Bayern Munich fans watching the international break probably have to untie the knots in their stomach due to the events that played out. The international break certainly brought the most discomfort of ones in recent seasons, but there were some positive parts to extract out of the sea of calamity. Here are the top performances from the March international break:
1. David Alaba, Austria
Alaba had a more eventful international break than the other Bayern players combined. Instead of focusing on the negative – a certain knee injury that could knock him out for the rest of the season – the positive is what made him the top performer. Austria was clinical against Liechtenstein, and it was Alaba pulling the strings to get the goal chances a flowing. He did shank a penalty, but realigned that stroke on an impressive goal from outside the box. He performed so well, it is a shame he will not be able to translate that sterling form for at least a month and a half.
2. Thomas Müller, Germany
He did exactly what Germany needed him to do once again, although this time he had a little more help. Georgia did not give Germany a lot of space to work with, but as Müller has for club and country, he still manage to manufacture chances in the penalty area. He was able to finish one of them too, becoming the only other Bayern player to score over the international break.
3. Juan Bernat, Spain
As expected, Vicente Del Bosque selected Jordi Alba for Spain's qualifier against Ukraine, but the Spain manager gave Bernat a whole shift against the Netherlands. He was certainly a bright spot of a defense that surrendered free headers and left late runners unmarked. The left flank was his responsibility, and he had to bomb forward to provide Spain with width and track back in time to support the defense. He did not have a flashy goal or pick out a spectacular pass, but he did a lot of dirty work many on the field were not willing to do.
4. Mehdi Benatia, Morocco
A 0-1 defeat is not the result he wanted to get in his country's colors, but Benatia was a forceful presence on the field nonetheless. Evidently the best player on his team, Benatia had to shut down the best player on Uruguay's team, Edinson Cavani. Every run that came his way, whether it was Cavani or Jonathan Rodriguez, Benatia was there to close it down. He also set up perhaps the best chance of the match as well, launching the ball into space for Omar El Kaddouri. He certainly looks fit again for regular club action again, an imposing presence Guardiola now has at his disposal.
5. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany
In a World Cup reunion, Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos filtered the ball through midfield in Germany's match against Georgia, the two by far getting the most touches in the match. However, it was Schweinsteiger who was orchestrating more of the chances forward, while also tracking back to help handle Georgia's few chances. He is certainly like the Schweinsteiger of old before his injury troubles, and while he did not set up an emphatic scoring chance, his presence in midfield was clearly noticeable.
Rounding Up the Rest
Holger Badstuber played just a half in his much-anticipated return to national colors, but the chemistry between him and his defensive comrades were not quite right in Germany's friendly against Australia. Mario Götze was one of two German players to start in both the Australia friendly and the Georgia qualifier, drawing attention as a center forward that opened up space for his mates. Jérôme Boateng and Manuel Neuer were both on the Germany team sheet for the Georgia qualifier, serving as custodians in a clean sheet performance.
The other qualifier of note was the 1-1 draw between Poland and the Republic of Ireland, one Robert Lewandowski could not get on the scoresheet in. His performance was lethargic, a complement considering the showing the rest of the Polish players had. He was left alone frequently to fend for himself against a driven Ireland team, and occasionally had to track back to build up the play himself.
At the youth level, Gianluca Gaudino and Marco Hingerl both made an appearance in Germany U19's Euro qualifiers. Gaudino got a full cap against Republic of Ireland U19, playing as a defensive midfielder alongside his role competition Max Christiansen, as well as a substitute appearance against Slovakia U19. Hunger got a cup of tea in comparison, getting a quick quarter-of-an-hour in replacement for Devante Parker once the match against Czech Republic U19.