It is now officially interval o’clock everywhere. “Couldn’t Rodrigo have shown a little more imagination on that golden opportunity for an opening goal?” wonders Mary Waltz. Well, he could have had a shot, if that’s what you mean.
The half-time whistle has blown in Stuttgart, where it’s goalless at the interval, and it’s not far off everywhere else. There’s been one goal in Moldova, one apiece between Faroe Islands and Malta and between Ukraine and Switzerland, and none anywhere else.
GOAL! Ukraine 1-1 Switzerland!
A second goal in Lviv, and it’s an equaliser! Haris Seferović’s low shot screams into the corner of the net from 25 yards or so, and it’s all square a couple of minutes before the break!
Half a chance for Spain, after Fabián Ruiz plays in Rodrigo, but instead of shooting he tries to square the ball back to Fabián Ruiz and it’s intercepted.
GOAL! Faroe Islands 1-1 Malta!
They’re flying in in Torshavn! Jurgen Degabriele has equalised for the visitors with a smart finish from the edge of the area!
Handbags! Joe Morrell’s rather, um, wholehearted attempt to tackle Glen Kamara sparks a bit of bad-tempered posturing in Helsinki. Morrell is eventually booked.
GOAL! Faroe Islands 1-0 Malta!
Goals are rare enough this evening to be worth key event status, I think. There’s big news coming from Torshavn, where Klæmint Olsen has headed in a bouncing cross.
“It’s not that Finland-Wales hasn’t been interesting, but in the game’s quieter moments my eyes have been drawn to the rather fetching kit the Finnish pelaajat are wearing,” writes Kári Tulinius. “Off the top of my head, I can’t remember a football shirt with an off-center cross like that. Are the Finns trailblazers, or has another national side or a club beaten them to that particular design element?” Here’s the kit in full:
May I refer you to Sweden’s 2014 away kit? There may also be others. Finland’s kit, while not groundbreaking, is still quite nice.
GOAL! Moldova 1-0 Kosovo! Ion Nicolaescu has made the breakthrough in Parma, snaffling the rebound after Carp’s header proved slippery.
Chance for Spain! It’s a cunning training-ground free-kick routine, lifted beyond the far post by Fabián Ruiz where it’s headed down to Busquets, whose volley is kept out!
De Gea has been in action again, saving Sané’s curler. Sané is starting his first game since last season’s Community Shield, and looking bright so far.
GOAL! Ukraine 1-0 Switzerland! Yarmolenko has given Ukraine the lead in Lviv! A canny back-heel, I’m told.
at 3.24pm EDT
“I’m thrilled to see Adam Idah getting the start,” gushes JR. “I know it won’t fix any of the world’s problems but it would give me immense, if brief, pleasure to see Idah score a hat-trick against Bulgaria.” It might happen, but it’s goalless so far in every game bar one…
What a chance for Spain! Trapp comes out to try to beat Rodrigo to Emre Can’s rubbish back-pass, fails, leaves Rodrigo with an open goal to aim at, and then gets back in time to nick the ball back with a sliding tackle as the Spaniard dallies!
Germany are looking much more threatening than Spain. They’ve come close to breaking the offside trap a couple of times, and now a cross from the left finds Thilo Kehrer beyond the far post, but De Gea deals with his header.
Nearly a chance for Bale! In Finland Hradecky fails to hold on to a deflected shot but the ball rolls just out of Bale’s reach.
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Not much by way of early action, it must be said. De Gea has repeatedly blootered the ball downfield for Spain, which isn’t very Spanish of him.
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The bench is a terribly lonely place these days.
If I learn nothing else from this evening, I have at least learned that the Finnish for “player” is “pelaaja”.
Stephen Kenny has a quick chat about his decision to choose Matt Doherty over Seamus Coleman at right-back:
They’re two exceptional full-backs, two of the best full-backs in the Premier League, and Matt’s had an exceptional season and scored a great header against Denmark. He just gets the decision, a marginal decision really. I think we’ve got a pace in the team, that’s important for us.
