Isco emerges as Kane says goodbye to August: Five things we learned from World Cup Qualifying

With a host of international games taking place over the weekend, there are some key points you might have missed.

The qualifying picture across the world remains mostly unsolved, with only six nations having confirmed their place at the 2018 World Cup.

Joining the hosts, Russia, are CONMEBOL qualifying group winners Brazil, a revitalised nation under Tite’s guidance, Iran, Japan, Mexico and Belgium, after their staggering 9-0 win over Gibraltar on the weekend, followed up by a 2-1 victory over Euro 2004 winners Greece.

With the final picture beginning to take shape and only one round of qualifying fixtures to go, here are five things we learned from the international break.

  1. 1 England: Harry Kane really does hate August

    Barely a day out of August and Harry Kane is up and running for the season. Despite his best efforts, which saw him hit the woodwork twice in consecutive games against Newcastle and Chelsea, the 24-year-old is yet to open his Premier League account this season.

    No goals last month means the unfortunate record of failing to score in August throughout his career continues.

    However, Kane said goodbye August and hello September with a bang after two goals against Malta, to open and close the scoring in a routine 4-0 victory.

    His first was a cooly taken effort, set up by Tottenham teammate Dele Alli and the second came with the final kick of the game. He also set up Danny Welbeck for England's third of the game.

    He rescued England once again with his fourth goal in his last three international games.

  2. 2 Spain: Isco moves to the next level

    What a year that man Isco has had!

    After establishing himself as an important first team regular for Real Madrid, displacing Gareth Bale from the starting XI and ultimately causing the departure of James Rodriguez from the club, the next step was to transfer his impeccable club game to the international stage.

    Such is Spain's unfathomable quality, particularly in midfield, it proved to be a challenge, but Isco's performance in their 3-0 victory over Italy was remarkable.

    He wasn't included in the squad for Euro 2016, but very much asserted himself as a contender to start in Russia, helped by a well-taken brace against the Italians. They were the 12th and 13th goals Isco has been involved in during his last 15 games for both club and country.

    Let's not forget that this wasn't against some European minnow, but Italy, a historically impressive defensive nation. Isco made a mockery of seasoned internationals Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci with his fast feet and trickery.

    Finally emerging from the shadows, Isco is blossoming into one of Real Madrid and Spain's most important players. 

  3. 3 Belgium: The golden generation shine bright

    Questions were asked about the appointment of Roberto Martinez as Belgium national coach, especially after his failed stint at Everton, but current evidence suggests that he's more than holding his own thus far, presiding over the emergence of the golden generation.

    The Red Devils won both of their games over the break, but it was the 9-0 battering of Gibraltar that caught the eye, with Romelu Lukaku and right back Thomas Meunier each bagging a hat-trick.

    In fact, Lukaku's three goals leave him just five away from becoming Belgium's all-time top scorer... at the age of 24!

    PSG right back Meunier not only scored three times against the minnows, but assisted a further four goals in one of the most remarkable international performances.

    Eden Hazard also made his long-awaited return from injury with a goal and assist in a performance that displayed Belgium's attacking might.

    Martinez has a fantastic crop of players at his disposal and they'll be ones to watch in the World Cup after securing their place last weekend.

  4. 4 France: A tale of two nations

    We saw the best and worst of the French over the international break as they comfortably dispatched the Netherlands in a 4-0 victory on Thursday before labouring to a 0-0 draw with lowly Luxembourg on Sunday.

    The hosts had 76% possession, 34 shots and hit the woodwork twice as France failed to beat Luxembourg for the first time since 1914, a result branded "historic" by the visitors' manager.

    It was a French side featuring Kylian Mbappe, Thomas Lemar, who scored twice against the Dutch, Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann, but served as evidence of the work Didier Deschamps has to do prior to Russia.

    It's clear the talent is very much there, and they're capable of winning the World Cup outright with their youthful generation of stars, but there's a fine balance to be found and Deschamps has to establish a consistent formula in the months leading up to the tournament.

  5. 5 Wales: Ben Woodburn is the new prince

    With the game poised at 0-0 and Wales set to fall further behind Serbia and the Republic of Ireland at the top of Group D, Ben Woodburn announced himself on the international stage.

    Just seconds after the Welsh crowd finished their rendition of the national anthem, Woodburn scored with a wonderful long-range effort just four minutes after entering the fray for his international debut.

    His fierce 20-yard shot sent the packed Cardiff City Stadium into pandemonium and ensured Wales kept their faint World Cup hopes alive, leaving them four points off the top and two behind Ireland in second.

  1. POLL: Who had the best international performance over the break?

    1. Isco [SPAIN vs Italy]
    2. Thomas Meunier [BELGIUM vs Gibraltar]
    3. Ben Woodburn [WALES vs Austria]
    4. Romelu Lukaku [BELGIUM vs Gibraltar]
    5. Harry Kane [ENGLAND vs Malta]
    25 votes
    Share Your Result

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Oli Stein

Oli graduated from the University of Bristol with a degree in History and has worked with RealSport since September 2016.

Currently assistant football editor and Tottenham correspondent.

Follow him on Twitter: @steinoliver_