Moyes sacked: 3 basic reasons why.

Two tweets brought to an end David Moyes’ 10 months in charge of Manchester United.

And with that “the chosen one” was discarded.

It seemed an uneasy fit from the start. Alex Ferguson may have anointed Moyes as his successor, but that didn’t necessarily mean he would be a similar success. The younger Scot had done stellar work at Everton with limited resources, however managing a global phenomenon like United was something altogether different.

He was handed a six year contract however, with the idea of establishing a legacy like Ferguson’s. At the time many football fans and analysts praised the length of the contract as it would allow Moyes to put his own stamp on the club. So what has prompted his departure with less than a year of that contract gone?

1. Results.

The first reason is the easiest to quantify. As of now, Manchester United are in seventh place in the Premier League. They are 13 points behind Arsenal, who occupy the final Champions League spot. Moyes’ supporters may point to a lack of quality in the United squad bequeathed to him by Ferguson, but it is almost exactly the same roster as that which won the Premier League last season.

Home form in the league was not what United fans have come to expect. Losses to Everton, Newcastle, Spurs, Liverpool and West Brom at Old Trafford helped destroy any European ambitions for next season.

Losses to Swansea in the FA Cup, Sunderland in the Carling Cup, and Bayern Munich in the Champions League  compounded the misery for Moyes in a season which actually began with some silverware in the shape of the Community Shield.

 

2. Playing Style

Manchester United under Ferguson could play a defensive game if necessary. Andre Pirlo was critical in his autobiography of Ferguson’s tactic of deploying Park Ji Sung to man-mark him in a big European game. However United were always a threat going forward, they played the game at a high tempo and could catch opponents on the break should they show the temerity of attacking the Red Devils.

Under Moyes, United played an uninspiring brand of football. There was rarely the sense that they could come back if they went behind in a tie. Build up play was too slow, there was too much emphasis placed on crosses into the box.

The final straw for United fans (and perhaps the board) came on Sunday when they travelled to Goodison Park to face Moyes’ old club Everton. His successor Roberto Martinez has the Toffees playing an exciting brand of football that has seen them challenging Arsenal for fourth place.

Never in over a decade of Moyes’ reign at Goodison, not the thirty-odd years beforehand, had Everton done the league double over Manchester United. After winning 1-0 at Old Trafford earlier in the season, Martinez’ men coasted to victory at the weekend. To an outsider, it would have appeared that the home side were the defending league champions. United’s build up play was turgid and unimaginative, and they rarely looked capable of penetrating a well organised Everton defence.

The contrast between the two sides must have been difficult for United supporters to take.

The Grim Reaper looks on at Goodison Park on Sunday

The Grim Reaper watches on at Goodison Park on Sunday

3. Personality and experience

There is no denying how well Moyes did at Everton. He came across as a man in total control, and earned plaudits from all over due to the fighting spirit he instilled in his team. They finished fourth in the league in 2005, a remarkable achievement given the resources at Moyes’ disposal.

That gave them the opportunity to play European football, but a loss to Villareal in the Champions League qualifier was followed by an early UEFA Cup exit at the hands of Dinamo Bucharest. Subsequent UEFA Cup experience between 2007 and 2009 followed, but the two games against Villareal were Moyes’ only experience at the top level of European football.

He didn’t seem able to handle the increased scrutiny that comes with the Old Trafford job. He rarely looked comfortable at press conferences, and horrified United fans when he said that Manchester City were playing at a level United had to aspire to. It may have been the truth, but it wasn’t a wise admission to make publically.

United’s squad is in need of a major overhaul, and without Champions League football as an incentive, prospective players will look at the manager in charge as a key factor in whether they move to Manchester. Ferguson, Mourinho, Guardiola. They all have an aura about them that entices top players. Moyes, for all his qualities, does not.

 

Courtois conundrum for Atletico raises issue over loan system

Tomorrow afternoon we will know the make-up of the Champions League semi-finals. After overcoming Barcelona, Atletico Madrid will be hoping to avoid Chelsea in the last four, and indeed the final should they make it.

Why? It’s not because they fear Jose Mourinho’s side, but rather because their first choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is on loan from the London side since 2011, and were Atletico to field him against his parent club, it would cost them in the region of €3m.

