The international break brought with it lots of action in the UEFA Nations League, and here is a look at some of the lessons we learned.
Belgium need to improve defensively
Belgium threw away a two-goal lead against Switzerland on Sunday when they conceded five goals within the space of an hour, to miss out on the final four of the Nations League. The Red Devils got off to a bright start, when Thorgan Hazard scored a brace early in the game before all hell broke loose at the back. The Belgians conceded their lead and by half-time the score was 3-2 in favour of Switzerland. The second half was the poorest defensive display ever by this Belgian side under Roberto Martinez. They were susceptible to counter attacks and the hosts exploited this to the fullest. Going forward they will need to strike a balance between their attacking play as well as their defence.
Positives step for the Netherlands
The Netherlands won their game against France by 2-0 scoreline, to hand Germany the drop into League B. After failing to qualify for the past two major tournaments, Netherlands were rightfully expected to be underdogs in perhaps the toughest UEFA Nations League group. However, the Dutch have shown elements of a team making progress under new manager Ronald Koeman. They manner in which they played their Monday night draw away to Germany was also inspiring. They trailed Germany for most part of the game until the 85th minute when they pulled one back to get into the game. The last minutes of the game witnessed drama as Virgil Van Dijk managed an equalizer at stoppage time. They will surely take a lot of positives from this encounter.
Spain is still work in progress
Spain beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-0 in an international friendly on Sunday after two straight defeats to England and Croatia in the Nations League. They were not in their best moment after learning earlier that they had missed out on the semi-finals following England’s 2-1 win over Croatia. Despite this, they still got their act together to produce a win in front of their home fans. Luis Enrique is still trying to get his team to play his brand of football and the result will go a long way in boosting the confidence of his players. One thing for sure though, is that they still have a long way to go as the team has largely been unstable in recent months.
Is it the beginning of the end for Croatia?
Croatia were 12 minutes away from making history at the expense of England again during their clash over the weekend. Watching them play, you would have been forgiven for thinking that this is a totally different side from the team that were humbled 6-0 by Spain in their opening Nations League game. This group have made great strides under Zlatko Dalic, but it might be the beginning of the end. Mario Mandzukic has retired whilst Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic are not getting any younger. Those waiting in line might have the potential to be greats, but so far they do not appear to be of the same level. Whether this is the beginning of their their decline is something we will have to wait and see over the next few months.
Germany need to focus on youth
Germany were unlucky following their 2-2 draw at home to the Netherlands. The German side which featured a good representation of youth got off to a good start but a lack of concentration in the last five minutes of regular time cost them. Leroy Sane and Timo Werner were on target and they dictated much of their attacking play. The game started going south for Low’s side once they were withdrawn. According to the tactician, they will be focusing on a rebuilding mission as they seek to bring forth the next generation of German players to rule the world. According to him the recent spate of underwhelming performances is down to a normal sporting cycle and their belief in youth should count for something in the future.