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UEFA Nations League Opens With a Whimper

UEFA Nations League Opens  With a WhimperUEFA Nations League Opens  With a Whimper

Europe’s newest international soccer tournament started Thursday with a whimper rather than a bang.

Germany and France - the 2014 World Cup champion against this year’s winner - headlined the opening night of the UEFA Nations League but the upshot was a 0-0 draw, most memorable for France goalkeeper Alphonse Areola’s saves, AP reported.

France took a relaxed approach compared to the high-intensity style of its victorious World Cup campaign, though Germany showed more of a competitive edge to put debutant Areola’s goal under siege in the final half-hour.

On the opening night for the new competition, the Wales team coached by Ryan Giggs swept past Ireland 4-1, while Ukraine beat the Czech Republic 2-1.

The Nations League was meant to replace friendlies with more meaningful games, but Croatia and Portugal showed that the friendly format still has some mileage.

In its first game since losing the World Cup final to France, Croatia drew 1-1 with European champion Portugal.

Ivan Perisic put Croatia ahead with a fierce shot in the 18th minute before Portugal defender Pepe responded with a header in the 32nd.

After missing out on a World Cup spot, the Netherlands showed grit in Thursday’s friendly against Peru, coming back from a goal down to win 2-1 as veteran midfielder Wesley Sneijder marked his 134th and last international game.

UEFA has had a tough time explaining why Europe needed its new competition, or how it works. 55 UEFA national teams are divided into four divisions called “Leagues”. In each league, four groups are formed (three or four teams in each).

In the top league, League A, the winners of the four groups go on to play in the Nations League finals, with two semifinals and one final to decide which team becomes the UEFA Nations League champion.

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