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International Roundup: Westwood Seizes Chance To Become Ireland's No.1

Westwood was in fine form for Ireland against Serbia last night.
Westwood was in fine form for Ireland against Serbia last night.

It's still an absolutely ridiculous time to arrange an international fixture date, but this is FIFA and we should be used to some stupid stuff. It's just not the right time whatsoever.

However, there have been several Sunderland players away over the break, and we thought it's best we let you know how they got on. Keiren Westwood, John O'Shea and James McClean were all in action for Ireland while Seb Larsson lined up for Sweden against Brazil.

There were also plenty of others in action, so here's the full scoop...

We start with the game that drew the most intrigue for Sunderland fans, and that was Ireland's 0-0 draw in Belgrade against Serbia. An unspectacular scoreline, but noted for a number of reasons.

First of all, Keiren Westwood certainly took the opportunity afforded to him by Shay Given's international retirement by putting in a fine performance between the sticks.

Westwood got a taste for the action early on with a solid stop from a powerful Alexander Kolarov shot which was well held, but thing went a little hairy in the second half. Around half-way through he fluffed a clearance which nearly cost his side big time, but managed to recover to pull of a magnificent save minutes later.

Westwood positioned himself well to get down low and parry away a tremendous freekick from Zdravko Kuzmanovic to ensure the scores stayed level. He can be very happy with his performance on the night, and is sure to keep the number one shirt for some time to come.

The game was also noted for John O'Shea, a veteran of the Ireland side who last night captained them for the first time.

O'Shea lined up in the middle of defence alongside Darren O'Dea, completing the full 90-minutes on his first appearance with the armband.

Luckily for us, it was a quiet one for O'Shea, who was rarely troubled by the Serbian forward line, and looks set to be perfectly fine to take a similarly central role this weekend against Arsenal.

James McClean also made a start for the side in an interchangeable attacking midfield system. Swapping places with Aiden McGeady regularly, McClean enjoyed a good game before being substituted in the 69th minute for Andy Keogh.

McClean had a sight of goal early on as he slammed a freekick straight into the wall, while just before half time a sharper McClean might have has his first goal for Ireland. A great cross into the area from rumoured Sunderland transfer target, Aiden McGeady, nearly landed at the feet of McClean, but the covering Serbian defender was there to clear first.

Overall though we can just be glad that McClean came through the game with no problems at all, and has gained even more experience in unfamiliar roles having been on the right and through the middle at various points during the game.

Seb Larsson started for Sweden against Brazil in the Rasunda Stadion in Solna last night, but couldn't do much to prevent his side from being overturned 3-0 on the night.

Starting as a right back/right wing-back, Larsson did alright in a role many Sunderland fans think he might not be able to do on a regular basis.

Fair enough, he was booked early doors for a needless and aggressive shoulder charge on Chelsea new boy Oscar, but from then he picked up his game.

Larsson fired in a number of great crosses and freekicks throughout the night, showing he's approaching his best form just in time for the weekend's game. All the signs were good from Larsson tonight that he'll continue the good form of last season.

Ahmed Elmohamady also saw action at right-back, as he is primarily used for his country in their 1-1 draw with Oman in Muscat. A typically hardworking but ultimately lacking in quality performance from Elmohamady wasn't enough to see his side overcome the Middle Eastern outfit.

Meanwhile in other players involved and not involved this break, Simon Mignolet was an unused substitute for Belgium in their 4-2 win over Netherlands while earlier this week Phil Bardsley pulled out of Scotland's 3-1 win over Australia due to injury.

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