The rise of the UEFA Nations League


As the finals of the UEFA Nations League took place on Sunday in the beautiful city of Porto, between the home country Portugal and Netherlands, majority of football supporters will look back at the contest and will wonder what the actual strengths and positives are of the competition.

To start off with, the lively challenge and crucial thrill has been instantly injected into when the international break arrives, rather than the usual pointless friendly matches that take place here and there. Because of these futile games, a large number of well-known players feel their hunger for success and concentration decreases during the 10 to 14 days they spend in another environment.

Now, looking back at the UEFA Nations League from a fans point of view, it can easily be stated that the tournament is closely watched and followed by nearly everyone as the manager as well as the players have began to take it serious.  The winners receive a trophy as the prize award and another chance to qualify for the 2020 European Championships should they fail to do so through the qualifiers.

Given that the chances of winning either the Euros or the World Cup are very little for the countries outside of the top ten teams, this short competition will allows the likes of Croatia, Denmark and Serbia to potentially be successful in the long run. Not only that, both the players and the managers from these respective countries would receive more recognition going into the major tournaments.

Thanks to this incredible format, the supporters of the beautiful sport of football had the chance to see Netherlands overcoming France and Germany, England dominating Spain and having revenge on Croatia as well as both Portugal and Switzerland magically making it through their respective groups. On that note, there shouldn’t really be any issues or queries that downfalls this entertaining system.

Digging more into it, the system has been organised by four leagues and where they are placed separately by their current world rankings, with the motivation and inspiration being to reach League A before heading onto the knockout stages of the competition. The winners of the league move up a level, on the other hand, those who finish at the bottom are relegated to the tier below.

When reviewing it from the UEFA’s prescriptive, they have turned the friendly matches into a more meaningful list of fixtures, which gives the governing body of European football a better reputation for what they stand out for. And financially, the Union of European Football Associations can make a huge amount from the contest compared to making nothing at all from the international friendlies.

Overall, with how straightforward and effective the Nations League has been, it would not be a surprise to see a similar setup for the international football countries that are based in Asia and South America. If it was to end up happening, all the parties would see it as a win-win outcome, from the people making the decisions off the pitch to the supporters watching it live or at home.

How did Tottenham’s stars get on in the international break?


The international break is coming to an end. A period which always frightens fans across their world, the fear of a potential injury to one of your key players is never a good feeling. So how did the Spurs contingent get on over the break?

Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Kieran Trippier (England 1-2 Spain)

The quartet appeared in England’s 2-1 defeat to Spain in what was England’s first game back since their impressive World Cup. So how did the Spurs players get on?

Harry Kane 

The Spurs star forward is usually seen as the talisman in the England side as he is for Spurs however he endured a largely anonymous performance against Spain. Kane provided a few good balls in to the feet of the likes of Rashford when coming deep however other than some half-chances at set-pieces the Spurs talisman couldn’t really get himself in to the game. 6/10

Dele Alli

Like Harry Kane, Dele Alli started England’s first game back since the World Cup. It was an energetic performance from Alli but perhaps not much more. He found himself in some good positions on a few occasions but lacked the final ball much like his England team-mates on the night. 6/10

Kieran Trippier

Tripper was another Spurs man who started in the defeat to Spain. Trippier was one of England’s best performers at the World Cup with his free-kick against Croatia remaining one of the stand-out moments in the tournament. However, Trippier didn’t quite look himself against Spain. He struggled to get forward and was rash with his challenges on quite a few occasions. A lackluster night from the usually ever reliable Kieran Trippier. 6/10

Eric Dier

Eric Dier came on as a second-half substitute for Jordan Henderson. Dier didn’t really do too much wrong or right for that matter after he came on, was a victim of England’s ever losing battle in the midfield. Isco and co can have that effect on anyone. 5/10

Moussa Dembele, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld(Scotland 0-4 Belgium) 

Moussa Dembele

Dembele played a good part in Belgium’s emphatic win at Hampton Park. Winning the ball back in the lead up to Lukaku’s opener as well as his composed solid performance in the midfield won’t be of any surprise to Spurs fans. 7/10

Jan Vertonghen 

Belgium didn’t have too much to do defensively to their credit. However, as always Vertonghen looked in complete control whenever he was called upon and was impressive as always on the ball. 7/10

Toby Alderweireld

Unused substitute. 

Christian Eriksen (Denmark 2-0 Wales)

Eriksen was at his lethal best as Denmark saw off Ryan Giggs’ Wales. 2 goals from the Spurs star was enough to seal the win. One coming from the penalty spot and the other a tidy low drive in to the corner. A good night’s work from the Tottenham man.

The good news for Spurs fans is that there doesn’t seem to be any injury worries so far. Victor Wanyama has had to pull out of the Kenya squad however other than Wanyama it seems the Spurs men have survived the international break, so far….

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England v Scotland set to go head to head in a footballing rivalry unmatched


This Friday old foes England and Scotland will play each other at Wembley Stadium in their World Cup qualifier match in front of a sell out crowd. The match will mark the 113th time that the two nations has met on a football field. England have 47 wins, Scotland 41 and there have been 24 draws.

As current standings go in Group F for qualification to Russia 2018 England are in pole position with 7 points though any points dropped here could let in Lithuania or Slovenia, indeed if Scotland were to win this match they would go level on points with England.

The Scottish are aiming to qualify for their first major championships since the 1998 World Cup which was held in France. But first they must meet the old enemy. Whilst both nations have arguably had better sides throughout their glorious past as soon as the players arrive on the pitch and the game gets going the atmosphere within the stadium is sure to be electric.

