Just as we are getting into the swing of things, players bedding in and domestic form starting to take place – Acca’s still losing, but that is another story – then all of a sudden – BAM – an international break is thrust upon us.

Love em or loathe em, international breaks are part of the fixture list and it gives us football folk an opportunity to come together as one and get behind our national side, to cheer on Gareth Southgate and his merry men to get us to Russia and end our ongoing national embarrassment at major tournaments.

The frustrations felt by supporters on international breaks can be mirrored in some of the players, who have featured for their country whilst enjoying fantastic Chelsea careers; some of our greatest ever players have not endured the best of times whilst playing for their countries – some more successful than others.

It also gives Hall of Fame the opportunity to look back at a few of the 207 players – 48 different nationalities* – capped by their country whilst playing in the blue of Chelsea.

Frank Lampard – England – Caps won whilst at Chelsea – 104 – International goals 29

The terms legend and world class are thrown around to frivolously in modern football, however, these two words sum up perfectly what Frank Lampard OBE is and means to Chelsea Football Club both on and off the pitch, to sum up what he achieved in his time at Stamford Bridge would require column inches so long it does not bear thinking about (a future column maybe) – what he achieved with his country, like many of his international team mates was a little less than convincing.

Frank Lampard, with Chelsea team mates Ashley Cole and John Terry, were part of the so called ‘Golden Generation’, along with Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Gary Neville and David Beckham who were expected to end our long wait for international success. Sadly as talented and as decorated with domestic honours as they were, they did not fulfil their potential on the international stage; the year on year debate of whether Lampard and Gerrard could play together in midfield seemed to dominate every England international and tournament the two featured in – a debate BT Sport have now ended with Lampard joining Gerrard as part of their punditry team.

Lampard was capped at youth level for his country before progressing to the Under 21’s where he made his debut against Greece in November 1997, Lampard played for the Under 21’s until June 2000 earning 19 Caps and scored nine goals to boot.

Having made his senior debut in 1999 in a 2-1 win over Belgium, Lampard’s England career became a stop-start affair until scoring his first international goal, coming in a 3-1 victory over Croatia at Portman Road in 2003.
Domestic form made it impossible for Sven Goran Eriksson to ignore and so it began a long and illustrious career with the national side.

Having been overlooked for Euro 2000 and the World Cup in Japan in 2002, Lampard was hell bent on impressing when he got selected for the Euro 2004 squad. Lampard scored three goals in four games which included the opener against France and an injury time equaliser against Portugal, the emergence of Wayne Rooney on the international scene somewhat overshadowed his contribution to the cause in the eyes of the British media – not UEFA however as he was named in the Team of the Tournament.

At the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Lampard suffered penalty heart-ache like many of the English counterparts before him when he, as well as Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, missed their spot kicks as England departed in another Quarter Final exit at the hands of Portugal. Lampard played every minute of the tournament yet did not get himself on the scoresheet.

Having not qualified for Euro 2008, England yet again went with a foreign manager, this time in the shape of Fabio Capello. England sailed through the qualifiers and there was a confident mood throughout the country as England left for South Africa, sadly the team didn’t perform to expectations, England stumbled through the group stage finishing runners up to the USA to set up a last 16 gamer against arch rivals Germany. England were completely outclassed losing 4-1, Lampard did leave his mark on the match, with a goal that did not stand, a goal (or not in the referee’s opinion) changed a piece of modern football for the better.

At 2-1 Lampard struck a shot from outside the penalty area, the ball beat German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, hit the under side of the bar, went over the line but bounced back out – as the players celebrated the referee ruled that the goal did not count and play continued to everyone’s disbelief – except the Germans of course. As a result of the goal that wasn’t given, FIFA introduced Goal line technology, which is now in place in every domestic league and international competition.

Further disappointment continued as England again flopped at Euro 2012, and exited the World Cup in Brazil barely before the tournament had begun, finishing bottom of a group which included Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica.

Following the 2014 World Cup, Frank Lampard announced his international retirement on 26th August 2014 – finishing up with 108 caps and 29 goals – becoming only the eighth English player to earn over 100 caps.

Frank Leboeuf – France – Caps won whilst at Chelsea – 32 – International goals 2

Frank Leboeuf was a defender who had everything – so much so that as a youngster, John Terry would finish training with the youth team and rush to catch the last pieces of first team training just to watch and learn to see how Leboeuf would defend, try to mimic his range of passing to add it to his game – the young John Terry was in awe.

Sadly for Frank Leboeuf – French national managers didn’t quite form the same opinion, mainly as there was a fantastic crop of French defenders who stood in his way such as Laurent Blanc and Marcel Desailly.

