It’s national teams time. By now you’ve all probably learned about the new competition UEFA came up with, Nations League. I’m still not sure what to think about it as a whole but I like the idea of equally ranked teams playing each other.
As explained on UEFA ‘s official website, the competition’s goal is to use time for usually bothering friendly games as an opportunity to add some competitiveness and increase interest. To achieve that all 55 national teams under European’s football organization were categorized into 4 strength groups based on current standings, called League A, B, C and D.
Leagues and groups
League A contains first 12 nations on the continent divided into 4 groups per 3 participants playing each other home and away. This way every team plays 4 matches against opponents in theory on the same level in a “competitive” environment.
Winner of each group qualifies for “final four”, to use basketball competition as an example, where they battle for the title. 3rd December the draw for the venue and pairings is taking place.
Title’s actual “worth” is still to be evaluated and given meaningful weight but only time can do that, as is the case with all new competitions.
“Losers” of every group in League A are relegated to “second tier”, meaning League B. How does this influence their chances to qualify for European championship finals? It doesn’t. There will still be qualifiers for that competition.
Similarly other teams in every league are divided in groups. Winners of respective groups will be promoted to League A and last in every group will be relegated to League C.
Same goes for League C and D who have 4 teams in each group. And, of course, there is no relegation from League D.
However, since League A and B have 3 teams per group and 2 dates available for international games there are still some “pure” friendlies played.
After short sum up of the competition lets focus on actual games. Since Thursday, 11th October all European teams played a game, Nations League games or friendlies. And if there were little surprises we got a lot of confirmation.
Traditional powerhouses Italy and Germany are still looking for the light at the end of the tunnel.
Italians, who didn’t qualify for the last World Cup, continue with their miserable performances and bellow-par results. Ukraine is a decent opponent who can cause some problems to anybody but still far from the top. The azzurri never cared to much about friendlies however in the Nations League aren’t faring any better and are in real danger of being relegated to League B. The biggest problem is that Italian media, football association and the manager whom are still finding excuses for the results. The mantra of a young team that needs experience and that there is some progress is proving counter-effective. If there is a bunch of professional football players that, even with high technical ability, can’t live with the pressure representing the nation brings, replace them!
I loved Mancini the player but I don’t see him as a top manager. Particularly for man-management skills! He did win with Inter and Manchester City but I’m not convinced he was the main reason of that success. And he won’t bring any joy to the nation! He complained to the media that 5 games aren’t enough to make some progress. Excuses! Italy never produced scintillating football but usually cared about the end result. Don’t get me wrong, Italy’s problems go much, much deeper than Mancini, but surely he’s not the man to change the fortunes on the pitch.
Most worrying thing is inability to keep clean sheet. If there’s a renaissance in Penisula’s club football lately it’s not due to defensive stability. Beside Juventus and partially AC Milan no other top club has Italian core in the back-line. And that’s raising a question; if clubs are buying foreigners to insure better cover, and it’s not working too well, as already pointed out in one of my previous posts, what’s left to the national side? And fearsome Lewandowski and Piatek await tonight…
So, no clear game-plan, no eye-catching football, no traditional watertight defence, no result. With Mancini in charge I’m afraid next “big” competition Italy will win is promotion to Nations League group A…
Somehow I ended up sympathizing Italy but I must admit they’re not making it easy. While we wait for them to dig themselves out lets refresh our memory with Italy’s latest international triumph.
Germany is in similar situation. They did participate to the WC. Only participate, just as Egypt, Panama and other team that left the tournament early. If for majority of them qualifying was the ultimate goal, for Germany qualification is a routine task. Their goals are much, much higher that that.
Since the fiasco in Russia they didn’t make any improvement, at all.
Unlike his colleague in Italy, Loew has a lot of talent as disposal to choose from and lately he’s been introducing young guns but apparently can’t pick the right ones. The most obvious one! Leaving Sane at home in the summer proved to be costly as Germany’s lacking genuine pace and creativity in the final third of the pitch was evident.
Some mistakes are to good not to be repeated and Joggy continues to hold Sane next to him on the bench. The last evidence, if any additional was necessary, was last night’s defeat against neighbours.
At the Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam Germany suffered one the hardest results in recent history. The Netherlands, themselves not it particularly fortunate period, proved too strong for former champions. Even if Germany didn’t play badly in first half and created some interesting situations in opponents box, only when Sane was introduced in 2nd half you could see the difference. True, he didn’t react well enough in some situations but the change in play and constant danger created in front of Cillessen are speaking loudly. Draxler is the other change that brought much needed dynamism and vision. And their next match is in Paris – anyone wishes to bet in change of fortunes? Not me.
Loew won the World Cup but that’s history, in football you play for the present and it’s not smiling for die Nationalmannschaft.
In a recent interview Guardiola said that countries like Italy, Germany, Spain and Brazil always have talent at disposal to compete. From this you could understand that the problem is somewhere else if they’re not achieving expected results. And I couldn’t agree more.
UEFA served us a new competition which still has to prove its worth. For now it has brought only problems for historical giants. Let’s see if they can turn the situation around.