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A Mixed Bag For Sunderland's Stars On International Duty This Week

New boy Bendtner was in fine form for Denmark during the international break.
New boy Bendtner was in fine form for Denmark during the international break.

Sunderland had plenty of players away over the last six days or so involved in international action, twelve in total in action at games here there and everywhere. 

It was a hit and miss international break for us. Some players bang in form and among the goals, others picking up niggles. I guess that's just the way of the game though these days, and an unfortunate part of having so many international quality players in the squad.

Anyway, time to hop on board the Roker Report Learjet, and take you from Burundi to Barnsley and everywhere in between as we round-up the international action...

We'll start with the not particularly exotic Scotland, where adopted jock Phil Bardsley was in action with their double header with the Czech Republic and Lithuania.

Phil did well in the first game against the Czechs, constantly offering an outlet down the left hand side and was at times their most dangerous player. Actively  involved in two good moves in the first half, and unleashing a few 'trademark' Bardsley strikes form distance which didn't trouble the keeper too much. A positive outing for 76 minutes before he was withdrawn with a niggle and replaced by Danny Wilson of Liverpool.

Bardsley overcame the knock to start again for Scotland, and had a bit of a nightmare all night, despite the Scots 1-0 win. Early on an attempted cross was completely miscued, whilst Bardo also missed a golden opportunity to open the scoring in the first half. After 69 minutes, clearly Craig Levein had seen enough and replaced him with Stephen Crainey.

Over to Swaziland now, where the recently (unfairly) under fire striker Asamoah Gyan was in action for Ghana in an African Cup Of Nations Qualifier. Gyan even managed to open the scoring on nine minutes in a game which Ghana controlled, if in an unimpressive fashion to inch closer to qualification for next years tournament. A long ball through to Dominic Adiyah was lobbed into the area by the wide man for Gyan to nod home unmarked from all of three yards. In a scare for us, Gyan was injured in the game, and forced off before half time. Gyan sat in the stands of Monday's game against Brazil, and was seen after the game with a slight limp.

And now to the Nya Ullevi Stadion where Sebastian Larsson and friends took on Hungary, and won 2-0. Seb came on after 49 minutes, and provided the cross from the right hand side for Pontus Wernbloom to head home and open the scoring. 

The Swede's the headed to San Marino who were earlier in the break humped 11-0 by Holland, and despite the 5-0 scoreline, laboured to the victory. A stubborn home side were looking good with the score 0-0 at half time, but after going down to 10 men it was one way traffic. Seb came on as a 56th minute substitute for Ola Toinoven, but failed to have a meaningful impact on the game as the Swedes went into cruise control. Toby Hysen, a recent Roker Report interviewee did manage to get on the score sheet however.

In Dublin over the weekend, John O'Shea started at right-back for the Republic of Ireland as they drew 0-0 with Slovakia. Our new man managed to play the full game, and was one of a number of unimpressive performers for the host team. Despite playing the full 90 minutes, O'Shea was on the receiving end of several robust challenges, which was enough to force him out of the game against Russia. Here's hoping the hip niggle which he has picked up clears in time for Saturday.

Keiren Westwood was an unused sub in both games for Ireland during the break. Hints that Shay Given might have had an injury, giving our boy a chance against the Russki's were unfounded, and Keiren found a nice warm spot on the pine.

And whilst we're on about keepers, Simon Mignolet played for Belgium in a disappointing 1-1 draw with Azerbaijan. The game was awful from a Belgian perspective as nothing went to plan for them, and the result pretty much ended their hopes of qualifying for EURO 2012. As for Mig, he was his usual self. He spilled a first half Azerbaijan free-kick which on another day could have been worse. As for the rest of the time he was largely untroubled until he was picking the ball out his own net as the scores were leveled. Nothing Simon could have done about a completely free header from 5 yards out. Perhaps he could have claimed the cross, but at first glance the striker did appear offside, even if it was later proved he wasn't.

Mignolet also started in Belgium's 1-0 win over the USA, and had little to do as the USA looked very meek. Only an early shot from Clint Dempsey giving Mig anything to do, and even that was a routine stop straight at him.

While we're kind of on about Azerbaijan, England U21's battered their Azerbaijani counterparts 6-0 this weekend, and Connor Wickham started the game for England at Watfords Vicarage Road. Wickham didn't really see alot of action, and was withdrawn after an hour or so and replaced by ex-SAFC man Martyn Waghorn, who got himself on the scoresheet, as did another former player, Jordan Henderson. Connor found himself on the bench against Israel U21's, and came on for the last 15 minutes when England were cruising. He didn't really find himself involved much.

Since we're banging on about England, the U19 squad took on Holland during this international break too, earning a respectable 1-1 draw in Maaseikerweg. Louis Laing came on as a second half substitute for the young Lions, and was his usual solid self. Laing is an exceptional prospect, and the more he plays at this sort of level the better for us as he grows and matures.

And now over to Korea, where Ji Dong-Won was in deadly form for the home team, grabbing two goals and playing the full 90 minutes. The first goal, was a nice poachers effort as a fellow Korean's shot was blocked by the keeper, but Dong-Won there to nod in the rebound from close range. Ji was also instrumental in the Korean's fifth goal, as he floated out to the left hand side and played a great through ball to create the goal, before he himself finished the scoring in the 85th minute, beating the offside trap to fire high into the net from 12 yards with style. A great performance from the young striker.

Ji however turned provider, sort of anyway, as Korea drew 1-1 with Kuwait on Tuesday. Ji played a great dummy for recent Arsenal signing Park Chu-Young to score the opener. A disappointing result for the Koreans, although they did look out of sorts the whole game, and to be honest a bit tired. this includes Ji. Might not see him even on the bench after a long trip back to the North East.

To the somewhat less glamorous Wales now, as they won 2-1 over Montenegro, with David Vaughan grabbing an assist and playing the full game. Vaughan played a lovely 1-2 with Craig Bellamy, before swinging in a great cross for Norwich striker Steve Morison to head in from close range. Outside of that Vaughan was in good form, playing nice passes here and there as the Welsh controlled large parts of the game. A booking in the game however meant that he was forced to miss the game against England at Wembley through suspension.

In one of the most uninspiring games of the weekend, Benin & Burundi played out a 1-1 draw, which did no good for either team's hopes of qualifying for the African Cup Of Nations next year, but plenty of good for SAFC, as that means Stephane Sessegnon is likely to remain on Wearside during the tournament. The draw means Benin have no chance of claiming the spot as best runner-up with only having five points. As for the game, Sess did nowt and didn't get injured, which is a plus.

New signing Nicklas Bendtner was also among the goals this break, with a brace as Denmark beat Norway 2-0 in their Euro qualifier. Bendtner's first for Denmark was a sublime strike from distance, taking the ball well and driving low into the bottom corner from easily 25 yards. The second showed a different side to Bendtner, as he linked up well with Dennis Rommedahl to shoot powerfully into the net unmarked from inside the area. A good performance which will have him on a high as he prepares to pull on the red and white of Sunderland for the first time at the weekend.

So there we have it, another international weekend in the books. Goals for all our strikers, unless you want to include Stephane Sessegnon, however injury niggles have been picked up, which is always a worry.

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