International soccer returns as UEFA Nations League begins
After many months in the cooler, international football resumes this weekend in Europe with the start of the latest UEFA Nations League, despite the ongoing coronavirus concerns
“We are delighted to have our team back out on the pitch, and to be able to play international matches again,” said Germany coach Joachim Loew. “The past few months have been difficult for everybody.”
While such a long break is unheard of in the modern era, this is also confirmation of how crammed the calendar will be in the year ahead, with almost all nations playing back-to-back fixtures this month just before Europe’s major leagues start the 2020/21 season.
“I think across the board there’s got to be a look at the football calendar, and that’s everyone’s responsibility,” warned England manager Gareth Southgate.
“Everybody is trying to put their competitions in and the calendar is growing and the spaces are getting smaller.”
The demands on the players, guardian.ng reports, will be enormous. Six rounds of Nations League matches will take place in total between September and November, with the top four nations coming together for the finals.
Initially planned for June 2021, these are now set to go ahead later in the year, once the European Championship has finally been completed.
In the meantime, this Nations League will start with all games behind closed doors, a sad reminder of the new reality for football in a pandemic .Another reality of the health crisis is that coaches must be prepared for the possibility of losing players to positive Covid-19 tests, and so France have lost midfield duo Paul Pogba and Houssem Aouar for their matches against Sweden and Croatia.
It could be recalled that Portugal beat the Netherlands 1-0 in the inaugural final in Porto, with England and Switzerland also having reached the finals.