While there is no denying the short-term benefits of loan arrivals to smaller clubs, the system is weighted in favour of clubs like Chelsea. Clubs who can afford to buy high quality players then send them on loan to gain experience instead of parachuting them immediately into the first team. These high quality players in many cases end up playing in the same league as their parent club, yet clauses in the loan deal stipulate that they cannot compete against them.

A case in point is Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian striker joined Chelsea for around £17m (including add-ons) in 2011. After a relatively underwhelming debut season, the 20 year old has matured into an exceptional attacking threat. Not for Chelsea, however. He joined West Bromwich Albion on loan in the summer of 2012 and went on to score 17 goals in the league for his adopted club. That was more than any individual playing for Chelsea managed that season. He scored for the Baggies against Liverpool, and netted a hat-trick against Manchester United on the last day of the season before returning to Chelsea for the summer.

On transfer deadline day last September, despite featuring in two of Chelsea’s early league games, Lukaku moved to Everton on loan after being deemed surplus to the requirements of Jose Mourinho. This season he has again been in good scoring form, with 13 so far. He (along with other loanees Barry and Delofeu) has been a vital component of Everton’s pursuit of Champions League football, and of Chelsea’s title tilt. His two goals in the first Merseyside Derby of the season prevented Liverpool from taking all three points. He scored last weekend against Arsenal to once and for all dump them out of the race for the Premier League trophy.

It didn’t go unnoticed by other managers in the league that Mourinho may have loaned out Lukaku primarily to take points off of Chelsea’s direct rivals. The fact that he couldn’t play against his parent club may also have shaped the title-race. In a tight game at Stamford Bridge in February, Chelsea took three points with a late John Terry goal.

The Blues aren’t the only team who have used the loan system to their advantage however. When Sunderland beat Chelsea 3-0 in November 2010, on loan Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck put in a man of the match performance, scoring one in the process.

It might be naive to hope for a system where on-loan players can line-out against their parent club, particularly in the same league. But when it obstructs a young player’s opportunity to play in the biggest games, such as it could with Courtois, then the system is inherently flawed.

After three years as Atletico’s number one, the Belgian will decide on his future at the end of the current campaign. Chelsea view him as a long term successor to Petr Cech, and he may return to Stamford Bridge in the summer to challenge the Czech keeper next season. But were he to miss out on either a Champions League semi-final or final because his presence in goal would disadvantage his parent club, the only parties that would benefit would be Chelsea and Daniel Aranzubia, Atletico’s number two.

 

Bayern Munich vs Manchester United as it happened

After Real Madrid and Chelsea secured their places in the Champions League semi-finals last night, there are two more spots up for grabs at the Allianz Arena and the Vicente Calderon tonight.

With the score 1-1 in both games, Bayern Munich host Manchester United while Atletico Madrid welcome Barcelona to the Spanish capital.

This live blog will have regular updates on the Bayern-United game, but I’ll keep you informed of important goings on in Spain too.

Manchester United had concern over Wayne Rooney but he appears to have recovered enough to start the game tonight. Marouane Fellaini and Rafael sat out United’s last training session yesterday and won’t be available. Juan Mata, who put in an excellent performance against Newcastle at the weekend, is cup-tied.

Bayern Munich are without Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez due to suspension tonight. Thiago Alcantara, a former Manchester United target, is still out injured, as is Xherdan Shaqiri.

Team News:

Bayern Munich: Neuer, Dante, Ribéry, Mandzukić, Robben, Boateng, Götze, Lahm (c), Müller, Alaba, Kroos

Subs: Raeder, van Buyten, Rafinha, Pizarro, Weiser, Hojbjerg, Weihrauc

Manchester United: De Gea; Jones, Smalling, Vidic, Evra; Fletcher, Carrick; Valencia, Rooney, Kagawa; Welbeck.

SubsLindegaard, Büttner, Ferdinand, Giggs, Januzaj, Young, Hernandez

You may have to refresh the page to update content. New posts will appear at the top. Comments on the games can be posted underneath or tweeted to me at @AlanKeane23.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Full time thoughts: Bayern make their third consecutive Champions League semi-final but United wave goodbye to the competition. They won’t be dining at Europe’s top table next year. The first half wasn’t one for the neutral, as both sides failed to carve out many clear-cut chances. The second half started slowly too before an absolutely stunning goal from Patrice Evra sparked the game into life. That goal woke Bayern up and they replied immediately through Mandzukic.

