• Kieran Horn


Updated: Oct 13, 2020

The international break doesn’t tend to be the most enthralling two weeks in the footballing calendar, with fans worldwide often preferring to watch their domestic clubs over their countries. Despite this over the past week, there were some exciting match-ups on paper and the stakes were high in most of them. Unfortunately, as far as goal-fests go they didn’t quite get the memo from the Premier League.

In seven of the more important ties from the past few days, just six goals were scored, while three of the games finished goalless. Four of the five home nations featured in this Nations League recap, alongside Spain & Germany’s relatively simple victories.

Spain 1-0 Switzerland

Mikel Oyarzabal’s first-half strike for Spain saw off a resolute Switzerland, with the former remaining top of the group.

Vladimir Petkovic’s side came into the game without a win but they very nearly got off to the best possible start. Loris Benito forced the returning David De Gea into a smart save low to his right.

A high press from the hosts caused Switzerland to be the architects of their own downfall, when a misplaced pass from Yann Sommer was pounced on with the ball falling to Oyarzabal who smartly struck the opener. 

The Swiss shot-stopper slightly redeemed himself 15 minutes later making a good save from a Ferran Torres header. 

Oyarzabal had a chance to double his tally early in the second half after a cross-shot from Jesus Navas was parried to his feet, but the Real Sociedad forward could only direct the ball against the foot of the post.

Luis Enrique’s men saw out the remainder of the second half to keep themselves two points above Germany.

Ukraine 1-2 Germany 

Germany picked up their first win in the Nations League over Ukraine in Kyiv’s Olympic stadium which saw 20,000 fans in attendance.

Despite picking up the victory it was easy to see why Germany were yet to earn three points, as they were very wasteful in front of goal registering 12 shots on target, only two of which found the back of the net. 

The first goal for Die Mannschaft came right from the German backline as Antonio Rudiger crossed for Matthias Ginter to tap home. 

Ukraine goalkeeper Heorhiy Bushchan made a wonderful save ten minutes later from a powerful Serge Gnabry header. 

Unfortunately for the Ukrainian shot-stopper, he was at fault for the second goal, dropping a Lukas Klostermann cross straight onto the head of Leon Goretzka.

However, Bushchan’s confidence didn’t drop and he made two more excellent saves before Ukraine worked the ball forward to Roman Yaremchuk who drew the foul from Nikolas Sule, allowing Ruslan Malinovskiy to pull one back for the hosts.

Germany were lucky not to rue their missed chances as they comfortably saw out the remaining 15 minutes for their first win in the group.

Poland 0-0 Italy 

Italy remained top of Group A1 with a hard-fought goalless draw against Poland.

Both teams were on the right side of goal-fests in their friendlies earlier in the week but this time the defences very much came out on top.

Emerson Palmieri had the visitor's best chance getting onto the end of a Federico Chiesa’s cross but could only head wide. While Karol Linnety was denied by Leonardo Bonucci’s superblock in the final minutes of the game.

Lethal talisman Robert Lewandowski was starved of service all game not even being able to register a shot on goal.

Italy keep their position at the top of the group after the Netherlands draw with Bosnia & Herzegovina, while Poland remain a point behind their recent opponents. 

Portugal 0-0 France 

The current World Champions and European champions were both unable to find the back of the net in an entertaining stalemate at the Parc Des Princes.

Both Nations star men in Kylian Mbappe and Cristiano Ronaldo had the best chances of the game, with the former going close early in the second half, while the latter powerfully drove a shot at goal but Hugo Lloris made the save at his near post.

The current Juventus striker went close on 20 minutes as well, with the ball falling his way in the France box but Lucas Hernandez got over quickly to block the effort.

Meanwhile, for the hosts, Paul Pogba played a delightful ball through for Antoine Griezmann but the Barcelona forward could only pick out the arms of Lloris from a very tight angle. 

The result means both teams stay on the same number of points with Portugal just piping France on goal difference to top the group. 

Northern Ireland 0-1 Austria 

Northern Ireland remain winless in their group as Michael Gregoritsch’s perfectly placed header gave Austria all three points in Belfast.

Austria should’ve been two ahead before Gregoritsch free header left Michael McGovern rooted to the spot.

Christoph Baumgartner squandered two wonderful first-half opportunities for the visitors, his first came when he dispossessed Craig Cathcart but despite being through on goal could only fire wide.

While his second was somehow a worse miss, when Gregoritsch sent a looping header into the path of the Hoffenheim midfielder but he put the ball miles over the bar.

In an attacking sense, it was a poor display from Northern Ireland but they very nearly snatched a point late on. 

A quick free-kick was played into the path of Liam Boyce but the second half substitute drove his shot inches wide off the far post.

Austria now sit top of Group B1, while Northern Ireland remain at the bottom with just a point to their name.

Scotland 1-0 Slovakia 

Lyndon Dykes side-footed volley was enough to see of Slovakia and send Scotland top of group B2.

Although it wasn’t the most convincing display from the Scots, they have now gone over a year undefeated, with five wins and two draws since their last defeat in Russia 12 months ago.

The dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over Israel masked the un-inspiring 120 minutes of football before that and they did little to prove it was a one-off in the first half. 

The best chances in the opening 45 fell to Stephen O’Donnell and Declan Gallagher, but both could only drag their efforts well wide of the target.

Luckily for Steve Clarke, Lyndon Dykes was alert early in the second half as he peeled away from his man latching onto an O’Donnell cross to give Scotland the lead. 

Oli Mcburnie very nearly made it two, after he came on for the goal scorer sending a powerful header against the bar following a rasping cross from Ryan Fraser.

Despite dominating the ball, Slovakia struggled to mount any real chances keeping them at the bottom of the group, while Scotland leapfrogged the Czech Republic to lead group B2.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales 

The Republic of Ireland and Wales played out a lifeless draw, keeping the latter unbeaten in the Nations League.

In a very lacklustre opening 45, the biggest moment came when the visitors thought they should have had a penalty. Darren Randolph fumbled a Wales corner before bundling into Ethan Ampadu but referee Anastasios Sidiropoulos turned the appeals away. 

The second half was slightly brighter and inside 10 minutes Shane Long had the first clear-cut chance of the game, heading just over from a lovely Enda Stevens cross.

Daryl Horgan missed two good opportunities, but despite that being it for chances in the second half, the drama was far from over.

James McClean picked up a needless yellow card when he stood on the leg of the sprinting Harry Wilson and just three minutes later was given his marching orders for a late tackle on Connor Roberts. 

The Stoke winger, rather than walking off the pitch, then confronted the prone Roberts before being marshalled away by four Welsh players.

Wales sit just a point above Finland at the top of group B4 while the Republic of Ireland will need to earn their first win in the group soon if they want to qualify.