Newcastle United: World Cup Qualifying Roundup
With the Premier League taking a back seat this weekend, football’s focus switched to qualification for next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
And across the continents, no fewer than six Newcastle United stars were on international duty as the race for next summer’s showcase gathers pace.
While the likes of Yohan Cabaye and Tim Krul missed out on further caps for their countries, the Magpies were well represented both in Europe and Africa.
So with another round of matches to come in midweek, we take a close look at how the Toon’s contingent fared on the road to South America.
Shane Ferguson (Northern Ireland)
Shane Ferguson is no stranger to high-profile international fixtures, but on Friday night, one of world football’s biggest stars got the better of him and his Northern Ireland teammates.
Portugal were the visitors to Windsor Park, and while the home side admirably held their own for the first hour or so, the final third of the game belonged to Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Real Madrid superstar netted a hat-trick as Paulo Bento’s men ran out 4-2 winners, with Ferguson playing 76 minutes in his favoured left-back slot before being replaced by Chris Baird.
The 22-year-old, who is on a season-long loan with Birmingham City, will now be hoping for better luck on Tuesday as his side travels to Group F’s bottom club, Luxembourg.
Paul Dummett (Wales)
Despite Wales’ chances of landing a place at next year’s World Cup disappearing months ago, it was still a huge accolade for Paul Dummett to receive his first senior call-up.
The Newcastle-born youngster qualifies to play with Chris Coleman’s men via his father and capped a promising start to the domestic season with a place on the bench against Macedonia.
Though the 21-year-old was an unused substitute during the 2-1 defeat in Skopje, he was in good company, sitting alongside the world’s most expensive footballer, Gareth Bale.
And with another fixture to come against on Tuesday, the defender will be hoping his chance will come in Cardiff against Serbia.
Moussa Sissoko and Mathieu Debuchy (France)
It was a night of mixed fortunes for Newcastle duo Moussa Sissoko and Mathieu Debuchy against Georgia, where France failed to score for the fifth consecutive game.
Sissoko played the full 90 minutes in Tbilisi and gave a good account of himself in central midfield, while Debuchy remained on the bench alongside the likes Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri as an unused substitute.
The goalless draw severely dented France’s hopes of qualifying for next summer’s World Cup automatically.
And following Spain’s win over Finland on Friday, it looks increasingly like Didier Deschamps’ side will have to successfully navigate the playoffs if they are to make it to Brazil.
Cheick Tioté (Ivory Coast)
Though he hasn’t figured in any of Newcastle's previous three fixtures, Cheick Tioté started in central midfield for the Ivory Coast against Morocco on Saturday.
The 27-year-old picked up a yellow card early in the game and was eventually replaced in the 67th minute by Hannover forward Didier Ya Konan.
Morocco looked like they would snatch a win in Abidjan and went into the final stages ahead 1-0 thanks to Youssef El-Arabi’s second-half effort.
But a late Didier Drogba penalty levelled things up, and a draw meant The Elephants remained unbeaten in their qualifying group.
They must now wait to see who they’ll face in a two-legged tie later this year, with the winner progressing to the finals in Brazil.
Shola Ameobi (Nigeria)
After making his debut for Nigeria in a friendly against Venezuela in November, Newcastle’s Shola Ameobi finally made his competitive bow on Saturday.
With the Super Eagles 2-0 up against Malawi, the striker came off the bench in the 84th minute, replacing Emmanuel Emenike for the closing stages of the match.
Despite being on the field for such a short time, Ameobi was delighted to be part of the victory at the UJ Esuene Stadium in Calabar.
And in an interview with Sammy Wejinya from supersport.com, the 31-year-old said: “It is a thing of joy and honour. I want to thank the coach for giving me the opportunity of helping the Super Eagles.”