris Gunter doing the fouling for Wales as he picked up a yellow card just two minutes into his 95th cap against Hungary on Tuesday, which Ryan Giggs’s side lost 1-0 having also been defeated 2-1 by Croatia at the weekend. It’s now looking likely that they’ll have to rely on the play-offs to qualify for the Euros next summer. Scrolling through social media, it seems fans not only feel that Giggs isn’t the right man for the job, but that Gunter is also too old to be in the side. Apologies to any other 29 year olds out there.

Finally, Marc McNulty’s international adventure was very much like his time at Reading so far in the fact that he couldn’t get a game. The striker was left on the bench in both of former Royals boss Steve Clarke’s first two games in charge of Scotland - a 2-1 win over Cyprus and 3-0 defeat to Belgium. The Tartan Army are now three points adrift of the top two in their group, but do have a guaranteed play-off spot to fall back on.

Africa Cup of Nations

It has been confirmed that Andy Yiadom will be part of Ghana’s squad for the Africa Cup of Nations which kicks-offs in Egypt on June 21 (they also have a pre-tournament friendly against South Africa on Friday). The right-back will be looking to add to his five caps in group games against Benin, Cameroon and Guinea-Bissau before hopefully progressing to the knockout stages as the Black Stars aim for their first title since 1982. They’re third favourites with bookmakers, so watch this space!

Yiadom’s involvement in the tournament (that begins slightly later due to Ramadan) means that he’ll miss the early stages of Reading’s pre-season. Should Ghana reach the final on July 19 - when the Royals will be on tour in Spain - then it’s likely we may not see the 27-year-old until the first game of the Championship season on August 3, or perhaps even later.