1 Pocket-sized Mathieu Valbuena should wear France's trousers
Released by Bordeaux as a youngster on the grounds that he was too small to make it as a footballer, Valbuena has been defying sceptics ever since. When he performs like did against Italy on Wednesday night, and after coming on against Spain to inspire's France's comeback last month, it seems extraordinary that the Marseille schemer has reached the age of 28 with only 18 caps. That's partially testament to the number of high-calibre playmakers that Les Bleus have had at their disposal but also to the persistent tendency to under-rate Valbuena, who has often not even been mentioned as a contender along with the likes of Yoann Gourcuff and Samir Nasri for the role of France's supreme conductor. Didier Deschamps gave him that role on Wednesday and he revelled in it, providing creativity within a typically dynamic Deschamps collective. He made a powerful claim to start in that role when the competitive games resume.
2 Socceroos have new bounce in their step
Australia's golden generation (yes, another one) is fading but the signs from Wednesday's 2-1 victory in South Korea is that a talented new wave is coming through. Sure, Korea did not select any of their Europe-based players for the friendly but visiting youngsters such as Ryan McGowan, James Holland and Tommy Oar all put in performances to strengthen the manager Holger Osieck's belief that they have sturdy foundations for the future. Oar looks especially promising, as exemplified by the 20-year-old Utrecht winger's wonderful pass for the goal by the similarly impressive Nikita Rukavytsya. Tomas Rogic, Aziz Behich, Eli Babalj and Matthew Leckie all made encouraging debuts too.
3 Shola Ameobi has made his mark on the world stage
Finally the Newcastle nuisance made his international debut for Nigeria at the age of 31 and he marked it by bothering Venezuela's defence, using his strength and astuteness to hold off a slew of defenders before slipping the ball to Ogenyi Onazi to cap a 3-1 win for the Super Eagles in Miami. The result did not reflect the balance of play as Venezuela, orchestrated by the still-nifty Juan Arango, outplayed Nigeria for long periods, but Stephen Keshi's side proved the superior finishers, with Brown Ideye, Obafemi Martins and debutant Bright Dike looking dangerous in an attacking trio before Ameobi's introduction. It would take something pretty special to keep Dike out of the headlines and such a thing arrived in the form of a splendid performance by Nosa Igiebor, the tricky and powerful 22-year-old Real Betis midfielder. After seeing team-mates miss a couple of chances that he created, Igiebor stomped forward and did this. Newcastle were grateful that Senegal's defeat means they will not lose Demba Ba and Pape Cissé during January's Africa Cup of Nations but it looks like they may have to cope without Ameobi – and Nigeria's opponents will certainly have their work cut out coping with Igiebor.
4 Joe Hart is not one of the best goalkeepers in the world
An excellent display to prevent Manchester City from being utterly humiliated by Borussia Dortmund was said by many to confirm that Joe Hart is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, if not the best. That was odd, given that in his previous Champions League outing he had blundered to give Real Madrid victory while, at the other end, Iker Casillas gallantly suppressed his laughter. Mistakes by Hart against Bayern Munich were one of the reasons City failed to get out of their Champions League group last term too, and of course, Wednesday's circus routine in Sweden came on the back of blunders against Switzerland and the one that allowed Poland to equalise against England last month. The Premier League has better goalkeepers than Hart – Petr Cech and Michel Vorm, for instance – and England may do too. Or maybe not. But Fraser Forster is certainly worth a closer look now.
