UEFA Nations League matchday 5: 3 takeaways

Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images /

The UEFA Nations League enters the two final matchdays with qualification to the semifinal round still on the line. Here are three takeaways from matchday 5.

There is one final matchday left in the UEFA Nations League group stage and no team has yet to clinch a spot to the semifinals.

That means this week’s matches will be key. In Group 1, first-place Italy could secure a spot with a road win against Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Group 2, Belgium needs a draw at home against Denmark. France has the edge in Group 3, needing a win at home against Sweden. Group 4 is wide open as Spain host Germany with the group on the line.

Matchday 5 was highlighted by several great showings. France’s 1-0 road win against Portugal, Italy’s 2-0 victory over Poland at home and Belgium’s win over England, also at home by the same scoreline.

League A isn’t the only place where action took place. In League B, Turkey beat Russia 3-2 and Wales edged out Ireland 1-0. Romania-Norway, meanwhile, was canceled after players tested positive for COVID-19.

Here are three takeaways from matchday 5.

Spain pays the penalty … twice!

Spain, currently second in Group 4 behind Germany, could only muster a 1-1 road draw this past Saturday in Basel against last-place Switzerland. As a result, the 2010 World Cup champions dropped two crucial points that could haunt them in the end.

Spain veteran Sergio Ramos could not have imagined a worse way of celebrating his European record 177th national team cap. He missed two penalty kicks, both with Sapin down 1-0, that ultimately resulted in a draw after Gerard Moreno’s goal in the 89th minute.

Spain coach Luis Enrique defended the Real Madrid veteran after the game, saying “Ramos’ record with penalties is up there with the very best. If there were another penalty, he would’ve taken it.”

Southgate in the hot seat after England defeat 

England manager Gareth Southgate is facing lots of heat after his side’s 2-0 defeat to Belgium in Group 2. The defeat dropped the Three Lions to third place, eliminating them from the competition.

Southgate’s time as England manager has been highlighted by several ups, like the 2018 World Cup, and now this very poor showing in the Nations League. Once again, Southgate’s lineup decisions came into question. Southgate started Jack Grealish, the best player on the field for England, and brought on Harry Winks for Jordan Henderson at halftime, as his side took more control of the game.

But the decision, however, to also sub-in Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Jadon Sancho did nothing to change the outcome as the England backline struggled to keep up with the Belgian attack and pressing game. Southgate’s future with England now remains in the balance.

Iceland frozen with no points

No one thinks Iceland is in the same league as Germany, Italy or France, but the fact that they have amassed no points so far in this tournament is a bit of a shock. Iceland, after being on an upward trajectory for the past four years, has crashed back to reality.

Iceland shocked everyone at the 2016 European Championship, eliminating England and going as far as the quarterfinals. They qualified for their first World Cup two years ago, snagging a point after a draw with Argentina.

At the UEFA Nations League, Iceland have conceded 13 goals in five games and were thrashed two months ago by Belgium 5-1. They also failed to qualify for next summer’s Euros and need to rebuild now that coach Erik Hamren decided to step down, effective Wednesday, following the string of defeats.

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