This fixture has history written all over it, for example the very first international football game was England v Scotland which was played in 1870 and ended 1-1. Then of course there are the infamous matches which took place throughout the 20th century. The Wembley Wizards was a term coined to the Scottish side who in 1928 thrashed England 5-1 with Alex Jackson grabbing  a hat trick.

In 1961 five years before England would be crowned world champions they demolished Scotland 9-3 this time it was Jimmy Greaves scoring three goals in front of almost 100,000 fans.

In 1967 England lost their first game in 19 matches to you guessed it Scotland in what many regard as Scotland’s best if not most famous victory over England given that they had beaten the then world champions. The game ended 3-2 to the Scottish where we witnessed a frantic ending that saw 4 goals scored in ten minutes.

Ten years later Scotland beat England 2-1 at Wembley and memories were forever embedded into the Wembley turf quite literally as Scottish fans invaded the ground after the game and hung to the goal posts.

More recent memories for England anyway will always point to Euro 96 and the infamous group game which saw a rebirth of sorts from the maverick but gifted Paul Gascoigne who scored a wonder goal complete with a wonder celebration in a 2-0 win over the Scots.

The nations have played just twice this century with both wins for England in what were entertaining games loaded with goals. Can Scotland pull off a shock and win on Friday? History is against them since they have only beaten England once since 1986.

Whatever the result we are sure to see a game full of passion and commitment and one surely not to be missed.

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Paraguay stun Argentina to leave nation on the brink of possible World Cup exit


You’d have to go back to 1970 for the last time that Argentina failed to qualify for a World Cup and after their recent loss to Paraguay at home there is a chance it may happen again after 48 years.

Paraguay surprised their hosts with a hard fought 1-0 victory after Derlis Gonzalez scored the only goal that condemned the Argentinians to their 2nd defeat of their World Cup qualifying campaign.

La Albiceleste were of course without Lionel Messi who is nursing a groin injury but they were still able to put out a strong side, strong enough to have some bookmakers make Paraguay as much as 11/1 to win the game.

The likes of Gonzalo Higuain (the most expensive striker in history) and Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero drew blanks. Though it is Aguero who will go home feeling rather empty after he missed a penalty which would have tied the game up.

Both sides created chances, and though the home nation did have more possession it was Paraguay who arguably created the more clear cut chances.

So where exactly does this leave Argentina, two times winners of the World Cup? Well for one they now slip down to 5th place in the South America qualifying group, just one position and currently one point from not qualifying for the next World Cup to be held in Russia in 2018.

The positive news is that they are just five points behind leaders Brazil and one point behind 4th placed Colombia. But the group is squaring up to be a real tension ride and could be settled as late as the final games going from what we have witnessed so far. Paraguay and Copa America winners Chile are breathing down Argentina’s necks and it is clear now that there are 7 quality teams vying for 5 positions.

The pressure is on coach Edgardo Bauza who only took over the national team in August. From his 4 games managed he has only managed one win and that reads as a desperate 25% win rate. Bauza who has never managed outside South America has a mountain to climb and the national teams recent matches don’t bode well for the future.

Argentina are without a win in their qualifying group for 3 matches now having drew 2-2 both times against Peru and lowly Venezuela. But in international just as in club football once you drop points at home it can become a uphill battle.

All eyes will be on the Maracana next month when Brazil and Argentina come together in what will be a genuinely mouthwatering match. An Argentina win and calm will be restored but a Brazilian win would see the five time World Cup champions sprint 8 points clear of their eternal nemesis and if other results don’t go Argentina’s way they could slip down to 7th position. Watch this space.

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France get off to a winning start at Euro 2016


There was to put it mildly a huge sigh of relief when Euro 2016 hosts got the tournament under way with victory against Romania. The French ran out narrow 2-1 winners in a game that looked to be heading for a draw at a sold out Stade de France.

West Ham United striker Dimitri Payet was the hero when his superb screamer just a minute from time sealed the win. The first half was mostly a scrappy affair with the French being ultra cautious in the opening exchanges. Indeed it took until early in the second half for the deadlock to be broken after a fine backward header by Oliver Giroud opened the scoring.

And yet victory seemed distant after Romania were handed a lifeline when Patrice Evra made a clumsy challenge in the area and the outsiders were awarded a penalty. Nicolae Stanciu duly obliged from the spot and it was 1-1. Suddenly the party atmosphere had evaporated and unless you were Romanian you were finding yourself rooting for a French goal. If anything the country had been through so much this past year a win in their host opening tournament could at least lift some spirits.

But Romania remained a solid outfit unwilling to yield to a script. It is worth noting that the underdogs had 10 goal attempts to France’s 14 and did play their part in the opening fixture.

And with just 60 seconds of normal time remaining France finally found the breakthrough after Payet’s shot. Manager Didier Deschamps then did the perfect salute to the young striker by substituting him in injury time and thus giving him a moment he will never forget. 80,000 fans applauding him, it was all too much for the player who visibility broke down in tears of joy.

Deschamps said of Payet, ”I have no doubts over Dimitri and the influence he can have on the game. He can make the difference, It is quite easy when you can bang it into the top corner, it solves a lot of problems.” Deschamps went onto describe the match which was a nervy affair, “The opening match of a competition is a bit like a cup final and we were a bit timid in the opening 25 minutes. It is the result that matters above all. We know not everything was perfect, far from it. This Romanian side showed they are very organised and it is very important to start with a victory.”

France will be hoping to put in a better performance when they play Albania next on Wednesday. The French end their group stage matches against Switzerland.