Leboeuf proved a more than able deputy when called upon, no greater example than of the 1998 World Cup Final in the Stade De France.
Having seen Laurent Blanc wrongly sent off in the semi final win over Croatia, Leboeuf was drafted in for the final against World Cup holders Brazil and was handed the unenviable task of man marking arguably the world’s best player at the time – Ronaldo.

Rumours before the final had been circulating that Ronaldo was omitted from the starting line up due to fitness issues – it has been confirmed since that Ronaldo had suffered a convulsive fit, Ronaldo pleaded to Mario Zagallo that he was okay to play, when in truth he was anything but. Despite these issues Frank Leboeuf put in an almost flawless display, man marking Ronaldo within an inch of his life, not allowing him to do any other his trademark runs and use his explosive pace. Other than Zinedine Zidane, Frank Leboeuf was the best player on the pitch.

Frank Leboeuf received a medal for being part of the squad that backed up that World Cup win by winning Euro 2000, Leboeuf also featured for France in their shambolic defence of their title in the World Cup in 2002. Leboeuf retired from international football in 2002 after the World Cup, it can be highlighted from the prestigious players who played in front of him in his position, had it not been for them Leboeuf would have earned double the number of caps that he won.

Gianfranco Zola – Italy – Caps won whilst at Chelsea – 9 – International goals 3

To say Gianfranco Zola had a frustrating international career was putting it mildly – Zola made his debut for the Italian national team – The Azzurri – under legendary manager Arrigo Sacchi in 1991 at the ripe age of 25; this due, as with Frank Leboeuf, Italy being spoiled for choice over the years with an embarrassment of riches in Zola’s position, players such as Roberto Baggio, Giuseppe Signori, Alessandro Del Piero, Francesco Totti, Christian Vieri, Gianluca Vialli and Fabrizio Ravenelli to name but a few.

Zola was selected for the 1994 World Cup, only making one substitute appearance, controversially sent off after just twelve minutes following a foul on Nigerian defender Augustine Eguavoen which forced him to miss the two subsequent matches – in his absence Italy reached the final and Zola would not regain his place; ironically one player who stood in his way back in the team, Roberto Baggio, missed a spot kick in the final which gifted Brazil victory.

His first two international goals came in European Championship qualifying against Estonia in 1995.

Zola was again selected for his country in a major tournament, this time for Euro ’96 held in England, which would become the Italian’s spiritual home.
At the tournament, Zola started all three group games – however, the heartache that followed Zola whilst with the Azzurri struck again; In the final do or die group game against Germany, Zola missed a potential match winning penalty as the Italians fell at the group stage and were eliminated – had Zola scored, it would have allowed Italy to progress to the Quarter Finals.

Some joy was to the follow, however, as he scored the only goal in a historic qualifying victory at Wembley against England during qualification for the 1998 World Cup finals – Zola won his final international cap in the reverse fixture in Rome where a 0-0 draw saw England through and the Italians needing a play off win to secure a ticket to France.

Peter Bonetti – England – Caps won whilst with Chelsea – 7 – International Clean sheets 5

Peter Bonetti was a fantastic goalkeeper – brave, consistent and agile, thus earning him the nickname the ‘cat’ and but for Gordon Banks, Bonetti would have earned far more than the seven caps that he was afforded. But sadly for Bonetti, his international career will be remembered for one fatal game – 14th June 1970 – England 2-3 West Germany.

Despite England storming into a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Alan Mullery and Martin Peters, the Germans soon found a foothold in the game, with the searing heat and tired legs, the game began to swing the German’s way; Franz Beckenbauer scored with a low and hard strike which arguably Bonetti could have done better with – a goal which Bonetti apologised for – the goals which England conceded after Der Kaiser’s strike cannot be blamed solely at Bonetti’s feet, he may not have had his finest moment but then again neither did England’s defence. This match proved to be Peter Bonetti’s last game at international level.

Prior to this match, Bonetti’s England career had been impeccable, keeping clean sheets in five of the six games he played – selected for the 1966 World Cup squad, Bonetti never played a game in the finals. Before Petr Cech’s arrival at Stamford Bridge, Bonetti deservedly held the status as the club’s greatest ever goalkeeper.

So international greatness may not be afforded to some of the players featured, their status as club legends, however, will never be in doubt, they will go down in history as some of the greatest ever players to have graced Stamford Bridge.

So while England are trying to get to another tournament; where we can all drape the flags out of windows and gather together, as we suffer the same old feelings of despair, joy and some more despair chucked in for good measure, the mind, no matter how much we try will always drift off to domestic matters at hand.

Only a few more days to go.

*Statistics accurate as of August 2016*