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Five players who smashed it during the international break

The latest international break brought the return of the marathon that is South America’s World Cup qualifying, whilst Europe saw some enthralling Nations League clashes and play-offs for next summer’s European Championships.

Some of the game’s biggest stars travelled far and wide to represent their respective countries over the past week and we’ve decided to look at some of the players to have made the biggest impression.

Here are six players who smashed it during the international break:

Diogo Jota

Portugal remain the leaders in their Nations League group following the latest round of fixtures, following a goalless friendly draw with Spain with another stalemate against world champions France and a 3-0 victory over Sweden.

Whilst their defensive stars undoubtedly deserve credit for three consecutive clean sheets this week, it was Liverpool forward Diogo Jota who proved the star of their crucial win over Sweden in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Jota was a lively presence throughout in a position on the left-hand side of the Portuguese attack and provided the opener for Bernardo Silva, drifting inside before rolling the ball across to the unmarked Manchester City midfielder.

The 23-year-old then scored Portugal’s second after firing home a low effort, before netting a fine individual goal with a solo run and crisp finish to put the result beyond doubt.

It was an encouraging display for a player still finding his feet at international level and he will hope to take that form into this weekend, where a first ever Merseyside derby awaits for the summer signing.

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Brazil made a perfect start to South American World Cup qualification with two wins from two during the international break, securing a convincing 5-0 victory over Bolivia before an entertaining 4-2 win in Peru.

That second victory saw talisman Neymar star and create history for the Selecao, scoring a hat-trick in Lima to move to 64 international goals and second amongst Brazil’s all-time leading scorers.

It is an astonishing achievement for the Paris Saint-Germain forward who moved past the legendary Ronaldo with his treble this week, Neymar clear of other iconic figures including Romario and Zico, with only the godfather of Brazilian football, Pele, ahead of him in the rankings.

Neymar scored twice from the spot as Brazil twice came from behind to secure three points, the 28-year-old remaining his nation’s key figure as they go in search of more silverware in the coming years.

The forward may never be revered like many of his illustrious compatriots but his legacy at international level is assured, time firmly on his side to eclipse Pele’s landmark of 77 goals and become Brazil’s greatest goalscorer.

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Olivier Giroud

Another player to enjoy a landmark moment in the colours of his national side, Olivier Giroud celebrated a century of appearances for France during the international break, marking the occasion with a brace in the world champion’s 7-1 thrashing of Ukraine.

That double saw the veteran forward move into second place amongst the country’s all-time leading scorers, overhauling Michel Platini after scoring his 42nd international goal, a tally bettered only by Thierry Henry.

Handed the captaincy, his first came in fine style with a curling effort from distance, before reacting quickest to head home a rebound from Houssem Aouar’s fierce strike to move clear of Platini.

Giroud has been a fine servant for Les Bleus and remains a key figure in the squad at 34-years-old, featuring in both of France’s Nations League clashes against Portugal and Croatia as Didier Deschamps’ side stayed level on points with the Portuguese at the summit.

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Romelu Lukaku

Romelu Lukaku returned to England for the first time since leaving Manchester United and played as if he had a point to prove in Belgium’s Nations League clash at Wembley, proving a constant menace to the Three Lions defence with his blend of pace and power.

Lukaku showed the link-up play he had been criticised for in the Premier League and won a penalty after bursting past Eric Dier into the box, before stepping up confidently to send Jordan Pickford the wrong way from the spot.

England fought back despite Lukaku’s impressive performance, but he was once again his country’s star turn as they defeated Iceland to move top of Group A2 three days later.

Lukaku – named as captain for the clash in Reykjavik – scored twice to secure a 2-1 win, his first a fine example of the strength and sharp-shooting the Belgian possesses, his record at international level now standing at a hugely impressive 55 goals in 87 appearances.

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Christian Eriksen

Christian Eriksen has come a long way since being the youngest player at the 2010 World Cup, developing into a pivotal figure for Denmark and spending some of his finest years in the Premier League.

The playmaker was a wonderful servant to Tottenham before a move to Inter Milan earlier this year, and whilst that transfer has failed to pay dividends as yet, he returned to England this week to provide a reminder of his quality.

Eriksen headed into the clash with England having scored in Denmark’s victories over the Faroe Islands and Iceland, before capping a fine international break with his third goal in three games to seal three points at Wembley.

The midfielder – alongside teammate Simon Kjaer – was celebrating his 100th cap and marked the occasion by converting a confident penalty, maintaining a brilliant goalscoring record at international level.

Eriksen has now scored 28 goals in his past 43 appearances at international level, with the playmaker now just three goals short of levelling the legendary Michael Laudrup in the all-time rankings.

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