Nations League a success?

The first round of fixtures in the new competition are over

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The UEFA Nations League has a lot of bad ideas, but some cool ones too

The UEFA Nations League starts during this international break, and it's confusing a lot of people. Players admit they don't get it. But it's pretty simple when you have someone to strip out the jargon and simplify things, which is my job.

Here's what you need to know about the newest international soccer competition.

The Nations League exists for UEFA to make money

Let's get this part out of the way first.

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Did the UEFA Nations League start off on the right foot?

By Joe Harker

The first round of UEFA Nations League fixtures are over and hopefully everyone is a little more clued up on how the competition works. Although the first game of the competition was a frustrating 0-0 between Germany and France more impressive matches soon showed the promise of the tournament. Wales fans were thrilled to beat the Republic of Ireland 4-1 and Spain's 6-0 victory against Croatia was astounding.

Luxembourg scored seven goals and won both of their opening games, showing that the Nations League's decision to rank teams by quality is paying off. In a qualifying campaign they would be sorted into a group with teams far better than they, seen as a guaranteed three points in most games. Their Nations League group consists of Belarus, Moldova and San Marino, teams they have a much better chance of beating.

Elsewhere, Kosovo got their first competitive win ever and are top of their group after two games.

Perhaps the best thing about the Nations League is the lowest tier of the competition. Teams that have been the whipping boys of football every time the qualifiers are on have a chance to play and win. Maybe tier D of the competition will become the new home for football hipsters, if only to see which one qualifies for Euro 2020.

The Nations League is a competition where the underdogs of European football are given a chance to thrive and enjoy themselves. It's no fun being the minnows of a qualifying group and getting hammered every game. When your only competitive fixtures are against teams that are so much better it sometimes seems like there's no point, but in the Nations League these nations are pitted against teams they have some chance of defeating.

Qualifiers aren't meant to be a level playing field. They are structured to keep the best teams from each other so they can all make it to the tournament, meaning minnows that make up Nations League D get pummeled with little hope of making it to an international tournament at the end. By pitting them against teams of similar ability they have a chance to win and progress and perhaps just have a few games where they have a chance of winning. In addition, they actually have a chance of qualifying for the Euros through it.

Of course there are some teams that will always struggle, even in Nations League D not all teams are created equal. The likes of Gibraltar and San Marino are still struggling but in football there are always going to be winners and losers. The best the Nations League can do is redress the balance in quality.

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The Guardian

Spain and Turkey victories augur well for Nations League's future | Nick Ames

A pile-on by the corner flag in Stockholm said it best. Turkey had just come from two goals down to defeat a seemingly comfortable Sweden and, in those chaotic moments after Emre Akbaba’s header drifted past a slow-footed Robin Olsen, a full 20 seconds passed before their outfield players disentangled themselves from the jubilant scrum beyond the quadrant.

It was some way for Turkey, so reliably inconsistent, to ignite their Uefa Nations League campaign and it was just as significant for the nascent tournament itself. Akbaba had entered as a substitute in the 62nd minute: in a friendly he would have been one of up to six replacements for his country and probably a footnote as the match degenerated; here he was introduced, as one of Mircea Lucescu’s permitted three, at 2-1 down in a clear attempt to swing the pendulum. The winning goal was his second in three minutes and the scenes that followed it were coloured with the kind of wild, wide‑eyed joy that few noncompetitive games can replicate.

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