Nations League Round Two Recap: Cristiano Ronaldo Does It Again!

The second round of the Nations League saw Cristiano Ronaldo stealing the stage with his brace but there was much more that happened both on and off the pitch.

The international break ended just like it began, unable to answer how the coronavirus pandemic can be managed in football. Kylian Mbappé was the notable casualty of national duty, but he will return to action after his mandatory self-isolation period ends.

With the season yet to start, potential injuries to star players are always a concern. The international week continued to sour the pride and add to the boredom. It is for Niccolo Zanioló that the heart and prayers go out for. The Italian suffered another anterior cruciate ligament injury after a collision with Donny van de Beek. He will miss the first six months of the 2020-21 season.

Both Roma and Paris Saint-Germain will be questioning what they could have done to avoid this. Just like Gareth Southgate would be wondering how to reign in his players. Manchester seems to be the boiling point of notoriety, from Harry Maguire to Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden, all made a fool out of themselves for varyingly different reasons.

Overall, the lack of playing time and a long layoff from international meetings was evident in the performances witnessed. Italy were involved in another low scoring encounter but they managed to get over the line in this one. Nicoló Barella scored from a Ciro Immobile assist in this tactical encounter. However, the highlight remained Zaniolo’s untimely first-half injury.

Nicoló Zaniolo’s injury marred Italy’s convincing victory over the Netherlands at the Johann Cruijff Arena

In the other Group 1 meeting, Poland overcame their cabinet cobwebs and beat Bosnia at the Bilino Polje Stadium. Haris Hajradinovic opened the scoring for the hosts but the Poles struck back. Kamil Glik equalized before the half-time whistle, thanks to a Kamil Grosicki assist. Grosicki completed the comeback with a 67th-minute winner. Krzysztof Piatek was consigned to the bench with Arkadiusz Milik starting in his stead.

Italy now lead the points table with Netherlands and Poland a point behind the Azzurri.

Iceland were on the wrong end of the stick in their Group 2 meeting with Belgium. Michy Batshuayi rolled back the years and scored across either side of the half-time. Axel Witsel, Dries Mertens, and Jeremy Doku also scored for the Reds. The Boys would have surely hoped for a better result after taking the lead in the 11th minute through Hólmbert Aron Friðjónsson. However, it was not to be.

In the other Group 2 meeting, England and Denmark played a dull draw. The match went ahead after Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden had broken COVID-19 protocols and invited some girls to their hotel room. Southgate’s men certainly did not have their heads in the match, which was supposed to have been postponed. The Danes were the more active side, creating the bulk of the chances but failed to trouble the scorers. Failure to keep up with Belgium sees them in second place with four points, while the Reds have the maximum after their two wins.

England – Denmark was not exactly the most entertaining game to watch…

France and Portugal – the latter mostly thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo – continued their impressive run in the Nations League, while it was more misery for Croatia and Sweden. The 2016 Euro finalists have six points apiece after dismantling their rivals in successive fixtures. They take on each other in November for bragging rights in the group.

The repeat of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final was again one-sided, despite Kylian Mbappé missing out. Croatia scored in the opening minutes of both halves, but could not stop Les Bleus from scoring regularly. Dejan Lovren and Josip Brekalo scored for the Kockasti. However, their efforts were undone by Antoine Griezmann, Dayot Upamecano, Olivier Giroud, and a Dominik Livakovic own-goal.

Meanwhile, it was once again a Cristiano Ronaldo Nations League show at the Friends Arena in Stockholm. The Juventus ace scored a brace to get to 101 goals in Portuguese colors. Ronaldo reached a century of international goals with a beautiful free-kick, worthy of the occasion. Sweden were always on the back foot after the first-half sending off of Gustav Svensson.

League A Group 4 continued to witness Germany give yet another stale performance. They followed their 1-1 draw with Spain with a similar result against Switzerland at Saint Jakob Park. Spain top the table with Ukraine following them. Without their experienced lot, Germany are straggling in third place with two draws to show for.

On the other hand, Spain thrashed Ukraine 4-0 at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium. Sergio Ramos scored twice, while Ferran Torres also got on the scoreboard. However, it was Ansu Fati’s effort that caught all the headlines. The Barcelona youngster broke a 95-year record to become La Roja’s youngest scorer ever.

With his goal to Ukraine, Barcelona’s 17-year-old Ansu Fati became the youngest goalscorer ever for Spain

In the lower division Nations League B matches, Erling Braut Haaland led Norway to an impressive 1-5 win over Northern Ireland, while Romania defeated hosts Austria in an interesting 2-3 match-up.

There were an interesting chain of events also in Group 2 of League B. Czech Republic had to replace their whole squad after COVID-19 protocols were breached. Two players came in contact with a staff member who had tested positive for coronavirus. The Lokomotiva still gave a good account of their abilities, carving out 19 goal-scoring opportunities but still suffered defeat against Scotland.

In Group 3, Russia defeated Hungary in a thrilling 2-3 encounter at the Puskas Arena. Meanwhile, Serbia and Turkey played a dull 0-0 draw. Lack of intensity was featured in Group 4 fixtures as well, however, there were results to take home for Wales and Finland. The highlight for Wales was coach Ryan Giggs substituting Gareth Bale at half-time.