Football is getting back into full flow after a near non-existent break due to the impact of the COVID pandemic on the usual schedule. The Champions League concluded just 2-weeks ago and the Premier League and La Liga are already due to start this coming weekend. Before the players head back to their respective clubs and leagues there is the not so small matter of the Nations League.
This past weekend saw the first round of Nations League A fixtures get underway with a number of exciting fixtures. England faced off against Iceland and were looking for revenge for their round of 16 loss in EURO 2016. The fixture was fraught with ill-discipline as both sides had a man sent off. England managed a narrow win thanks to a Raheem Sterling 91st minute penalty. Not the ideal start for Gareth Southgates men but he was pleased with the 3 points and the character his team showed.
Arguably the most competitive fixture of the lot should have been Portugal vs Croatia but the Portguese were in no mood for a tight affair. They started the match as they would go on by blowing the Croatians out of the water 4-1. Even in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal’s high energy game play was far too much for the Croatians to handle on the night.
In the weekend’s other results, Kylian Mbappe scored the only goal of the match against Sweden to give France a narrow 1-0 win in Solna. Switzerland managed a 1-1 draw against Germany but it was not enough to stave off relegation to the Nations League B, as it was their 2nd fixture of the group. In yet another draw, Italy were held by Bosnia and Herzogovina thanks to a 2nd half goal by Edin Dzeko. Belgium eased past Denmark in Copenhagen, as Denayer and Dries Mertens got on the score sheet to make it 2-0. The Netherlands were also on the end of a narrow 1-0 victory over Poland in Amsterdam thanks to a Steven Bergwijn tap-in.
The Pick Of The Lot
The fixture of the weekend was undoubtedly Spain vs Ukraine. While on paper perhaps not the most appealing fixture of the matchday, Spain showed glimpses of their old selves. It was a comfortable run out for Luis Enrique’s men as they finished off Ukraine 4-0 with two goals from captain Sergio Ramos, Man City’s new boy Ferran Torres and the Barcelona wonderkid Ansu Fati. The night belonged to the young 17-year old from Barcelona as he not only became Spain’s youngest player in 84-years but also their youngest scorer in that time as well.
The future looks bright for the Spanish national team with talents like Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati coming through the ranks. And with a man like Luis Enrique at the helm there is real cause for optimism for Spanish fans that their side will find the form that won them a World Cup and the Euros in quick succession in 2010 and 2012.