Two more goals killed off the United challenge but in reality besides Evra’s goal the away side offered very little in attack. Wayne Rooney was clearly effected by his toe injury tonight. He had United’s best chance with the scores level but couldn’t direct a shot on target with the goal at his mercy. He looked uncomfortable striking the ball all night.

Bayern advance, but they have much to do to make the finals. They weren’t quite at their best and will face more potent opposition next time out.

90 + 3 mins – The final whistle goes at the Allianz Arena. In Spain too, Atletico Madrid have beaten Barcelona 1-0.

90 mins – Three minutes added. 1999 all over again? Probably not.

87 mins – Great strength shown by Pizarro to get a shot away under pressure from Vidic. He shrugs off the challenge but can only find the arms of De Gea.

86 mins – United players increasingly frustrated as this game nears its conclusion. Evra fouls Robben near the touchline.

83 mins – Substitution for Bayern. Claudio Pizarro on for goalscorer Thomas Muller, who receives a standing ovation.

80 mins – Substitution for United. Januzaj on for Danny Welbeck. The striker will look back with regret on his squandered chance at Old Trafford when he had just Neuer to beat.

No more goals to report in the other quarter final. Atletico are ten minutes away from a famous victory over Barcelona. 1-0 since the 6th minute, 2-1 on aggregate.

78 mins – Mandzukic could have added to United’s woes just now but he couldn’t make contact with an Alaba cross from the left.

75 mins – GOAL BAYERN! 3-1 on the night as Arjen Robben slaloms through the United defence and his attempted shot takes a heavy deflection off Vidic and past the helpless De Gea. That should be that.

73 mins: Bayern with 22 attempts to United’s 4 and 74% possession so far. Substitution for United as Hernandez comes on for Fletcher. Rooney will drop a little deeper. United have just over quarter of an hour to rescue this game.

71 mins – Good tackle from Vidic in the box on Muller. Sixty thousand Bayern fans scream for a penalty but the ref rightly gives a corner.

69 mins – Yellow card for Patrice Evra. The Frenchman brought down Robben as the winger looked to be straight in on goal.

66 mins – GOAL BAYERN! Thomas Muller gets a toe on a whipped cross from Arjen Robben! 2-1 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate. If United score another they will go through, so all is not lost for David Moyes’ men. That was Mullers 5th goal in this season’s Champions League competition.

64 mins – Mandzukic rises highest to head a corner just wide. Rafinha is on for Mario Gotze as Guardiola makes his first substitution. That presumably means Philip Lahm will go to midfield with the sub slotting in at right back. Slightly defensive substitution from Pep there?

61 mins – Wayne Rooney misses what looked like an easy chance! The goal seemingly at his mercy after Welbeck slid the ball across the six yard box, the United striker scuffed the ball wide.

57 mins – GOAL BAYERN! Mandzukic with an immediate response for the home side. A close-range header after a cross from the right hand side. You wait all night for a goal and then two come along at once. Away goals cancelled out, the sides are level and one must score to go through. Game on!

56 mins – GOAL UNITED! Patrice Evra with a screamer into the top right hand corner from 20 yards! Great work by Valencia in the build-up to get a cross in from the right.

54 mins – It’s taken until the 54th minute but Manuel Neuer finally has to make a save. He gets down to his left to save a Kagawa effort from 20 yards. One you’d expect him to save really.

53 mins – Vidic takes one where it hurts. blocking Mandzukic’s shot from the edge of the box.

52 mins – This game really needs a goal to liven things up. Neither side posing much of a threat yet though.

46 mins- Smalling lands awkwardly after corner number two for United early in the half. The young defender is ok.

20:47 – Second half is underway.

Half time thoughts – Of the two sides, Manchester United can claim to have had the better half. The away side have been fairly solid in defence, albeit against a lacklustre Bayern Munich performance. Neither side seem eager to throw caution to wind just yet, which is understandable with so much at stake. However Manchester United need a goal and so the second half should be a more open affair. If United push forward they are liable to be caught on the break by the pace of Ribery and Robben on the Bayern flanks but it’s a risk they have to take if they are to progress to the semi-finals.

45 + 1 mins: Boateng blasts a ball high and wide to end the first half.

45 mins – One minute added at the end of the half.

43 mins – Robben takes on four United players in the box and lets off a shot when he should perhaps have found his teammates in better positions. Smalling blocks for a corner which comes to nothing.

