A marathon season has come to an end after June’s international fixtures, with Premier League players required to dig in one last time when representing their nations this week.
Several names from England’s top flight impressed in the colours of their countries and we’ve picked out six stars who shone during the international fixtures.
Six Premier League players who impressed during June’s internationals
Bukayo Saka has had some season for Arsenal and the winger concluded the campaign in perfect fashion with a starring role during England’s victories over Malta and North Macedonia. Gareth Southgate’s side have a flawless four-from-four record after back-to-back wins this month and Saka underlined his status as one of the Three Lions’ most influential names.
The 21-year-old has evolved from a talent rich in potential to one of Europe’s most effective wide options this season, one of just two players to reach 10+ goals and 10+ assists in the Premier League as Arsenal challenged for the title.
— UEFA EURO 2024 (@EURO2024) June 21, 2023
Saka has shown an increasing ruthlessness to his game in the final third and provided another reminder of his cutting edge as North Macedonia were thrashed 7-0 at Old Trafford on Monday. The winger scored his first career hat-trick as the Three Lions ran riot, with his second a special strike as he brought down Trent Alexander-Arnold’s long pass and lashed in from distance.
Even given the competition from Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish, James Maddison, Raheem Sterling and others for a place in Southgate’s side, Saka has become undroppable. His pace stretches defences and his shooting is becoming more and more emphatic, while his diagonal runs inside are so difficult to stop. It’s now 11 goals in an England shirt for Saka, who does not turn 22 until September.
Bruno Fernandes’ marathon campaign has finally come to an end, with the Manchester United midfielder having played 70 matches & over 6,000 minutes this season.
Not that fatigue was an issue as Fernandes took control of Portugal’s clash with Bosnia and Herzegovina this week, with the 28-year-old scoring twice and creating another in a 3-0 win to maintain a perfect start to Euro 2024 qualification.
Fernandes set up Bernardo Silva for the opener, before heading home a second and securing the win with a fine effort. The midfielder took time to reproduce his club numbers at international level, but has emerged as a talismanic figure of late with 13 goals involvements in his last 11 appearances for the national side.
7 & 6 – Bruno Fernandes has scored seven goals and provided six assists across his last 10 appearances for Portugal; his 13 goals+assists are more than twice as many as any other Portugal player since the start of this run. Shoulders. pic.twitter.com/5WWzv0kKci
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 18, 2023
Fernandes then formed part of the team that beat Iceland 1-0 to make it four wins from four in qualification, as Cristiano Ronaldo celebrated becoming the first male player to reach 200 international caps with a late winner.
Mykhailo Mudryk has endured a difficult time since signing for Chelsea in January, with the £88.5m arrival from Shakhtar Donetsk having struggled under the weight of expectation.
The winger is determined to use the summer to recharge and rebuild however, and starred as Ukraine secured a crucial qualification win over North Macedonia last week. Ukraine trailed 2-0 after an hour in Skopje, but staged a second-half fightback to win 3-2 with Mudryk the driving force.
Mykhaylo Mudryk Stats | North Macedonia vs Ukraine:
– 89 Minutes Played
– 2 Assists
– 3/3 Accurate Long balls
– 2/2 Tackles Won
Building form💪 pic.twitter.com/6kmpIyHeON
— PLDatabase (@PLDatabase) June 16, 2023
The 22-year-old burst past three Macedonian defenders to reach the byline and set up Yukhym Konoplya for the equaliser, before an excellent clipped pass in behind found Viktor Tsygankov to head home a winner.
Mudryk will now leave the senior side to link up with the Under-21s at this summer’s European Championship, as the winger looks to find form and confidence ahead of the new Premier League campaign.
Ciaran Clark’s early red card for Newcastle against Norwich in November 2021 might have felt like an inconsequential moment, but it has instead proven to be the sliding doors moment in Joelinton’s career.
Moved into midfield as Newcastle went down to ten men, the Brazilian thrived and has not looked back. A footballer one viewed as overpriced and underwhelming at centre-forward has since been transformed into the heartbeat of the Newcastle midfield, where his box-to-box influence has helped the Magpies to Champions League qualification and earned Joelinton international recognition.
— Sport Clips 🎥⚽ (@SportClips1905) June 17, 2023
Joelinton added to his remarkable redemption tale with a memorable moment last week, as the midfielder marked his first appearance for Brazil with a debut goal. The strike – bundled in at the back post – will hardly make any montages of great goals in years to come, but it was a brilliant moment for a player who has bounced back from a challenging period to become a cult figure at St James’ Park.
Next on his list will be establishing himself with Brazil.
It’s taken some time for Trent Alexander-Arnold to win the trust of Gareth Southgate, but has the England manager finally found how to get one of his most talented names into the side?
Alexander-Arnold’s omissions with England have been a continued source of hot debate, with Southgate refusing to take a risk-reward approach with the 24-year-old’s outstanding attacking influence and occasional defensive lapses at right-back.
The latter period of the season saw Liverpool move Alexander-Arnold into a hybrid full-back/midfield role to increase his influence further forward and Southgate has gone one further with a permanent place in the centre.
Alexander-Arnold was exceptional as a right-sided number eight during the Three Lions’ 4-0 win over Malta, in which he was involved in everything and scored a stunning goal from distance.
— UEFA EURO 2024 (@EURO2024) June 16, 2023
He remained in the role as England thrashed North Macedonia 7-0 in their second fixture and was again impressive, including one stunning pass to find Bukayo Saka for the winger’s second goal.
Tougher tests await than the examinations faced this month, but Alexander-Arnold’s performances have given both Southgate and Jurgen Klopp food for thought.
For all the talk of Norway’s leading talents, the nation’s qualification campaign has began poorly. Erling Haaland continues to offer hope of a first major tournament appearance since Euro 2000 however, and scored three times in two fixtures this week to take his total to 56 in all competitions for club and country this season.
Haaland scored from the spot as Norway suffered a late collapse to Scotland, but ensured the Norwegians got their bid to reach Euro 2024 back on track with a 3-1 win over Cyprus.
Just the 5️⃣6️⃣ goals for Erling Haaland this season 🤖 pic.twitter.com/KX7dC1HUbB
— 433 (@433) June 20, 2023
He set up Ola Solbakken for the opening goal, before doubling Norway’s lead from the penalty spot. Four minutes later, the 22-year-old combined with Martin Odegaard for his second of the game as Norway’s top names linked up to seal the win.
It’s now 24 goals in 25 games for Haaland at international level and he’s already moved past Tore Andre Flo, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and level with John Carew in Norway’s list of all-time leading scorers.
Jørgen Juve’s 33-goal national record is within reach and Norway will need Haaland to continue firing if Ståle Solbakken’s side are to recover from a stuttering start and reach the European Championship.