The international break ended on a high for England, as they pulled off one of their greatest results in years. The Three Lions claimed a 3-2 victory against Spain in Seville on Monday night, denting a side who had made a perfect start under a new manager following their World Cup failure. Gareth Southgate saw his men build on their run in Russia, as they claimed a result which could arguably match the 5-1 victory over Germany.
England have beaten a major nation in a competitive fixture since that win in Germany, but not often. Their last big success was the 1-0 victory against Argentina at the 2002 World Cup, so with that in mind this is a huge step forward. They may have progressed to the semi-finals of the World Cup without taking any big scalps, but now Southgate’s side have a huge win to bask in, which will only give them confidence in the future.
The England boss deserves plenty of credit for this success, after he kept faith with his front three. Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford have all had their issues, but the latter duo both scored in this success, whilst Kane had a key role in two of the goals. Sterling’s brace ended a three year wait for an international goal, and he hammered in two stellar efforts to put the Three Lions 3-0 up at half-time. While Paco Alcacer and Sergio Ramos hit goals after the break, it couldn’t prevent a famous win. After drawing 0-0 in Croatia on Friday, England are now two points off top spot ahead of November’s group finale.
Irish Hit New Low
Wales kept themselves in the hunt for top spot in their Nations League group, as they won 1-0 in Dublin on Tuesday. They made this trip without Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, but their absences didn’t make a huge impact against a really poor Irish side. The visitors are challenging Denmark for top spot, while the Irish are heading for relegation, and likely to drop down.
The Republic of Ireland drew 0-0 at home to Denmark on Saturday night, which was hardly an advert for the Nations League. They met the Danes on the back of their 5-1 thrashing by them back in November in Dublin, but this clash was much tighter. Denmark were also missing their key man in Dublin, with Christian Eriksen pulling out of the squad. Without him they looked a little rudderless, and as a result they let the Irish off the hook here. Martin O’Neill knew the pressure on his side, and yet he sent them out to contain. After the last week, he has big questions to answer.
The Welsh were hammered in their opening clash of the break, losing 4-1 to Spain in Cardiff. They were also victims of Paco Alcacer’s brilliant form, as he scored twice before hitting that strike against England. The Spanish looked like they were on a different level here, but this was always going to be a difficult encounter for the Welsh, meeting one of the world’s top sides with Bale ruled out.
Northern Ireland Heading for the Drop
Edin Dzeko made the difference as Northern Ireland lost 2-0 in Bosnia on Monday night. The former Man City forward struck twice as they put the Ulstermen to the sword for the second time in this qualifying group. There was a brave resistance from Michael O’Neill’s side, who hit the post three times in Sarajevo. However, their poor form continued, and now they’re in serious trouble.
After losing 1-0 away to Austria on Friday, the Northern Irish have zero points from three. They have a four goal deficit to make up to overtake the Austrians on goal difference, so relegation is almost assured. That leaves the Ulstermen heading towards the third tier of the competition, and their fate will be sealed next month. Now O’Neill faces a huge job, as he looks to pick his side up ahead of the qualifiers in March, which now have extra pressure.
Scotland also had a miserable double header, as they lost 3-1 at home to Portugal on Sunday. That made it two defeats from two, as they had already lost away in Israel on Thursday in the Nations League. The Israelis are top of the pile, and it all comes down to their trip to Hampden next month. However, after another two morale bruising defeats, it’s hard to see the Scots being too up for that meeting.
More Misery for Germany
France continued their post-World Cup glow with a 2-1 victory over Germany on Tuesday. Toni Kroos’s opener was cancelled out by two strikes from Antoine Griezmann, as they turned around their clash in Paris. The French have now got seven points from three games, and they’re on the verge of making the Nations League semis.
The Germans were hammered 3-0 in their visit to Amsterdam on Saturday night, as their woes continued. Virgil van Dijk headed in the opener, while former Man United man Memphis Depay found a second. Georginio Wijnaldum rounded out the win, which saw the Dutch leapfrog their old rivals. Now there’s every chance that the 2014 World Cup winners will be banished to the second tier of the Nations League, and they could even end up in the second seeds pool for the Euro 2020 qualifying draw if their poor form continues.
Poland were relegated from the top flight of the UEFA Nations League this week, after their big double header fell apart. They lost a thriller at home to Portugal, going down 3-2 to the European champions. They had the chance to restore some pride days later, but Italy scored at the death to steal a 1-0 win, which sent Poland down to the second tier. The same fate hit Iceland, who lost 2-1 at home to Switzerland on Monday night, confirming their relegation.