In UEFA Nations League A games today, being used by many coaches as the last dress rehearsal before the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, several cup-bound teams made quality outings.
In Brussels, Belgium defeated Wales 2-1 in a match the Belgians dominated, particularly in the first half when they pulled ahead 2-0. The Welsh made a game of it in the second half and in particular toward the latter stages of it when Gareth Bale made his cameo. Kieffer Moore scored a header consolation goal for Wales but that was the most the Welsh team could muster for most of the match.
In the first half, Belgium was flying on all cylinders with a stellar Kevin de Bruyne showcasing his credentials as a top-five player on the planet scoring, assisting, and hitting the post with the keeper beat, while Eden Hazard seemed to be rounding out his form being involved in many a pretty play and unlucky only in not scoring.
The match showed the difference in quality between the teams as the result was never truly in doubt, yet it was encouraging for the Welsh that Bale’s mere presence if at 80% capacity, got them motivated to go up a gear. Roberto Martinez, uncharacteristically, was awarded a red card for grabbing and hiding away a ball that had gone out of bounds and was about to be picked up for a quick throw-in by a Welsh player. But that seemed the last excitement of the match.
In a UEFA Nations League A in Zagreb, Croatia defeated Denmark 2-1 with a classic Luka Modric performance guiding the Croats, while a spectacular 77th-minute long-range shot by Christian Eriksen was the Danish highlight. The Danes are ranked number 10 by FIFA while the Croats are number 15, which, as always, begs the question about the quality of the ranking system given the assuredness of the host’s win over their higher-ranked rival.
In a UEFA Nations League A Paris, France defeated Austria 2-0 with a classic, unstoppable Kylian Mbappe run and gun and a similarly classic Olivier Giroud header off a perfect cross by Antoine Griezmann from the right wing. France dominated their lesser opponent and should have won by a larger score, but the woodwork and a few great saves made the score line palatable to the Austrians.
In a UEFA Nations League A Warsaw, Poland lost 0-2 to the Netherlands who needed a statement win over a Qatar-bound side and got one in an away match. Nevertheless, the specter of past unsportsmanlike performances by the Dutch (they received four yellow cards to the Poles one) in a game containing 39 called fouls between the sides, augurs ill for the upcoming cup. The scoring came about fifteen minutes after the starting whistle of both halves and though the first was the product of a great multi-player passing sequence the second was a Polish mistake the likes of which they will not want to repeat in Qatar. In short, the UEFA Nations League A matches did exactly what FIFA had hoped and brought national teams together to gauge their respective forms ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Photo: Kieffer Moore – Shutterstock ID: 1565942236, by Andrew Dowling Photo