I like the Nations League, even though I realise that many fans are put off by it. I like it because it uses up dates in the diary that used to be given over instead to unappealing friendlies, and also because it layers the first phase into four categories, with promotion and relegation, which then opens up the hope that one day the same will be done with the qualifying phases for the European Championships and World Cup. And I like it even though it somewhat surprised us with its timing, these four games appearing just when we thought that everything, other than some promotion deciders, was all over. We have four now, two in September and the final, in the form of the Final Four, in 2023.
It is, of course, as a consequence of the World Cup being shunted out of place, into the winter months, which throws everything out of kilter. That said, despite it creating some confusion with these games out of sync, in exchange it does add interest as they are serious tests ahead of Qatar. From the squad selection to the performance of each player in each match, we will look at these games as successive rehearsals for the World Cup, among other things because there will be little time for anything once it arrives: Luis Enrique will have the players just a week before the tournament begins. So let’s take advantage of these four matches (and the two in September) to assess our chances in the big event that will bring the year to a close.
Result: Spain 1-1 Portugal
We drew, but there is no need for disappointment. These boys, who have had to delay their holidays, gave their all and played a high level game against Portugal, one of the strongest teams around at the moment, no matter how hard it was for them to qualify. I thought it was a great match, another example of Gavi getting more involved and improving his play, I don’t know how he manages it, and with that constant sense of solidarity that characterises this team. Portugal threatened a lot with Leão and little with Cristiano, who came on very late, and they managed an equaliser in the 81st minute coming from a good run down the right. That goal dampened our optimism, somewhat, but the feeling remains positive.