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Inaki and Nico Williams, brothers on different national teams, make history for Athletic Club

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Inaki and Nico Williams made history in the Spanish top flight when both found the net in Athletic Club‘s come-from-behind 3-2 victory against Rayo Vallecano — the first brothers to do so in 17 years — although they appear to be on course to represent different nations at the World Cup in Qatar.

In the Premier League, Alex Iwobi delivered perhaps his best Everton performance as they downed West Ham United, while Sadio Mane‘s fine early form in the Bundesliga continues to desert him.

The Williams brothers are both enjoying a rollercoaster start to the new season, and, after both found the net at the weekend, will each be hoping to end 2022 at the World Cup in Qatar.

The duo made LaLiga history on Saturday, when they became the first pair of brothers to score in the same top flight-match since Diego and Gaby Milito scored for Real Zaragoza against Barcelona in 2005.

The goals were enough to help the Bilbao side bounce back from a goal down to defeat Rayo and head into the international break inside the top four.

For Basque-born Inaki Williams, his goal was the highlight of his 239th consecutive outing in LaLiga — a record-extending match in a six-and-a-half-year run that had appeared to be in jeopardy when he picked up a muscle injury earlier in the season.

However, his goal sets him in good stead for his first international window with Ghana, having committed himself to the Black Stars earlier this year — six years after making his only appearance for Spain.

His younger brother Nico scored his first senior goal the weekend before — when Athletic smashed Elche away — and he followed that up with a delightful effort against Rayo.

The 20-year-old has established himself as one of the brightest youngsters in the Spanish top flight this season, and La Roja promptly wasted no time in including him in their squad for the coming Nations League games against Switzerland and Portugal.

Williams’ call-up predictably prompted accusations that Spain called him up only as a way of blocking him from turning out for Ghana in the future.

“I’m not doing this to stop [Nico] going with Ghana; he’s young and a very interesting player,” Spain coach Luis Enrique said. “He’s playing more often with Athletic now, and is progressing wonderfully.

“I like him enormously. We’ve had him in the junior squad and have been following him for a long time. I reckon the family will be delighted: Imagine the party if they both go to the World Cup… and they reach the final; well, that would be the absolute business.”

Only time will tell if Nico, the more skilful and technically adroit of the pair, can enjoy a more successful Spain career than his one-cap sibling.

The timing does appear ‘convenient’, and the case of Adama Traore ought to serve as a note of caution, as the Wolverhampton Wanderers winger was fast-tracked to the Spain squad after hinting he was intending to represent Mali; the wideman has made just eight outings for La Roja, and none since Sept. 2021.

Teammates at Athletic, the brothers will now go their separate ways for the international break, with both potentially in line to make their international debuts — a second in Inaki’s case — within the space of a few days.

Mohammed Kudus has been one of Africa’s standout performers across Europe’s biggest leagues this season, and he continued his magnificent start to the campaign with another goal in the Eredivisie at the weekend.

The midfielder — soon to be Inaki’s new teammate with the Black Stars — opened the scoring for Ajax Amsterdam away at AZ Alkmaar, and he has had a hand in seven goals in his past five games.

However, he wasn’t able to inspire Ajax to another victory, as their undefeated streak in the Eredivisie came to an end with a 2-1 defeat.

The loss saw Ajax slip from top spot on the ladder, but Kudus’s form ought to end talk of lingering discontent in Amsterdam after failing to secure a move to Everton on transfer deadline day.

Kudus will now turn his attention to the international break, and Ghana’s World Cup preparation against Brazil.

Iwobi may not be heading to the World Cup, but the Nigeria midfielder is certainly coming into form as Everton continue to establish their new identity under Frank Lampard.

The ex-Arsenal man has been one of the most improved players during Lampard’s tenure at Goodison Park, finding the consistency and confidence that were absent during his first three seasons on Merseyside.

Iwobi was imperious as Everton defeated West Ham United 1-0 on Sunday, with his assist for Neal Maupay‘s winner the highlight of a magnificent all-round display.

Now settled on the left side of Lampard’s midfield three, Iwobi’s interplay with Anthony Gordon is a key asset in the Toffees’ arsenal, while he knows increasingly when to tuck in and allow the dynamic Vitalii Mykolenko to overlap from left-back.

Iwobi created two goalscoring opportunities during the match — only Jarrod Bowen managed more — and only Vladimir Coufal registered more touches than the Nigerian.

Having seen more of the ball than any other Everton player, it’s clear that Iwobi is central to the Toffees’ approach, and they’re unlikely to regret allowing Andre Gomes to depart on loan for Lille.

No player on the pitch beat their man more than Iwobi, although his increased output going forward hasn’t taken away from the defensive contribution and disciplined running that have (just about) helped him keep Everton fans on side.

He made four significant defensive contributions against West Ham, and, on recent evidence, he may yet realise the immense potential that he displayed during those early years at Arsenal.

Senegal international Idrissa Gueye, meanwhile, made his second debut for Everton after signing from Paris Saint-Germain, and the security he brings to the midfield should help the likes of Iwobi and Amadou Onana make more impact in the final third.

In contrast to Iwobi, Mane appears no closer to rediscovering the form he demonstrated earlier in the career.

The Senegal international began life at Bayern Munich with four goals in his opening four matches, but the reigning African Footballer of the Year has lost his mojo as Bayern have lost their way: Mane has scored just once in seven matches since bagging a brace in the 7-0 demolition of Bochum in late August — in the German Cup triumph over lowly Viktoria Koln.

Ex-Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann, speaking ahead of the weekend’s clash, questioned whether Mane was being used correctly by Bayern boss Julian Nagelsmann.

“He’s not integrated,” he told GMX. “I saw him at Liverpool, where he played through the middle, but that’s not his position. Now he’s taking that position at Bayern as well.

“He’s at his best when he comes from the outside; he doesn’t look happy to me.

“He seems isolated and hardly takes part in the game. Bayern have to get a grip on that.”

Mane isn’t a stranger to goal droughts; he went more than 13-and-a-half hours without scoring for Liverpool before striking against Chelsea in January, and he will hope to rediscover his scoring boots when Senegal face Bolivia on Saturday.

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