The summer international break was packed full of action across the globe with numerous Celtic players involved.
A total of 13 Celts took to the field for their respective countries either at senior or under 21 level in recent weeks and today, I’ll be reviewing how they got on.
Greg Taylor, Callum McGregor, David Turnbull and Anthony Ralston – Scotland
Starting off what turned out to be an underwhelming international break for Scotland was the most crucial game of it.
Ukraine came to Hampden and firmly outplayed their hosts, running out eventual 3-1 winners with Callum McGregor the only Bhoy involved.
The Celtic captain was arguably his country’s best performer on the night and bagged Scotland’s only goal of the game with a powerful drive from the edge of the box which just passed the line.
His strike proved worthless in the end and going into Scotland’s Nations League opener with Armenia a few days later, Steve Clarke would ring the changes.
McGregor did keep his place but coming in alongside him was Anthony Ralston. The resurgent right back was awarded with his maiden Scotland start against the Armenians and he repaid the faith Steve Clarke showed in him with a goal and man of the match performance.
An expert, back post header from Ralston opened the scoring in a match which Scotland would go on to win 2-0.
It was a dreadful team performance from Steve Clarke’s men and a response was needed away in Armenia three days later.
And a response came thanks to a 4-1 victory. Callum McGregor kept his place in midfield although Anthony Ralston was replaced in the lineup by Nathan Patterson. Captain Andy Robertson missed our through injury and coming in for him was Greg Taylor.
Both Taylor and McGregor played the full match with the former contributing to Scotland’s fourth goal, his deep cross finding Patterson at the back post who knocked down for John McGinn to do the rest.
The two other Celts who were in the Scotland squad for the summer internationals, David Turnbull and Anthony Ralston, also got an appearance each in this international break however the time they played wasn’t enough for them to significantly influence the match.
Nonetheless, seeing four Celtic players play for Scotland this summer was particularly pleasing. Callum McGregor was a mainstay in Steve Clarke’s midfield, Anthony Ralston finally made his national team breakthrough and David Turnbull and Greg Taylor proved their worth to the squad, each racking up some decent minutes.
Cameron Carter-Vickers – USA
Signing for Celtic permanently will most likely be the highlight of Cameron Carter-Vickers’ summer although racking up some appearances for his country will certainly rank eminently also.
The USA kicked off the international break with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Morocco. Cameron Carter-Vickers started on the bench and came on at half time to play the remainder of the match.
He impressed in this one yet remained on the sidelines against Uruguay three days later as his country partook in a goalless draw.
Following this was a CONCACAF Nations League opener with Grenada. Carter-Vickers started this one and completed ninety minutes as the USA cantered to a 5-0 win.
He was solidified in the backline in his first USA start since 2018 and played from the beginning in the next match against El Salvador.
The USA drew 1-1 thanks to an injury time equaliser from Jordon Morris with Carter-Vickers playing 81 minutes in the game. Once more for his country, the centre back looked well-founded with his deceptive pace and brawny physical stature catching the eye of fans.
Carter-Vickers will now head back to Glasgow as a permanent Celtic player and enjoy a few weeks off.
He was one of the club’s most consistent performers in the most recent season and will look to keep that up going into 2022/23 and make sure of his place on the plane to Qatar with the USA.
Giorgos Giakoumakis – Greece
Gus Poyet’s Greece side came away from the summer internationals with a 100% win rate.
Giorgos Giakoumakis played a part in three of his country’s four victories, firstly against Northern Ireland in a 1-0 win as he proved a menace for the opposition backline in the seventy minutes he played.
Giakoumakis then lined up against Kosovo in yet another away from home one goal victory for Greece. He was subbed off just before the hour mark this time after receiving a booking.
The twenty seven year old didn’t play a part in the 3-0 win over Cyprus four days later but did in the game with Kosovo.
Starting on the bench, Giakoumakis came on with half an hour to go and managed to break the deadlock just twelve minutes after he was introduced.
Fellow substitute Petros Mantalos’ cross met the powerful striker in the box who scored a sensational header Henrik Larsson would’ve been proud of. This goal made it 1-0 and Greece would go on to double their money late on in stoppage time to secure a two goal victory in their final game of the international break.
Overall, Giorgos Giakoumakis’ recent excursion with Greece was rather successful. Gaining three starts and scoring his second international goal as his country won four games on the bounce was largely prosperous for the striker.
It also seems Giakoumakis has gained the trust of new Greece manager Gus Poyet – in the six games the Uruguayan has been in charge for, Giakoumakis has started three, came off the bench twice and remained on the sidelines just once. This can only bode well for the future.
Liel Abada – Israel
After a storming first season at Celtic in which he registered 26 goal contributions across all competitions, Liel Abada made his presence felt in the Israeli senior team.
The right winger played from the start in all of Israel’s games this international break, registering a goal and assist alike along the way.
In the 2-2 draw with Iceland at the beginning of June, Abada opened the scoring with a trademark goal we’ve come to expect of him at Celtic this season.
Manor Solomon’s cross found Abada at the back post whose movement afforded him an easy tap in.
Going forward against Albania, Abada was involved in the goals once more. This time he turned provider setting up the aforementioned Solomon after pouncing on a loose ball in the box to put it on a plate for the Shakhtar Donetsk player to net what turned out to be the winner.
Israel played Iceland once more three days later with Abada putting in an eye-catching performance. The final score was two all and whilst he didn’t score or assist, Liel Abada won the most fouls in the match and created four chances for his teammates along the way.
As his stock continues to rise on the international front and off the back of a prodigious maiden campaign in Glasgow, it would not be surprising to see some big clubs circling for Abada in the near future.
Moreover by next summer, the right winger will have yet even more first team experience under his belt along with having played in the Champions League which is very attractive for any potential suitors.
