Praia - Ever more national coaches are reverting to their tried and tested players when the going gets tough in international football.
This is evident in this weekend’s 2018 World Cup qualifiers as different coaches called up their forgotten big guns to rescue their sides.
It’s clear that World Cup qualifiers are no Mickey Mouse games, but require experience over experimenting. With the global tournament coming up once every four years, missing out is not an option for many mentors, who go back to their tested players to get the job done rather than throw inexperienced players into the deep end and see them possibly fail.
Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter raised a few eyebrows when he roped in 34-year-old veteran defender Morgan Gould for the match against Cape Verde.
The SuperSport United defender has not played for Bafana since 2013, when he helped them beat Central African Republic 2-0. He was written off last year after Kaizer Chiefs released him. But he has forced his way back into the national team setup after some good performances at United under Baxter.
Baxter said the two qualifiers against Cape Verde required mature players – there would be a time to groom young players, but not in the World Cup qualifiers.
Baxter used young players in the Cosafa tournament and the CAF African Nation Championship qualifiers. They came short of qualifying after falling at the last hurdle against Zambia.
Other countries have also brought back the big guns for the all-important qualifiers.
Veteran striker David Villa made a sensational return to the Spanish national team for the first time in three years after coach Julen Lopetegui recalled him.
The New York City FC striker, who made his international debut in 2005, last played for Spain at the Brazil 2014 World Cup. Lopetegui said he had been following the former Valencia and Barcelona star for some time after his impressive form in Major League Soccer.
Spain were to host Italy in a key World Cup qualifier at Real Madrid’s Estadio Santiago Bernabéu yesterday before visiting minnows Liechtenstein on Tuesday.
Netherlands coach Dick Advocaat also recalled Robin van Persie, hoping the striker can save some of his best efforts for crucial clashes against France and Bulgaria.
The 34-year-old Fenerbahçe forward played his 101st international in October 2015.
But it all started in March, when England coach Gareth Southgate surprisingly included ageing striker Jermain Defoe in the team for the World Cup qualifiers.
The 34-year-old former Sunderland attacker made his first England appearance since November 2013 and marked the occasion with the opening goal in their 2-0 win over Lithuania.