Football Features

Five things you might have missed from the last day of the summer internationals

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 22:25, 14 June 2022

The last international fixtures of this summer concluded tonight with Uefa’s Nations League games taking centre stage.

World Cup hopefuls Netherlands, Wales, Poland and Belgium were all playing their final minutes before going on holiday while four-time winners Germany faced European champions Italy in today’s most eagerly anticipated showdown at Borussia Mönchengladbach’s home ground.

Elsewhere the last Qatar 2022 spot was decided in Doha as Costa Rica and New Zealand locked horns. With this and more happening, it’s only natural if you miss an important or memorable event. But don’t worry – Squawka is here, with five things you might have missed from this latest round of international games.

1. In from the cold

Historically the Dutch have been blessed with lethal marksman, such was their abundance of riches in the 90s a threat like Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink struggled to cement a starting berth, those days feel like a lifetime ago with Oranje lacking a true ‘number nine’ since Klaas-Jan Huntelaar retired. Vincent Janssen seemed a natural successor especially following his stunning 2015/16 league campaign when he bagged 27 goals across 34 matches for AZ which earned a big move to Tottenham when the Heesch native couldn’t budge Harry Kane from Mauricio Pochettino’s lineup.

Janssen’s international career also started promisingly with seven goals netted across his first 13 appearances. Since that most recent effort Janssen played four more times before moving into the wilderness, that was in October 2017, just when he thought another Netherlands run out would never come Louis van Gaal gave the Monterrey striker a reprieve against Wales this evening. Janssen — who assisted Noa Lang’s opener — subsequently became the fourth player to win a Dutch international cap while playing for a non-European side.

2. Finally, and in style

Europe’s two most successful nations also happened to share an intense rivalry. Between them Germany and Italy have won eight world titles and five European Championships while facing each other on 36 occasions spanning three continents across nearly a century before this evening’s showdown. However, it’s the Azzurri who have triumphed when it matters the most, in other words Germany have never beaten their southern neighbours in a non-friendly setting (10 previous attempts either ending in a draw or defeat), that was the case until tonight. Although to some Nations League matches are nothing more than a glorified exhibition, it’s still a Uefa-sanctioned competition, meaning it goes into the record books alongside qualifiers and tournament matches as competitive fixtures.

Given where both sides are now Hansi Flick’s men came into this evening’s game as favourites even if they’ve flattered to deceive all summer. A run of three consecutive 1-1 draws, including a stalemate in Bologna earlier in June, had put them on the backfoot in League A Group 3 but those shooting boots were on display on home soil as Die Mannschaft ran out emphatic 5-2 winners. Joshua Kimmich opened the scoring 10 minutes in before Ilkay Gündogan converted a penalty in first half stoppage time. Thomas Müller ended a three-game international scoring drought after the break and in doing so registered a first goal past Italy in his eighth meeting against them. Timo Werner helped himself to a brace before Wilfried Gnonto and Alessandro Bastoni reduced the deficit. This was also the first time Italy had conceded 5+ goals in a single match since May 12, 1957 against Yugoslavia (1-6).

3. Last but not least

Australia became the 31st nation to book a place at this winter’s World Cup finals and their antipodean brothers New Zealand seeked to join them and in doing so end a 12-year absence from the beautiful games quadrennial celebration. Out to stop them was Costa Rica, who had been present in four of their last five tournaments, ironically being absent from the All Whites last participation. In yet another close affair in Qatar it was the central American nation that celebrated by running out 1-0 winners; former Gunner marksman Joel Campbell scored the all-important goal after three minutes had been played, Chris Wood felt he’d equalised but his effort was ruled out following an inteveration from the video assistant referee. New Zealand were reduced to 10 men after substitute Kosta Barbarouses was shown a straight red six minutes into his cameo. Costa Rica can now look forward to games against Spain, Germany and Japan in Group E.

4. What’s the Dutch for déjà vu?

Cody Gakpo doubled the Netherlands lead against Wales and for all intents and purposes Van Gaal’s men were cruising towards a quiet evening. Brennan Johnson had other ideas by halving Oranje’s lead and Rob Page’s side looked destined for a hardfought point when Gareth Bale equalised from the spot in the 92nd minute. Of course, the Dragons had been here recently, drawing level against the Dutch at home less than a week ago before Wout Weghorst broke their hearts.

He wasn’t on the pitch for Bale and company to worry about, but there was a sense of deja vu when mere seconds later Memphis Depay was wheeling away to celebrate a stunning late winner, the Barcelona man ultimately made amends following his late penalty miss — to seal all three points against Poland — a few days ago. Depay’s importance to Oranje is understated. He and partner-in-crime Steven Bergwijn have been responsible for 28 of the Netherlands last 43 goals. Depay now sits on 42 international goals which is eight behind all-time Dutch scorer Robin van Persie, that prize record could easily fall before 2022 is out.

5. Nathan Collins take a bow

In what turned out to be his fifth appearance for Ireland, having only debuted late last year, Burnley defender Nathan Collins scored a first international goal and it couldn’t have been more stunning. Picking up the ball midway in Ukraine’s half the full-back Beckenbauer’d his way through before slotting past Dmytro Riznyk.

Ireland were unable to hold on as Artem Dovbyk would equalise minutes into the second half. The result leaves Ukraine one point clear of Scotland in League B Group 1 with Ireland in third and Armenia a point further behind. The latter two, though, have played a game more than the leading two sides who meet next in Scotland in November.