I must add, though, I do not think Abada will be sold this summer and I believe he’ll spend at least another year with the Hoops in which he’ll continue to display his vast potential.
Carl Starfelt – Sweden
It was a rather disappointing international break not just for Sweden but for Carl Starfelt as well.
Despite a 2-0 win in their opening game against Slovenia, Sweden would go on to lose their next three matches of the summer – both Norway and Serbia inflicted defeat on Janne Andersson’s side.
We mentioned how Starfelt would’ve been somewhat deflated after recently representing his country and just 45 minutes into his first start for Sweden since March 2021, the centre back was stretchered off through injury.
Starfelt looked to be holding his hamstring and later stated ‘It does not look very bright’.
Carl Starfelt’s injury will assuredly be a cause for concern for Celtic. No timeline over a potential return has been made clear as of yet although the permanent signing of Cameron Carter-Vickers helps to soften the blow.
Kyogo Furuhashi and Daizen Maeda – Japan
Prior to the beginning of the four team tournament, Japan played friendlies against Paraguay and Brazil.
Japan then played Brazil four days later and suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat thanks to a Neymar Jr penalty. Kyogo played from the start in this one with his late tackle on the eventual match winner gaining the acclaim of many Celtic fans. Funnily enough, Kyogo was replaced with just over twenty minutes to go by his club teammate Maeda.
Kyogo remained on the bench throughout the 4-1 triumph but Maeda would make an impact from the sidelines. He came on with ten minutes to play and scored just two later, tapping into an empty net from Junya Ito’s ball across the face. It was the twenty four year old’s first every goal for his country and one which he’ll surely savour for a long time.
After putting Ghana to the sword, Japan got to play in the Kirin Challenge Cup final where Tunisia were the opponents. Kyogo came on as a sub in the game but could do nothing to prevent an abysmal 3-0 home defeat.
It is rather surprising to not see Kyogo Furuhashi and Daizen Maeda get more minutes than they do for Japan. After all, they have been key clogs in Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic side who enjoyed a wide range of success in the 2021/22 season in Scotland.
Hopefully they can begin to establish themselves thoroughly in the Japan team in future months, though, especially with the upcoming World Cup.
Josip Juranovic – Croatia
Of Croatia’s four international games this June, Josip Juranovic played ninety minutes in all four.
The twenty six year old was one of just two Croatia players who achieved such a feat this summer, Inter midfielder Marcelo Brozovic being the other.
Juranovic played an equal amount of his games at left and right back as the versatility he showed at Celtic this season came to the fore.
It was a poor start to the summer internationals for Croatia as they were humbled at home to Austria in a 3-0 loss but after this, things only got better.
A respectable 1-1 draw was earned at home to France which was followed by yet another honourable result in Copenhagen. Juranovic played at left back, helping his country to a clean sheet in the 1-0 win.
After this, Croatia faced another arduous away trip, this time to face the world champions France in Paris. In this one, Juranovic was tremendous despite playing out of position at left back.
He was able to keep some world class players such as Balon D’or contenders Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema quiet as Croatia defeated France for the first time in history.
It was a historic 1-0 win for Zlatko Dalic’s side which put them 2nd in their Nations League group with two games to go.
Back to Juranovic and in this international break, the full back frankly showed why he is a player of optimum quality. Not just playing but tasting victory against world class players is vastly impressive.
Going into the Champions League next season, the experience he’s gained and performances he’s put in for Croatia recently will fill the Celtic support with great optimism, and rightly so.
Stephen Welsh – Scotland u21s
Stephen Welsh played his final two games for the Scotland under 21’s recently as Scot Gemmill’s side battled to admirable draws away to both Belgium and Denmark.
Welsh was captain in both games and played the full ninety in each.
The Scotland under 21’s firstly faced Belgium in Sint-Truiden where a clean sheet and resultant goalless draw was achieved. Welsh was at the heart of the visitors’ defence for this and took up the same role five days later in Denmark.
1-1 was the score this time around as the twenty two year old capped off his youth career with the national team with a duo of fine results.
Matt O’Riley – Denmark u21s
After switching allegiances back in March, Matt O’Riley made his first few starts for the Denmark under 21s this summer.
The attacking midfielder played from the off in all of Denmark’s matches as they completed their under 21 Euros qualifying campaign, finishing second in Group I and thus earning a play off.
Against Kazakhstan in the first game of the international break, O’Riley had an almost instant impact as his pinged cross-field pass found Gustav Isaksen who curled into the top corner from range one minute in. His team would go on to win this one by three goals to nil with the twenty one year old being subbed off just after the hour mark.
O’Riley started again a few days later against Scotland in the 1-1 draw we spoke of previously. He faced Celtic teammate Stephen Welsh and came off with fourteen to play.
The midfielder’s third and final start of the summer internationals came against Turkey.
In a topsy-turvy tie which eventually resulted in a 3-2 win for the Danes, O’Riley got his side level seventeen minutes in. The ball broke to the midfielder on the edge of the eighteen yard box and he thundered into the bottom right corner with a formidable volley. It was his first goal for Denmark under 21’s and hopefully there will be many more to come for O’Riley.
Scoring one and assisting another in three appearances for Denmark under 21’s this summer makes for good reading for Matt O’Riley. Tom Rogic’s departure also means there will be further opportunities for the midfielder next year at Celtic, chances he is destined to take with the potential and class he’s disclosed of late.
It is fair to say this summer was a hugely prosperous one for those Celtic players who represented their national teams.
Goals were scored, assists were registered clean sheets were kept and world champions were slain across the world by Celts who carried their 2021/22 club form on to the international stage.
The players will now get a few weeks off before returning to Lennoxtown ahead of a 10 day pre-season trip to Austria at the beginning of July.