39 mins – Lahm takes Evra out on the edge of the Bayern box, hurting the United full-back but the referee waves play on. Carrick eventually puts the ball out so his team mate can get attention.

37 mins – Kroos has an attempt from the edge of the box which fails to threaten De Gea’s goal.

35 mins – Manchester United comfortable with everything Munich have thrown at them so far. The home side haven’t been at their best as of yet. A bit ponderous in attack.

30 mins – They’ve reached the half hour point in Munich and it’s all very tentative at the moment. Neither side really committing going forward because both fear a counter attack.

27 mins – Yellow card for Vidic for climbing all over Mandzukic.

26 mins – Ribery with a shot from distance after Valencia failed to close him down properly. Fizzed past the near post but De Gea had it covered.

23 mins – Bayern with a lot of possession in the last five minutes…

Whoops! Forgot to mention that Atletico Madrid have taken the lead against Barcelona! 1-0 on the night and 2-1 on aggregate after Koke scored in the 6th minute.

20 mins – Intricate play from Gotze releases Ribery. The Frenchman is flagged outside after he squared the ball to Muller in front of goal.

16 mins – Antonio Valencia has a goal disallowed for Manchester United! Both he and Kagawa were offside as a cross came in from the left and the Ecuadorian finished to no avail.

12 mins – Plenty of crosses early on from Bayern Munich. Not many reaching their target as of yet. Curious to see them deviate from their usual passing game but they do have the imposing figure of Mandzukic up front.

7 mins – Huge chance for United! Rooney gets the ball in space in the Bayern box and all he had to do was slide it left to Kagawa. The Japanese player had the time and space for a shot on goal. Rooney eventually opted for the shot himself which was easily blocked.

6 mins – Rooney instigates United’s first attack with a cross from the left. Dante clears easily.

3 mins – First half chance for Bayern as a Robben cross finds Thomas Muller. He fails to direct his header on target.

1 min – The field opens up for Arjen Robben who brings the ball from the half-way line to the edge of the box before distributing to Ribery. A cross from the Frenchman fails to find Mandzukic.

19:45- The teams are out and we’re underway!

19:40 – Philipp Lahm reverts to right-back tonight for the home side. He’s been playing a lot in midfield under Guardiola this year but with Mario Gotze back in the side and Thomas Muller dropping back into the centre, the captain moves back to defence. He’s been so good in his new midfield role, Roberto Martinez brought Leighton Baines to watch the German play recently. The Everton manager thinks Baines could make the transition to midfield in the years to come.

19:35- Bayern haven’t won in three games, their longest drought since early 2011. Though that could be something to do with the fact they have the Bundesliga wrapped up for a few weeks.

19:30- Guardiola on Sky Sports. Playing down talks of a second successive treble for Bayern, saying the focus is on getting to the Champions League semi-finals. The coach says his side will attack tonight, and that it would be mistake to play for the draw.

19:20-  Gary Neville has been tweeting his thoughts on how United can go through to the semi-finals;

19:15- United need to score tonight, with Bayern taking an away goal from Old Trafford. The omens are good as Bayern have not won their past four home games against English opposition. The first loss in the streak was against Chelsea in the 2012 Champions League final at the Allianz.

19:12 – David Moyes on Sky Sports now. Talking about Bayern’s high back line and how United must exploit it.

19:00- So with 45 minutes until kick-off the teams are in. Shinji Kagawa starts for Manchester United tonight following an impressive display as a half time substitute in the first lef. Wayne Rooney also makes the first XI, having had a pain-killing injection after his toe injury.

Mario Mandzukic starts up front for the home side, the Croatian setting up Bastian Schweinsteiger’s goal at Old Trafford after coming on as a substitute. Mario Gotze begins in midfield instead of the suspended Schweinsteiger after being limited to a substitute appearance last week.

 

Champions League Review: 3 ties balanced but Dortmund doomed

With the first leg of the Champions League quarter finals over with, it’s time to reflect on this week’s performances and look forward to next week’s encounters.

Manchester United v Bayern Munich

On Tuesday night Manchester United entered unfamiliar territory as underdogs at Old Trafford. They were up against a much lauded Bayern Munich side under the management of the much lauded Pep Guardiola.

While United can’t claim to ever really have dominated the game, they did cause problems for Bayern and Danny Welbeck had two great chances. The striker was unlucky to have a goal disallowed early on but he should have done better with a later chance when one-on-one with Manuel Neuer.

