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International Roundup: Puscas Bullies Spain, Boyce-Clarke Shootout Hero

The striker caught the eye in Romania’s narrow defeat to Spain.

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FBL-EURO-2020-QUALIFIER-ROU-ESP Photo credit should read DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images

George Puscas was the stand-out Royal on the international scene in the last couple of weeks. He started against Spain and Malta in qualifiers for Euro 2020, getting his ninth and tenth caps, and put in eye-catching performances each time.

In the first match, Puscas played the full 90 minutes as Romania lost 2-1. However, he played a key role in Romania halving the deficit in the second half through Florin Andone - Puscas’ powerful header across goal was converted by the Brighton and Hove Albion striker (currently on loan at Galatasaray).

Puscas went close to scoring himself with a strong close-range header, but his effort was saved by the legs of Chelsea goalie Kepa Arrizabalaga. The Reading striker also played a part in getting Spain down to ten men - he was fouled by Diego Llorente on a counter-attack, with the defender shown a red card.

For a deeper breakdown of Puscas’ performance against Spain, check out this episode of the Scouted Football podcast - they talk about him from around 33m45s. The podcast features Joe Donnohue, who kindly wrote us this background on Puscas when he signed.

Having drawn a blank against Spain, Puscas did manage to get on the scoresheet a few days later in the game against Malta. Again making a key involvement with a strong header, the former Inter Milan striker powered home an out-swinging corner for the only goal of the game.

Those two results mean Romania have won three of their six games, drawn once and lost twice. That puts them third in the six-team Group F on 10 points - behind Spain (18) and Sweden (11) but ahead of Norway (9), Malta (3) and the Faroe Islands (0). Games against the Faroe Islands, Norway, Sweden and finally Spain wrap up Romania’s qualifiers.

This block of international fixtures was also very good for our young English talent - most of all for Coniah Boyce-Clarke and Imari Samuels (both 16) who won the Syrenka Cup against Poland with the Three Lions’ under-17 side. The game finished 2-2 in normal time, with goals from Harvey Elliott of Liverpool and Jamal Musiala of Bayern Munich giving England a 2-0 lead inside ten minutes, only for Poland to equalise.

Boyce-Clarke was the hero in the subsequent shoot-out, saving two penalties as England beat Poland 3-1. However, fellow Reading man Imari Samuels - a left-back - was an unused substitute on the day. Nonetheless, being involved in tournament success was great experience for both of them (particularly for Boyce-Clarke), and the achievement didn’t go unnoticed by one Raheem Sterling...

Danny Loader played twice for England’s under-20s who drew against the Netherlands 0-0 before beating Switzerland 1-0 via a goal from Leeds United’s Jack Clarke. Loader came off the bench in the first match for Wolverhampton Wanderers man Ryan Giles, and played the full 90 minutes against Switzerland.

Further up the age groups, Omar Richards’ first involvement with England’s under-21s didn’t result in game time. Steven Sessegnon played on the left against both Turkey (3-2 win) and Kosovo (2-0 win), leaving Richards on the bench. Nonetheless, the experience of being on international duty will have been a very good one for 21 year-old Richards as he continues to develop.

New Reading midfielder Pele started twice in two World Cup qualifier wins for Guinea-Bissau over Sao Tome and Principe. He played 69 minutes in the first game, a 1-0 triumph, before getting the full 90 in a 2-1 victory. Both goals in the second game were scored by one Joseph Mendes, who now plays for AJ Ajaccio after leaving Reading in 2018.

Chris Gunter didn’t feature in Wales’ 2-1 win over Azerbaijan, but did get a brief substitute appearance in a 1-0 victory over Belarus. That puts him on 95 caps at international level.

Portugal’s under-21 sides played twice - against their counterparts from Gibraltar and Belarus. Joao Virginia wasn’t involved in the first of those matches but made the bench in the second.

Elsewhere, Jordan Holsgrove - now on loan at Atletico Baleares - played for Scotland’s under-21s in wins over San Marino (2-0) and Croatia (2-1). He effectively got an assist in the first game, with his low cross from the left wing bundled home for an own goal by Alessandro Tosi.

Finally, Irishman Kian Leavy was an unused substitute for his country’s under-18s as they were beaten 4-0 by Austria.