Darwin Nunez inherited Luis Suarez’s No. 9 shirt and shone in his first game for Marcelo Bielsa, as Uruguay beat Chile 3-1 in a World Cup qualifier.
Nunez headed into this international break in the knowledge that, with Suarez and Edinson Cavani both left out, he was the main man for Bielsa.
The legendary Uruguay manager, appointed in May following spells with Athletic Club, Marseille, Lille and Leeds at club level, sought one-on-one sessions with the Liverpool striker prior to their meeting.
“Some things he thinks can be better,” Nunez explained last month of their Zoom calls. “He corrects me.”
Friday night brought the 24-year-old’s debut for his new national team manager, and it resulted in an outstanding display against Chile.
Per FotMob, Nunez only touched the ball 35 times in 73 minutes, completing just eight of his 15 attempted passes, which could suggest a peripheral night.
But he was central to everything going forward for Uruguay before his substitution midway through the second half, including two assists.
He fired six shots on goal, twice denied by Chile goalkeeper Brayan Cortes, was successful with all three of his attempted dribbles – a match-high tally – and won five of his six ground duels.
His assists were both impressive: the first a quick one-two in a tight area which saw Nicolas de la Cruz fire home; his second seeing him beat his marker to the byline and cut back for De la Cruz’s brace.
It came on an otherwise largely quiet night for Liverpool’s internationals, with Alisson unused as Brazil beat Bolivia 5-1 in their World Cup qualifier.
Spain U21s’ 6-0 thrashing of Malta saw Stefan Bajetic play his first minutes in six months, coming off the bench at centre-back.
Jayden Danns played 20 minutes for England U21s in their 4-0 loss to Japan at Tournoi International, while Lewis Koumas wasn’t involved as Wales U19s lost 1-0 to Finland at the Jari Litmanen Arena.