France climbed to the top of the League A, Group 1 table in the Uefa Nations League this weekend thanks to their 2-1 win over the Netherlands. Les Bleus had a stale start to their campaign owing to a 0-0 draw against Germany, but they made amends this weekend with a fine performance against the Dutch. Olivier Giroud was a very active contributor in the Tricolores’ win. The bearded Frenchman now has 32 goals to his credit in the French jersey, one higher than national legend Zinedine Zidane.
League D saw the Faroe Islands triumph over Malta 3-1 to maintain a two-match winning streak. This marks a special moment for the small Danish colony since it is their first back to back win in 15 years! In the grand scheme of things, the UEFA Nations League’s main prize is a fast track qualification spot accorded to each one of the fours leagues’ winners. While it may seem like light years before the time comes to dispute those places, this run of form will be very encouraging for the Islanders. The Faroe Islands is by no means a star in the Euro. In fact, the best they have ever achieved in the competition is reaching the qualifying round. Inch by inch, yard by yard, they may well find themselves at the Euro.
Switzerland got the largest win of the weekend in a 6-0 demolition of Iceland. The Blagult systematically dismantled their opponents from the onset, and on the 13th minute, they drew first blood through Steven Zuber. Ten passion-filled minutes later, the men in red doubled their count. All seemed fairly calm at the end of the half with the score-line reading 2-0. The “sons” of Iceland looked set to recover in the second half, but they were met with a Swiss avalanche of goals from Xherdan Shaqiri, Haris Seferovic, Albian Ajeti and Admir Mehmedi.
England might have had a very successful World Cup outing but things did not look as rosy when they played Spain on Saturday. Of immediate concern to Gareth Southgate will be the absence of a dominant midfielder for his system to work. This has meant that their defence has had to bear the burden of being exposed whenever they lose the ball in midfield. They could not match the wit of Luka Modric in the World Cup semi-final and on Saturday they had Thiago Alcantara to deal with. Their woes were further compounded by the injury to Luke Shaw who suffered a concussion during the match and had to go back to his club for further assessment and treatment.
Italy did not make it to the World Cup and things are not looking better if their showing during the weekend is anything to go by. The Azzurri were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Poland over the weekend in Roberto Mancini’s first match as the head coach. This was a very lucky result for the Italians who had to rely on a late penalty from Jorginho to salvage a point. Piotr Zielinski had volleyed home a goal with five minutes before the break to hand the visitors a lead. For Mancini and his charges, it is time to go back to the drawing board and find a solution, especially in their attack.
Iceland will be eager to forget the happenings of the weekend after being thrashed 6-0 over the weekend by the hands of Switzerland. The small nation have been on an upward trajectory since Euro 2016 but the honeymoon seems to be over. They recently appointed Erik Hamren as the head coach and their situation was not helped by the absence of key players including their captain Aron Gunnarsson.