Ryan Giggs explains why he’s given a chance to Welsh debutant Dylan Levitt:
Dylan gets his chance. I think in a Euro campaign, towards the end when every game was a huge game, it was too much of a gamble to pick him, but he impressed in training. He’s played a few games in pre-season so he’s fit, which was a big part of my selection tonight, trying to get as many players on the pitch who’s played minutes. He’s a good footballer, he gets the ball down, he’s got a good range of passing and I’m looking forward to seeing him play.
Warm-ups are in full flow in Stuttgart:
And this is what they say about the side Ryan Giggs has selected for Wales:
Manchester United midfielder Dylan Levitt was handed his Wales debut for the opening Nations League game against Finland in Helsinki.
The 19-year-old was one of three changes from Wales’ last match against Hungary 10 months ago, a 2-0 win which secured qualification for Euro 2020.
Ethan Ampadu and Jonny Williams also came in as Chris Mepham, Joe Allen and Aaron Ramsey missed out through injury, but Real Madrid striker Gareth Bale started to lead Ryan Giggs’ side.
Here’s PA Media’s take on the Republic of Ireland line-up:
New Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny handed teenager Adam Idah a senior international debut in Bulgaria in his first match at the helm.
The 19-year-old Norwich striker and Brighton’s Aaron Connolly, 20, who both played under Kenny at Under-21 level, were included in the starting line-up for Ireland’s Nations League opener in Sofia, as was Crystal Palace midfielder James McCarthy, who won his first cap since October 2016.
Bulgaria coach Georgi Dermendzhiev made wholesale changes to the side which beat the Czech Republic in their last Euro 2020 qualifier with only keeper Georgi Georgiev, defenders Strahil Popov and Petar Zanev and midfielders Georgi Kostadinov and Kristiyan Malinov surviving.
Team news is starting to filter in. Here are the line-ups from Stuttgart:
Germany: Trapp; Kehrer, Gosens, Draxler, Kroos, Werner, Sule, Rudiger, Sane, Gundogan, Can. Subs from: Leno, Baumann, Ginter, Tah, Neuhaus, Brandt, Waldschmidt, Koch, Havertz, Serdar.
Spain: De Gea, Carvajal, Ramos, Pau Torres, Gaya; Thiago, Busquets, Fabian Ruiz; Jesus Navas, Ferran Torres; Rodrigo. Subs from: Kepa, Simon, Diego Llorente, Merino, Olmo, Moreno, Garcia, Rodri, Ansu Fati, Oscar, Reguilon.
Referee: Daniele Orsato (Italy).
Tonight’s first result: Andorra have drawn 0-0 with Latvia, who missed a penalty.
International football is back, back, baaaaack! Germany last played on 19 November 2019, thrashing Northern Ireland 6-1 the day after Spain’s beat Romania 5-0 in their most recent match. Back then both thought they would have played a European Championships by now, and perhaps have added another trophy to their crowded cabinets. As it happened history threw them a bit of a curveball, but today we take another step towards a vague simulacrum of normality as the 2020-21 Nations League gets under way with a Ibero-Germanic whopper.
Germany and Spain have played nine competitive matches, most recently in the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup. Germany have four wins and Spain three, but since the 1982 World Cup it’s 3-1 to the Spaniards, with a draw in 1994. In those five matches only one side, West Germany (as it was then) in 1988, scored more than one goal.
Jogi Low says that his players will be knackered and rubbish – “Some have been training for weeks but have no match practice, others have just finished playing, others are just back from holidays. I don’t think players will last over 90 minutes,” he says – but that won’t stop me looking forward to it. Big questions set to be answered include: who will click into form? Will Ansu Fati or Ferran Torres make their debuts? And has Sergio Ramos found a razor?
And if it disappoints, there are eight other evening games for us to keep an eye on as well. Today’s fun and games, or at the very least today’s games, look like these, with Wales (in Finland) and the Republic of Ireland (in Bulgaria) providing some anglophone interest (7.45pm BST kick-offs unless stated):
League A, Group 4
Germany v Spain
Ukraine v Switzerland
League B, Group 3
Russia v Serbia
Turkey v Hungary
League B, Group 4
Bulgaria v Republic of Ireland
Finland v Wales
League C, Group 3
Moldova v Kosovo
Slovenia v Greece
League D, Group 1
Faroe Islands v Malta
Latvia v Andorra (5pm BST)
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