International Saints deliver positive display


International action continued for a quartet of Southampton players in both UEFA Euro 2024 and Africa Cup of Nations qualification.

Gavin Bazunu returned to action for Ireland as they kicked off their UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying campaign at Aviva Stadium.

It was a huge test for Stephen Kenny’s men, who faced FIFA World Cup 2022 runners-up France in their Group B opener. Bazunu was forced into action early on as he had to go full-stretch to deny Kolo Muani after just eight minutes of play.

The heroics didn’t stop there for Bazunu, who kept a clean sheet in a first half of football dominated by France but the barrier fell shortly after the break as Benjamin Pavard’s strike from 20-yards-out gave the visitors the advantage.

Despite relentless pressure from France, Bazunu stood firm throughout the course of the second half to ensure the deficit remained at one. A last-gasp headed effort from Nathan Collins nearly salvaged a point for Ireland but a critical save from Mike Maignan ensured France remained victorious despite a valiant performance.

In Group E, an important victory for Jan Bednarek and Poland, who bounced back from a 3-1 defeat to Czech Republic last time out to claim a 1-0 victory over Albania.

Another 90 minutes in the tank for Bednarek, who has become a mainstay in Fernando Santos’s side.

Kamaldeen Sulemana earned himself another start for Ghana as the Black Stars maintained their unbeaten run in the Africa Cup of Nations, being held to a 1-1 draw with Angola.

Lucas João gave the hosts the lead from the penalty spot upon 51 minutes at Estádio 11 de Novembro, but a crucial equaliser from Osman Bukari secured a vital point for Chris Hughton’s side.

Elsewhere in the AFCON qualifiers, Joe Aribo was introduced in the 61st minute for Nigeria Super Eagles in their 1-0 victory over Guinea Bissau, while Paul Onuachu was an unused substitute in the encounter.

Nigeria now sit top of Group A, two points clear of Guinea Bissau and with just two games left to play later this year in order to secure progression in the tournament.