5 There is cause for Irish hope …and despair
There's nothing new in questioning the reliability of figures coming out of Ireland and Greece so no one will be surprised that the official attendance of just over 20,000 for the friendly in Dublin seems a wild overestimate. Similarly, no one could be surprised as the sight of huge empty spaces in the ground, what with Giovanni Trapattoni failing to inspire any love for his team. Somewhere amid Greece's 1-0 win there was, at least, a hint at a possibly bright future for the Republic, as well, of course, as further reason for damning Trapattoni and his contrary ways. The best home player on the pitch was Seamus Coleman, who was ignored for the Euro 2012 squad, and when another long-time snubee, Wes Hoolahan, was given a belated introduction at half-time he showed the cohesive midfield play that has so often been absent for Trap's pap. Ciaran Clark also looked reasonably useful in central defence, though Ireland will still be hoping for a return to fitness of Richard Dunne, the Moscow version, before their next competitive outing … against Sweden in the newly christened Stadium Zlatan.
6 Northern Ireland could do with putting the win back in Windsor Park
Looking at the result from Belfast, a disappointing 1-1 draw with Azerbaijan undoing much of the optimism spawned by last month's heroic 1-1 draw in Portugal, it is tempting to adopt the tune of the Jam's That's Entertainment and croon "That's Northern Ireland, that's Northern Ireland". David Healy's first international goal for four years did at least salvage a late point for Michael O'Neill's team but that is hardly enough to make up for all the chances that his side squandered before that and, given that their previous home qualifier was a 1-1 draw with Luxembourg, hopes of reaching the World Cup look slim. Worse, hopes of finishing high enough in their group to improve their seeding for the next draw took a blow. Which is not to say they could not upset the odds in the rest of the campaign. For that, too, is Northern Ireland.
7 Romania rising?
Europe always seems brighter when there's a great Romania side around. We don't quite have one at the moment – as demonstrated by last month's 4-1 home defeat to Holland – but there are clear signs that the Land of Gheorghe Hagi is producing some decent players again. If you don't believe that, then ask Jan Vertonghen. Belgium's Tottenham defender was given the run-around by Romania's right winger Gabriel Torje, the like of which he has not been subject to in the Premier League. Torje, who has thrived at Granada this season while on loan from Udinese, was the main reason Romania were able to win 2-1 despite being outpassed for much of the game, and it was fitting that he scored the penalty that sealed victory. Romania are unlikely to beat Holland to the top of their World Cup qualifying group but could finish above Hungary and Turkey and prove awkward play-off opponents for someone.
8 Benteke is Belgium's number one No9
Belgium's main problem recently has been profligacy. An extremely talented team have frequently failed to get the results they deserve because of wayward finishing. Romelu Lukaku was again less than deadly but Christian Benteke was not: he took his goal well and, following similarly fine goals against Scotland and Serbia recently, the player who is starting to look like a canny recruit for Aston Villa seems to have nailed down his position as his country's number one No9.
9 Chelsea fans may or may not have enjoyed the mostly drab Brazil-Colombia friendly
Fans of David Luiz (and perhaps of Fernando Torres, if there are any left) will be happy to hear that the Chelsea defender kept Radamel Falcao quiet during the draw between Brazil and Colombia in New Jersey, aided, it must be said, by the ever vigilant Thiago Silva. Meanwhile, fans of John Terry (if there are any left) may be happy to hear that if Neymar ever moves to Stamford Bridge, their captain, leader and legend will now have a team-mate who has taken an even more embarrassing penalty kick.
10 The USA need Omar Gonzalez to fulfil his potential
The United States have completed a mostly positive season, with a sorry 0-0 draw in Canada being eclipsed by impressive and unprecedented friendly wins in Italy and Mexico. The 2-2 draw in Moscow was also a fine result, though the most notable feature was the superb goalkeeping of Tim Howard and the irrepressible fighting spirit of a side that were dominated for most of the game but still managed to scrounge a late equaliser. Jürgen Klinsmann was without several sure-starters, including Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, but the worry for him was that among the absentees there is no experienced player that looks capable of shoring up a brittle central defence. Stoke's Geoff Cameron badly needs a reliable partner and neither Carlos Bocanegra nor Clay Goodson fit that bill. Klinsmann said he would have called up Omar Gonzalez if he were not tied up with LA Galaxy: and when he does becomes available, the USA need the 24-year-old to reproduce his club form on the international stage.