Iwan Roberts: Farke's spot on over internationals

Norwich City and Finland striker Teemu Pukki

Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki continued his devastating form during the international break - but was, thankfully, spared a friendly appearance - Credit: PA

I like the old international break as it usually takes me all over Europe, working in different countries watching my beloved Wales play - but this last year, as we all know, has been so very different.

In the last few days I’ve been to the Cardiff City Stadium twice and the BBC studios in Cardiff city centre to cover our games against Belgium, Mexico and the Czech Republic - sadly there's been no jet setting all over the place for me.

The games against Belgium and the Czechs were our first in our World Cup qualifying campaign, so very important, but last Saturday night against Mexico was a meaningless friendly that we could have well done without! 

That's why I can totally understand Daniel Farke’s frustrations at what’s been asked of some of his players in the last week. I know there are international dates in the footballing calendar that have to be fulfilled, but to have three in the space of a week when we already have a shorter season packed with games is totally unacceptable and irresponsible from the powers that run the game. Sadly, once again, no common sense has been shown. 

I just look at all the Norwich lads who have been away on international duty and surely to put the Preston game back 24 hours would have been the sensible thing to do. I know it's a traditional thing playing on Good Friday, but just this once the fixtures could have been played the following day. Once again, sadly the people who run the EFL showed little empathy or common sense. 

Luckily, one man who showed quite a lot of common sense and care for his players' welfare was Finland’s manager Markku Kanerva, who left Teemu Pukki out of his starting line-up for their friendly against Switzerland on Wednesday night.

Teemu scored his 28th, 29th and 30th international goals for his country in their two World Cup qualifying games, against Bosnia-Herzegovina. and Ukraine, and didn’t need another game this week. He’s now scored five goals in his last four appearances for Finland, carrying on from his incredible form for his club. 

I think it's fair to say he enjoyed his visit to Kiev more than I did back in June, 2001, after he scored a last-minute equaliser to win his country a very valuable away point. Andriy Shevchenko has built a really good side since becoming Ukraine manager - they won their European qualifying group, which included European champions Portugal, conceding just four goals while doing so. Only Spain conceded fewer in qualification so it goes to show just how strong they are defensively. So for Teemu to score against them shows just how he’s at the very top of his game - and long may that continue. 

Iwan Roberts for Wales v Brazil

Iwan Roberts - complete with shirt - on duty for Wales - Credit: Huw Evans

Sadly I didn’t score in Wales' 1-1 draw there 20 years ago when I suffered possibly the most embarrassing moment in my professional career. Five minutes into the second half, big John Hartson went down injured so our manager, Mark Hughes, turned to me to get warmed up, which i gladly did. However, when I went to grab my Welsh shirt to put it on I couldn’t find it anywhere. It was nowhere to be seen and a look of panic came all over my face. I quickly realised that i must have left it in the changing room at half-time! No big deal, you're all thinking, but the changing rooms back then were outside the stadium, a five-minute walk away.

I swear I would have beaten Hucks in a 100m sprint the way i took off. I got there in a couple of minutes but to my horror the door was closed so I couldn’t get in. Fortunately for me there was a security guard on hand with keys to open the door after I’d sort of explained what I’d done in my broken Ukrainian! 

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I must have been away for nearly 10 minutes - fortunately for me upon my return the game was in full flow, big John was fine to carry on and Sparky Hughes had no idea of the ordeal I’d just put myself through! 

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