by Rossa McDermott
Late into the night Brazilian goal scorer Robinho arrived back to the team hotel near Maynooth after a deserved victory over the Republic of Ireland at Croke Park. With a flight back to Madrid completed on Thursday morning with the two other Brazilians at Real Madrid, Baptista and Marcelo, all arrived back from Dublin in time for the afternoon training session.
They all completed some recuperation exercises along with the other ten players who had returned from international duty.
For Robinho though it was progress down the bumpy road of football having arrived in 2006 to Europe from Brazil heralded as the next “great thing” with comparisons made to other Brazilians – Romario, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho. With the burden of expectation weighing him down in his first season in Real Madrid he is slowly fulfilling that promise that attracted so much attention when he was at Pele’s old club, Santos.
That 67 minute goal at Croke Park that beat Shay Given clearly showed the ability and potential of the 24 year old Brazilian winger.
Meanwhile back from Holland duties unscathed were Ruud van Nistelrooy, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder who were 3-0 winner’s away win to Croatia. It was a performance that attracted much praise from their manager Marco van Basten afterwards, who had surprisingly recalled former Real Madrid midfielder Clarence Seedorf for the week.
For the 2006 World Cup winning captain, Fabio Cannavaro, there was a happy homecoming too after Italy had a convincing 3-1 win over Portugal in Zurich.
The two Spanish internationals Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas were part of a 1-0 victory in Malaga over a Raymond Domenech French selection and returned injury free. Liverpool striker Fernando Torres though will be out for ten days having picked up a knock and will miss the weekend tie against Chelsea.
For all now the focus will be on Real Madrid’s chase for the League and defending an unbeaten home record that has lasted for over a year. On Sunday they take on Valladolid at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Before the break last week the club dropped their first three points in an eight game run by losing 2-0 to Almeria.
Barcelona on the other hand face Sevilla away and are without Zambrotta who returned from Italy duty with an injury that rules him out of the weekend game. Although Ronaldinho is back in training it is not clear whether he will play and Lionel Messi returned from the United States, where Argentina played an international friendly, fit and healthy
Former Manchester United defender Gabriel Heinze was out of action for Argentina as he too was recovering from injury in Madrid
Cristoph Metzelder had little joy and there was little celebration of Germany's 3-0 victory over EURO 2008 hosts in Vienna as his prolonged foot injury may now require an operation and he spent the week with the Real Madrid medical team.
For Robinho though Sunday the news remains good as he will get another chance to do what Brazilian forwards love to do - torment defenders.