United managed to strike first, with a wonderful Nemanja Vidic header off a Rooney corner. Bayern adopt zonal marking when defending set-plays and we’ve seen over the years that this tactic is open to exploitation. The German team further incapacitated themselves by neglecting to put a man on the posts.

Bayern had looked a bit lacklustre early in the second half, but that goal jolted them into action. Eight minutes after United took the lead, substitute Mario Mandzukic nodded down into the path of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the German blasted home on the half-volley. After that it was all Bayern. Antonio Valencia was lucky to escape a second yellow for a heavy challenge on Boateng, and Guardiola was seething when Schweinsteiger was sent off for a less robust challenge in the closing stages of the game.

The goalscorer will miss the return leg, as will Javi Garcia. However Mario Gotze was rested for the first leg and is a capable replacement for Schweinsteiger. Dante returns from suspension and will slot in instead of Garcia. With an away goal in the bag and home advantage for the second leg, it is difficult to see past Bayern for a semi-final berth. However stranger things have happened and if United can put in a strong performance at the Allianz Arena they have a chance.

You can see the two goals from Old Trafford here:

Barcelona v Atletico Madrid

In Tuesday’s other game Barcelona welcomed La Liga title rivals Atletico Madrid to the Camp Nou. This was the fourth meeting of the sides this season and it ended like the previous three, in a draw. Atletico manager Diego Simeone has exceeded expectations this season after the sale of lethal Colombian striker Falcao last summer. His side work hard to press teams high up the pitch and it has had the required effect against perceived bigger teams.

Falcao may have been the main man last season, but Atletico’s other striker Diego Costa has negated the loss in this campaign, scoring goals for fun and looking a threat every time he gets on the ball. He was an injury concern before Tuesday’s game but spearheaded the attack from the start. However he only lasted 28 minutes before having to be substituted with a hamstring concern. His fitness will be crucial if Atletico are to maintain their La Liga challenge.

His replacement on Tuesday night was the Brazilian Diego, who gave Atletico the lead in the 56th minute with an absolute screamer. Behind to the away goal, Barcelona responded quickly. Busquets was denied by Courtois before a sublime Andres Iniesta pass released Neymar for a cool finish in the 71st minute.

The score remained at 1-1 until the end and so Atletico Madrid have the slight advantage going into next week’s game at the Vicente Calderon. If they play their usual brand of high-tempo pressure football they have an excellent chance of advancing to the semi-finals, even without Diego Costa. But on the other hand, Lionel Messi.

All the goals from Tuesday night here:

 

Paris Saint-Germain v Chelsea

Last night saw the clash of two major egos as Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea took on a PSG team spearheaded by Zlatan Ibrahimovich. Both men were respectful before the game, playing down their own team’s chances while praising the ability of their opponents.

Ibrahimovich has been scoring at will all season, however last night he was well marshalled and came off with a hamstring injury in the second half after being ineffective in the main. PSG had taken the lead in the third minute from a Lavezzi half-volley which was a direct result of an uncharacteristically poor headed clearance from John Terry. An Eden Hazard penalty in the 27th minute levelled matters, and it remained that way until half time.

PSG were the more composed side in the second period, and it was further defensive errors which allowed the home side to take a 3-1 lead to Stamford Bridge. With Matuidi running towards the corner flag with the ball on the hour mark, David Luiz opted to barge into the midfielder from behind. From the resulting free, Luiz bundled the ball into his own net after it cleared everyone else. In the third minute of stoppage time Javier Pastore scored a brilliant individual goal, tempered somewhat by the quality of Chelsea’s defending and Cech’s goalkeeping.

After the game Jose Mourinho again did something to his strikers that they themselves seem uncapable of. He attacked. While noting that his defenders had been solid all season and were allowed to make the occasional mistake, he bemoaned his lack of strikers. He had opted to start winger Andre Schurrle as the furthest man forward and as such there was no one to get on the end of threatening balls from creative talents like Hazard, Oscar and Willian.

A two goal deficit is far from insurmountable, particularly at Stamford Bridge. However Mourinho must figure out in the coming days who is most likely to bridge the gap for Chelsea. It’s clear he doesn’t believe his strikers are up to the task.

