Three things to take away from the thrillfest that was the international break

It wasn't all bad...

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Ah, international football. Some things never change. An England fan has embarrassed himself, the entire nation of France was mortified by its national team and James McClean picked up a suspension.

Sometimes though, we occasionally learn a few things. Here are the three takeaways from that annoying spell in between Premier League games known as the international break.

Gareth-Bales-Wales

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O’Neill Out

The Republic of Ireland went to Georgia and somehow managed to emerge with worse possession statistics than Emily Rose.

When he’s not trying to disrespect national broadcasters, we presume Martin O’Neill is locked in a room somewhere amazed how he’s fooled the country into thinking he has a plan.

Four points would have been a fair return from games against Serbia and Georgia – but no.

Most of the Irish public are naïve enough to think that the introduction of King Wesley Hoolahan (an actual reincarnation of Christ) is enough to change their approach, but when the Derry-born boss obviously isn’t well-versed in attacking pattern, it makes little or no difference who he has on the pitch.

Ireland still have a vague hope of qualifying, but it doesn’t look good and either do they. The pressure on O’Neill is certainly mounting – as he’s thrown away his grip on Group D.

O’Neill In

As a stark contrast, another O’Neill – Michael – is the polar opposite. After their two-nil win over the Czech Republic, it became clear that the man who brought Shamrock Rovers to the Europa League has one thing Martin does not. That one thing is conviction.

He understands his side’s strengths and most importantly – their weaknesses.

They’re guaranteed a second-place finish in a group with Germany in it. They’ve basically won the group. They also conceded two goals along the way. Both of those were to Germany, in Germany.

We’re excited by a few things here. The main thing is that the Mick O’Neill looks destined for a Premier League job off the back of these exploits. The other thing is the prospect of a conversation between a Russian and someone from Ballymena. The absolute scenes.

Syria-sly Inspiring

The Syrian conflict is no laughing matter. For six years, the country has been torn apart by civil war. On Tuesday evening, their national side provided a moment that further enhances the idea that football can be a subtle, very temporary break from reality.

As the game unfolded, it appeared that a point would be enough to guarantee their spot in a play-off for World Cup qualification.

After taking the lead early on, they were cruelly pegged back before the half. Just after the hour mark, table-toppers Iran took the lead. However, a last-minute strike from Omar Al Somah ignited wild scenes as their entire bench ran onto the pitch in celebration.

They now go to on face Australia in their play-off. We’ve nothing against Australia – we loved Crocodile Dundee, the Minogues and Neighbours. It’s just even the most neutral of spectators couldn’t help but want a fairytale ending to this Syrian campaign.

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