At the time of writing (lunchtime on Tuesday), there are still nine internationals to be played in what are now being referred to as the European Qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup.
By the end of the round of fixtures, it looks like we’ll be left with a total of three countries, of the 54 in action, to have begun the game with their team numbered 1-11 – England, the Netherlands and Scotland. Even Gibraltar and the newly-formed Kosovo had squad numbers.
England stick to the origins, and, while Scotland’s system isn’t the most perfect, they still deserve kudos for not buckling.
We have doffed our hats to the Netherlands in the past, of course, and while all the rest of Tuesday’s participants are listed by squad number on the UEFA site, the Dutch players have zeroes next to their names.
Of the other nations, Denmark and Wales (who have form, to be fair) came closest, starting with nine 1-11 players:
It was also interesting to note a reassignment of some numbers in the wake of retirements. Mesut Ozil is now the Germany number 10 after Lukas Podolski’s departure – apparently he wants it at Arsenal too – while the Republic of Ireland have replaced one Robbie with another at 10.
Robbie Keane signed off with a goal in the friendly against Oman last week and for the game with Serbia last night, Robbie Brady inherited it, having previously been associated with 19. Brady played in midfield in the 2-2 draw but has played most often at left-back in recent times. We have to say, we’re feeling a bit nervous.
Elsewhere, all of the Premier League squad numbers have been finalised, following the closing of the transfer window.
Of the 220 available 1-11 numbers, 24 – or just under 11 percent – are empty.
Liverpool are the worst offenders, leaving 4, 8 and 9 vacant. Obviously, Steven Gerrard’s old number is still seen as a heavy burden which can’t be given to just anyone, but surely Ragnar Klavan – who wore 5 at Augsburg – could have taken the 4 freed up by Kolo Touré’s departure, rather than 17?
Daniel Sturridge was offered number 9 before Christian Benteke came but turned it down. Speaking of players who have left Liverpool on loan, Lazar Markovic isn’t wearing 50 anymore:
Bournemouth, Hull City, Leicester City, Middlesbrough and Southampton have allocated all of the numbers from 1-11. The most unused number is 2, which isn’t used at Everton, either of the Manchester clubs or Watford.
Séamus Coleman could have taken 2 – which he wears for Ireland – when Tony Hibbert retired but has stuck with 23, while Matteo Darmian opted for 36 upon arrival at Manchester United and remains there (he does wear 4 for Italy).
Man City have two right-backs – Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta – in their numerical first 11 but they wear 3 and 5 respectively. John Stones picked 24 rather than taking 2.
Tottenham, whose first-choice team wasn’t far off 1-11 last season, have 6 and 8 free, with Eric Dier and Dele Alli opting to keep their 15 and 20 respectively. Moussa Sissoko wouldn’t have been a bad fit at 8 but will wear 17, having been 7 at Newcastle United.