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International break: Six Premier League players who shone

Premier League players made an impression during the final international break of the calendar year, as Euro 2024 qualification reached its conclusion and some seismic showdowns took place in South America.

Here are some standout performers over the past week ahead of their return to the Premier League.

Five Premier League players who impressed in the international break:

Mohamed Salah

Egypt made a perfect start to World Cup qualification after opening their campaign with back-to-back wins. The Pharaohs thrashed Djibouti 6-0 in their opening fixture, with Mohamed Salah scoring four times in a ruthless performance from the Liverpool forward.

Salah has been in sparkling form this season at club level and continued that into the break, adding an assist for Mahmoud Trezeguet in the 2-0 win over nine-man Sierra Leone three days later. The 32-year-old has now scored 55 goals in 95 appearances for the national side and is chasing down Hossam Hassan’s Egypt record (68).

He will be crucial to Egypt’s hopes of a first AFCON title in 13 years in the new year, as Salah and The Pharoahs look to go one better than runners-up finishes in 2017 and 2021.

Luis Diaz

Luis Diaz has had a challenging time in recent weeks after the kidnapping of his father, so the winger’s match-winning performance against Brazil – in front of his freed father in the Colombian crowd – was an emotional occasion.

Diaz scored both goals as Colombia came from behind to beat Brazil in World Cup qualification, bouncing back from conceding Gabriel Martinelli’s first goal for Brazil to earn a vital win. The 26-year-old headed home an equaliser, before scoring his second to maintain Colombia’s unbeaten start in their bid to reach the 2026 tournament.

Diaz’s double came just two days after his father – Luis Manuel Diaz – was freed by the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group who had taken him hostage, sparking emotional celebrations on the pitch and in the stands.

Cristian Romero

Argentina are top of the table in South American World Cup qualifying, despite the setback of a first defeat of the campaign to Uruguay this month. The world champions bounced back in impressive fashion however, beating Brazil at the Maracana in a clash overshadowed by crowd trouble.

Tottenham centre-back Cristian Romero was in outstanding form for La Albiceleste, who secured a famous win over their arch-rivals to pile the pressure on Brazil, who have now lost three of their opening six games.

Lionel Messi called Romero the ‘best defender in the world’ recently and his compatriot’s claim appears to have weight after watching the Spurs star shine in the Superclásico. Romero completed 100% of his passes, including 6/6 long balls, won 8/10 duels, made four clearances and four tackles in a dominant defensive display.

John McGinn

Scotland are preparing for a second successive European Championship appearance and concluded their qualification campaign with draws against Georgia and Norway.

The second of those games was a thrilling contest at Hampden Park, that saw Scotland twice come from behind in an eventual 3-3 draw. McGinn was at the heart of his side’s performance, scoring an equaliser from the penalty spot, before setting up Stuart Armstrong’s goal after a fine one-two.

Aston Villa will hope there’s positive news on the injury the midfielder sustained against Norway, with McGinn having been in fine form for club and country this season.

Darwin Nunez

Darwin Nunez is the leading scorer in South American World Cup qualification so far, having scored five goals in six games for Uruguay.

Nunez has shown encouraging signs at club level for Liverpool this season and took that confidence into the international break, with a crucial goal as Uruguay upset Argentina to end the 14-game winning run of the world champions.

Nunez scored the second late on after Ronald Araujo’s opener, as Uruguay claimed a big win at the iconic Bombonera stadium. The 24-year-old then struck twice as Marcelo Bielsa’s side beat Bolivia 3-0 in Montevideo.

A forward in form, ahead of Liverpool’s crunch clash with Manchester City in the Premier League this weekend.

Dominik Szoboszlai

A fourth Liverpool inclusion, in what has been an encouraging international break for Jurgen Klopp.

Dominik Szoboszlai celebrated leading Hungary to Euro 2024 qualification this month, with a late draw against Bulgaria earning Marco Rossi’s team a place at next summer’s tournament.

It was a celebratory mood for their second fixture of the break as Szoboszlai starred in a 3-1 win over Montenegro, scoring twice – including a stunning solo goal – to take his record to 10 goals in 38 caps.

Hungary have impressed in qualification and Szoboszlai has been key to that. The Hungarians finished four points clear of Serbia to top Group G and ended qualification unbeaten.

Read – Euro 2024: Every qualified team and who can still go to Germany

Read more – Noughties Nines: Wayne Rooney – An inimitable emergence

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