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    By: Mathew Newton on 11 Oct, 2017 15:03

  • A HOST of Celtic’s senior squad members were in action over the international break as the World Cup qualifiers entered the crunch stage.

    There was a mixture of elation and disappointment for the Bhoys on duty as they competed for a place in next year’s tournament in Russia.

    The Hoops had five players called up to the Scotland squad for their World Cup qualifiers against Slovakia and Slovenia.

    Craig Gordon, Leigh Griffiths, James Forrest and Kieran Tierney were all selected by former Celtic manager Gordon Strachan, with Scotland skipper Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong dropping out through injury. In-form midfielder Callum McGregor was drafted in as a late replacement for his Celtic team-mates.

    Four Celts started for the Scot in a 1-0 win over Slovakia, with Griffiths playing a pivotal role in the creation of the goal, setting up a crucial final group game away against Slovenia.

    Gordon, Griffiths and Tierney kept their starting places, with Forrest joining McGregor on the bench in Ljubljana.

    Griffiths put the Scots ahead on 32 minutes with a left-footed half-volley from a tight angle, his fourth goal in five international appearances, but two second-half goals from Roman Bezjak left Strachan’s men with too much to do despite a late goal from Robert Snodgrass.

    The draw left Scotland joint-second in Group F, but beaten to a play-off place by Slovakia on goal-difference.

    Mikael Lustig and Cristian Gamboa are on their way to Russia in 2018 after securing qualification with their respective countries.

    Lustig helped Sweden book a place, scoring in an 8-0 win over Luxembourg before playing the full game in a defeat to The Netherlands.

    Gamboa started in Costa Rica’s draw with Honduras to clinch qualification. The full-back missed out on the defeat to Panama four days later through suspension.

    Tom Rogic appeared as a substitute for Australia in the first-leg of their play-off against Syria, before starting in their victory in the second-leg. The Socceroos needed extra-time to beat Syria and will now play an Intercontinental play-off against Honduras for a spot in next year’s World Cup.

    Nir Bitton featured in Israel’s qualifier against Spain, coming on as a second-half substitute in a 1-0 defeat. Despite being called-up, Jonny Hayes did not feature for Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland side who booked a place in the World Cup play-offs with a 1-0 win over Wales in Cardiff.

    Also away with his national team was Dedryck Boyata. The defender was an unused substitute in Belgium’s victories over Bosnia & Herzegovina and Cyprus. His defensive partner Jozo Simunovic pulled out of the Bosnia squad due to injury while Eboue Kouassi also had to pull out of the Ivory Coast side who beat Mali in their World Cup qualifier.

    At youth level, Celtic were represented by Ross Doohan, Michael Johnston and Calvin Miller for Scotland Under-21s, with the missing Anthony Ralston withdrawing himself from the set-up due to injury.

    Moussa Dembele and Olivier Ntcham started in France Under-21s’ wins over Montenegro and Luxembourg and Kristoffer Ajer was the hero in Norway Under-21s’surprise 3-1 victory over Germany.

    The Hoops defender continued to play a pivotal role in the side after having his shoulder joint popped back into place during the match.

    Ajer also played the full 90 minutes in a goal-less draw in Dublin against Ireland. Finally, Conor Hazard was on the bench for Northern Ireland Under-21s’ qualifier against Estonia. 

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