The third round of games pertaining to the UEFA Nations League is now in the books and we here at Coming Home Newcastle are fully invested in covering the Magpies playing around Europe and the World over.
Miguel Almirón (Paraguay)
Match: PAR vs South Korea (Friendly)
Less than 75 minutes is what Miggy needed to put up a couple of goals while scoring a brace for his nation in an international friendly against South Korea. Almirón got off the pitch at the 74th minute substituted by Gabriel Ávalos with the scoreboard already showing a 2-1 in favor of the South American side that would later turn into a 2-2 draw by the final whistle thanks to an incredibly late effort by Woo-Young Jung.
Paraguay’s coach Guillermo Schelotto deployed Almirón at the 10 position and Miggy surely delivered with a brace and a magnificent international performance that clearly had him snatching the Player of the Game award I’m just making up at this very moment. Heung-min Son, he of the Spurs and well known around these places, was the other great man in the match with a goal himself launching South Korea’s bid for a draw and extracting something positive from this—probably unnecessary—friendly.
After getting hammered by Japan (1-4) at the start of June, Paraguay and Almirón found their way back to a reasonably nice performance on this one, though it ended going for nothing and ending in just a middling draw. Derlis González scored one against the Japanese with Miggy playing all 90 minutes back then but not contributing to the scoreboard with a goal nor an assist either. Paraguay is done until the pre-WC matches taking place next September (the first one scheduled against Mexico on Sep. 1) with the Paraguayans missing the biggest football event this year after not qualifying for the Qatar finals.
Chris Wood (New Zealand)
Match: NZE vs Oman (Friendly)
Nothing more than a stay-in-shape game for the Kiwis, this one. It was the second friendly in the Kiwis' schedule this month in preparation for their real test against Costa Rica when they face the Ticos on Tuesday for a place in Qatar’s 2022 World Cup. Oman is barely a football country—if at all—so this match was never going to bring any sort of fancy fireworks to the table.
So much so, in fact, that New Zealand’s manager Danny Hay rotated his players heavily and then performed six changes in the second half including four at once in the 62nd minute of the game with the scoreboard still at 0-0. Wood got into the game by the 78th minute of playing time although he could not score and the final result was the very same as that the game started with.
Kieran Trippier (England)
Match: ENG vs Italy (UEFA Nations League, Group A3)
In another marquee game of the Nations League (assuming that’s a thing...), England and Italy played to a goalless draw and it’s now been three matches in a row for the Three Lions without getting the full bag of three points in the initial stages of the continental competition. The best news for Newcastle fans, of course, is the presence of Kieran Trippier on the starting XI and the fact that, for the second game in a row and against another European giant, Tripps logged the full 90 minutes of playing time.
Trippier featured on the left for the second time with Reece James manning the right flank and not many options on the left for coach Gareth Southgate to use. While SofaScore didn’t rate him as high as they did a few games ago in the match against Germany (7.4), Tripps still got his nice 7.2 grade yesterday in the Italy affair. Trippier got way more involved in the latter game getting 87 touches to the prior 64 while completing more passes than he even attempted against Germany (61/70 against Italy; 34/41 against the Germans).
England dominated the game and the xG marks of both sides were 1.68-0.90 in favor of the lads with a Field Tilt of 63.4% also favoring the British side. Trippier was much better on passing plays than carrying the ball but overall put on a great performance. England closes their June Nations League tour against Hungary in a couple of days after having dropped their first game against them a few days ago by a score of 1-0 abroad.
Fabian Schär (Switzerland)
Match: CHE vs Spain (UEFA Nations League, Group A2)
Schar didn’t play as he was suspended for this match due to yellow-card accumulation. Switzerland dropped their game against the Spaniards and is now sitting dead last in its Nations League group.
Portugal leads with 7 points, Spain and the Czech Republic have 5 and 4 respectively, and the Swiss have yet to get one single point having lost all three games played with a goal difference of one for, seven against. Yikes.
Emil Krafth (Sweden)
Match: SWE vs Serbia (UEFA Nations League, Group B2)
Krafth didn’t play as he was suspended for this match due to yellow-card accumulation. Sweden couldn’t beat Serbia (0-1) and the Swedish are now sitting third already three points down from Serbia which has 6 points, and Norway which has 7 through the first three matches of the Nations League.
The game should have been more balanced but the truth is that both sides were missing a lot of players or having them banged up (Emil Forsberg, Alexander Isak, Krafth, and Dejan Kulusevski on Sweden; Dusan Vlahovic and Aleksander Mitrovic on Serbia). Sweden might/should have done more, surely, but a squad depleted of its biggest names couldn’t do a lot to contain the Serbs and ended up falling to the Eastern European country last Thursday.
Jeff Hendrick (Ireland)
Match: IRL vs Scotland (UEFA Nations League, Group B12)
After two consecutive starts and two losses with the Irishmen, Ireland’s coach Stephen Kenny decided to send Jeff Hendrick packing to the bench for their game against Scotland. And, truth be told, the decision proved to be the right one as Ireland won their first Nations League game by a solid 3-0 final score.
Hendrick had played all 90 minutes against Armenia (0-1) and Ukraine (0-1) this month, but he only made it to the field nearing the final whistle when he got on the pitch by the 84th minute of playing time. The game had been settled by the halftime mark as Ireland already led 2-0 by then (goals by Alan Browne and Troy Parrott before the 30th minute) and grew larger when Michael Obafemi added a third goal and the one that would set the final 3-0 on the scoreboard.
The six-and-change minutes didn’t allow Hendrick to do that much leading the Irish midfield. Hendrick finished the day with 11 total minutes played, five touches, one of two completed passes, and more defensive than offensive efforts (one ground duel won, one clearance, one tackle). We’ll see how Kenny approaches the next game against Ukraine in a couple of days and whether or not he decides to keep Hendrick on the bench only to bring him in late when he’s not needed anymore, trusting the trio of Josh Cullen, Jason Knight, and Jayson Molumby over the Magpie at least for the remaining international game taking place this month.