10 Nations League lessons as Kevin De Bruyne is proved right and Frenkie de Jong pushes his value up
Thirteen chaotic days of Nations League action are over and Europe’s elite can finally go on summer break.
With most countries playing four games on a tight, non-stop schedule, there was plenty to learn about each country and their rosters.
We know it was a miserable camp for England, leaving many fans doubting Gareth Southgate’s future, but what about the rest of Europe? Which countries are promising in the run-up to the World Cup? Which players have put themselves in the spotlight for a summer move?
sports post picks out 10 things we’ve learned from the past two weeks.
France are the reigning champions of the Nations League, but have not won any of their four games
Kevin De Bruyne had a point
Kevin De Bruyne labeled this month’s games as ‘glorified friendlies after a tough season’
The Manchester City midfielder made headlines at the start of the Nations League campaign when he said this month’s matches were “unimportant” and “glorified friendly matches after a long and tough season”.
Players rarely get sympathy for the life they lead and the money they make, but anyone watching a match in the past two weeks can see that they desperately need a break. Most of the games were slow and bloated and no one played at the max level.
Four games were crammed into a grueling 10-day period to accommodate the winter World Cup later this year and the tournament in Qatar also forces the domestic season to start earlier than usual. Enjoy your holiday guys…
Les Bleus get… the blues
France are the reigning champions of the Nations League, but a string of poor performances this month will prevent them from keeping their crown.
Didier Deschamps’ side put England’s struggles in context as they too took just two points from four games.
Despite having arguably the most potent attacking power in international football in Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe, with a stellar supporting cast including Real Madrid’s new £85 million signing Aurelien Tchouameni, Les Bleus scored just three times and lost at home by Denmark and Croatia.
It follows a poor performance at Euro 2020 last summer, so Deschamps has plenty to think about before France defend its world title in Qatar.
The malaise after the euro in Italy continues
At this time last year, Italy had beaten Turkey 3-0 in their opening match of Euro 2020, a tournament they would win by beating England in the final.
But since that penalty win at Wembley, Roberto Mancini’s side have had very little to cheer about and failed to qualify for the World Cup after losing to North Macedonia in the play-offs.
Their only win this month was against Hungary and a humiliating 5-2 defeat to Germany on Tuesday night was the most goals conceded in 65 years.
Italy’s 5-2 defeat to Germany was the most conceded in a game in 65 years
Germany Flip the switch
While Italy’s form has gone south since the European Championship, Germany is slowly getting back on track after being knocked out by England last summer.
Although the win over the Italians was their only win of the month after three draws, Germany has once again found an identity under Hansi Flick, who replaced longtime boss Joachim Low after the European Championship.
Former Bayern Munich manager Flick remains undefeated in 13 games at the helm, bringing in a new generation of talent such as Jamal Musiala and Nico Schlotterbeck.
After a dismal showing in Russia four years ago, Die Mannschaft may be another contender in Qatar.
Former Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick remains unbeaten in 13 games at the head of Germany
Leave heartbreak for Wales
This month was all about qualifying for the World Cup for Wales, but in their inaugural campaign at the top of the Nations League they showed that they will do more than just make up for the numbers in Qatar.
But Rob Page still has plenty to work on, especially when it comes to conceding late goals. In a notable case of déja vu, Wales scored the equalizer in stoppage time in both games against the Netherlands, only to concede again moments later, losing both at home and away.
At Cardiff, Rhys Norrington-Davies headed in his first international goal in the 92nd minute to make it 1-1, before Burnley striker Wout Weghorst won for the Orange in the 94th. In Rotterdam, Gareth Bale’s penalty seemed to have brought the Dragons to a 2-2 draw in the 92nd minute, but Memphis Depay picked a winner right from the restart.
“I’d rather this happen now and that we tackle it than it happens at the World Cup,” Bale said after the game. That’s one way to run it.
Wales conceded goals in stoppage time and lost both at home and away to the Netherlands
Haaland leaves City fans hungry for more
Erling Haaland’s figures for Borussia Dortmund – 86 goals in 89 games – speak for themselves, but his record in a shirt from Norway is also hugely impressive.
Manchester City’s newest recruit has scored five goals in four games this month – no player has scored more in the Nations League – while helping Norway beat Sweden (twice) and Serbia in League B.
Haaland now has 20 goals in 21 caps for his country, taking ninth place in Norway’s all-time top scorers list at just 21 years old. He only needs 14 more to break the 85-year record. His entry into the Premier League cannot come soon enough.
Erling Haaland scored five goals in four games – more than anyone else in the Nations League
Frenkie De Jong pushes price tag up
Despite Frenkie de Jong confirming his desire to stay at Barcelona this summer, reports linking him to a move to Manchester United are refusing to leave and any United fan who had seen the midfielder in action for the Netherlands this month have been reported to have been charged. have been desperate for him to make the move to Old Trafford.
It was a strong international window for the Dutch, who won three and drew one of their four games, and De Jong led the show in the middle of the park with his composure in possession and excellent passing skills.
The 25-year-old’s substitute appearance in the 2-1 win over Wales drew particular attention, as he played a pivotal role in Wout Weghorst’s 94th minute winner. De Jong drove his team onto the pitch before playing the ball wide to Tyrell Malacia, who crossed in front of the 6ft 6in striker to score.
After again dictating the game in the reverse meeting of both countries, Rob Page purred: “De Jong is a great player, let’s hope for the fans that he can be seen in the Premier League every week next season.”
Manchester United target Frenkie de Jong dictated the game in the Netherlands’ match
Brennan Johnson is ready for the Premier League
Wales have their own superstar in their ranks and it’s not Gareth Bale or Aaron Ramsey. In this month’s games, 21-year-old Brennan Johnson came into his own, scoring his first two international goals.
Fresh off winning promotion to the Premier League with Nottingham Forest, Johnson scored the equalizing goal for Wales in the 86th minute in their 1-1 draw with Belgium, before finishing cool on a clever play from Ramsey.
He scored again in the Netherlands when he found the bottom corner with a precise finish from just inside the penalty area and it is clear that his potential has no limit.
Johnson looks all set to make his mark at the top next season, but Forest faces stiff competition to make sure he does at the City Ground.
Brennan Johnson scored his first two goals in Wales against Belgium and the Netherlands
Clarke eases Scottish pressure with convincing win
Steve Clarke’s future in Scotland remains at stake after mixed results
Unlike Wales, Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup this month after being defeated by Ukraine in the play-off semi-finals.
It meant that the disappointment of Steve Clarke’s team hung over their Nations League matches despite a 2-0 win over Armenia, which got them off to a strong start. A A 3-0 defeat in the Republic of Ireland raised further questions about Clarke’s long-term future.
The 58-year-old’s fears of the looting will be allayed for now by a convincing 4-1 win in Armenia, but with a double header against Ukraine on either side of Ireland at Hampden Park in September, it’s unlikely he will. are not out of the woods yet.
Danes continue to dine at the top table
Semi-finalists at Euro 2020, Denmark once again showed that they can compete at the highest level of European football with nine points from four matches – only the Netherlands (10) took more in League A.
Kasper Hjulmand’s side came from behind to beat world champions France away from home when substitute Andreas Cornelius scored twice in a stunning win, before beating Austria twice on either side of the defeat to Croatia.
Christian Eriksen starred the entire time as he continued his impressive form that Manchester United are said to have ready to offer him a contract.
Denmark took nine points from four games and defeated world champions France in Paris