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  • Chris Sobey

Football


The new UEFA Nations League format kicked-off this weekend and after their World Cup highs, England came down to earth with a bump at home to Wembley in Group 4 against Spain on Saturday night losing 2-1 to a far more organised, compact and technically skilful Spanish side. England started the game well and took the lead but were never really relaxed, confident and able to control the game enough to thwart Spain’s quick and intricate attacking threat. It was good to hear manager Southgate confirm he is going to continue with his current program of building, developing and training a young team that is technically sound and gifted enough to compete with the top-sides in the future, and while this might take a few years before we are winning tournaments, it’s a clear strategy that FA and Southgate are buying in to and is showing promise.

Elsewhere in the Nations League over the weekend, in League B Group 3 home nations Northern Ireland couldn’t thwart the threat of Bosnia and Herzegovina who won comfortably 2-1. the Nations league Group 2 clash between Switzerland and Iceland ended in broken hearts for the plucky Icelanders who were thrashed 6-0 in St Gallen and it looks like the Scandinavians heroic success at Euro 2016 was a flash in the pan.

On Sunday Wales brilliant start and excitement came down to earth with a bump yesterday as they were subdued by a disciplined Denmark side who ran out 2-0 winners. The Ukraine went top of UEFA Nations League B Group 1 after their second win in a few days this time, this time 1-0 against Slovakia at home in Lviv.

The UEFA Nations League action continues tonight and tomorrow and while England aren’t playing a second game, the big games in terms of quality and competitiveness are tonight’s league A Group 3 clash between Portugal and Italy Estadio da Luiz in Lisbon and this will be Italy’s second game after drawing with Poland on Friday, and Portugal’s first of the tournament. In league B Group Sweden may face a tough test against Turkey at home in their first game of the tournament and it’s a big match for both teams who need the three points, as Russia won their group opener 2-1 against Turkey on Friday.

Finally, in League C Group 1 home nations action involves Scotland, who open their campaign at Hampden Park against Albania tonight. Albania played their first game on Friday beating Israel 1-0 at home and Group 4 leaders Serbia will look to take control of their group by beating Romania, who drew their opener on Friday at home against ten man Montenegro, at the Stadion Partisan, Belgrade. On Tuesday the clash of the night looks to be between League A heavyweights Spain and 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia at the Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero (Elche). As this is a Croatia’s first game in the tournament and Spain have the advantage of winning a competitive game a few days ago, I think they’ll be sharper and more motivated against the Croatians and I see Spain winning 2-0 or 3-1.

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