Here are all the goals from Parc des Princes

 

Real Madrid v Borussia Dortmund

The Santiago Bernebeu is a difficult enough place to come without having five of your first team players missing. Add to that the fact that the 4 goal hero against Madrid in last year’s semi-final Robert Lewandowski was missing througt suspension, and Borussia Dortmund were always going to have a mountain to climb.

Madrid were ruthless from the off, with Gareth Bale poking the ball into the Dortmund net from close range in just the third minute. Isco added a second from the edge of the box in the 27th minute and Ronaldo wrapped the game, and more than likely the tie, up in the 57th minute, showing quick feet to get a shot away from eight yards out.

Out of all the quarter finals, this one looks to be beyond doubt. Home advantage may not help Borussia Dortmund in the second leg. Just ask Schalke, who Madrid demolished 6-1 in Gelsenkirchen at the last 16 stage.

All the goals from Madrid’s victory here:

 

 

He is Zlatan – Greatest goals and incidents in Ibrahimovich’s career

Zlatan Ibrahimovich was surprisingly humble before tonight’s Champions League clash with Chelsea, calling Jose Mourinho’s men the favourites to progress to the semi-final.

It’s not often you see humility from the Swedish striker, but then with a goal catalogue like this why should you?

 

He has  been one of the best strikers in Europe for nigh on a decade, and has played at some of the greatest clubs on the continent. Ajax, Juventus, AC Milan, Internazionale, Barcelona and now a PSG side intent on becoming a European superpower.

His goal-scoring record is phenomenal, averaging out at around a goal every 2 games throughout his career. He has never won the Ballon d’Or, but has a wealth of other accolades to his name. In these years of Messi and Ronaldo dominance, only Ibrahimovich can claim to have been as consistently brilliant. Such is his reputation in the game that the World Cup playoffs between Portugal and Sweden was a mere side show to the main act, Ronaldo vs Ibrahimovich.

His supreme confidence is backed up by his ability on the pitch, as seen above. However sometimes that confidence goes beyond scoring goals… This video shows what happens when Ibrahimovich loses his temper on the field, when journalists question his ability, and when he has to play second fiddle to a certain Lionel Messi…

 

What a man.

 

Jury still out on UEFA’s Nations League

Spain v Italy - UEFA EURO 2012 Final

Spain, winners of a 16 team Euro 2012

In the future, international friendlies will be a thing of the past. The 54 members of UEFA this morning unanimously ratified the proposed Nations League, which will come into effect from 2018 onwards.

The aim of the competition, according to UEFA’s website, will be “to improve the quality and standard of international football.” UEFA admits in its statement that the exact format of the Nations League is yet to be determined, but “the concept is for the 54 teams to be divided into four large groups according to co-efficient rankings.”

When news of this possible development broke earlier in the week, it was easy to dismiss it as a PR move to make international friendlies more appealing. However it has emerged that the Nations League will be linked to the Euro Qualifiers, with extra places in the European Championships at stake.

In some respects this is a welcome move. Weaker countries will get extra opportunities to qualify for the European Championships. Anything that adds some spice to international friendlies can only be good for supporters, particularly Irish ones. If it wasn’t for the appointment of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane last autumn, the Aviva Stadium would have been harder to fill for games against Latvia and Poland.

However is there really a need to throw another competition into the mix? The Nations League runs the risk of becoming the Europa League of international football; important to the smaller sides but treated with contempt by the top teams. Furthermore, if it is important to the weaker nations, does that allow less room for them to blood new talent? International friendlies, while often tedious, have always been the stepping stone for younger players between club football and the higher intensity of competitive international fixtures. If the Nations League threatens teams with relegation should they lose, will they be reluctant to field inexperienced players?

In any case, with the expansion of the European Championships to 24 teams taking place, surely the current qualification route would have been enough of an opportunity for the weaker teams to stake their claim. Traditionally the group stages of the Euros have been more exciting than those in the World Cup due to fact that there were only 16 teams of a decent quality involved. Raising the quota to 24 teams has already given the third-best side in a qualification group the opportunity to progress to the flagship tournament via the play-offs.

UEFA run the risk of not only diluting the quality of the championship itself but also of the qualifiers. If a team is doing well in the Nations League, will they focus more on achieving their qualifying objective in that manner than in the qualifiers?

These are all questions which cannot be definitively answered until the inaugural Nations League in 2018. The tournament could be a success, or it could be just another ridiculous idea like those linesmen behind the goals who don’t actually do anything.