Wales 4-1 Republic of Ireland, Germany 0-0 France and more: Nations League – as it happened

The Republic Ireland were soundly beaten by Gareth Bale and co, Germany were held by the world champions and Holland beat Peru 2-1

Martin O'Neill's verdict

“We were well beaten. Obviously we were missing some key players but we were still well beaten. We set out with good intentions, they scored very early in the game. Their second goal was world class so of course that sets you back. It’s tough to come back from 2-0 down after 15 minutes. It was a hard evening, no doubt.”

“[Wales] look as if they’ve got some good young players … I think we’re unable to be missing five or six Premier League players and still put on a real big show. We need to be at full-strength. I’ve not known when we’ve been as decimated as this. Of course [we need to play better]. We’ve got to try to be braver on the ball.”

Seamus Coleman holds hands up to awful performance

No sign of Ireland’s manger yet but the captain says: “We’re proud people and we wanted to put on a show for ourselves and our traveling fans but we did anything but that. All round Wales were better than us. Individually we were poor. We’ve got to be brave when we have the ball and I don’t think we were... I thought Wales played well but we gave them far too much respect. They had a lot of the ball but when we did have possession we were very disappointing. We’re looking for passion and bravery on the ball we we didn’t do that.”

Giggs reacts to his first competitive win in his first competitive match

“The lads were magnificent. Some brilliant goals, some great football ... We don’t get a lot of time on the grass [to train] so it was just about recovery and trying to work on things as much as we can: trusting each other on the ball and expressing ourselves. They’ve set the standard now, they’ve got to stay there. I enjoyed the performance but we can do better: there were some mistakes in there that we have to work on.”

With regards to Ampadu (age 17!), the Wales manager says: “He’s a talented player but, even more than that, he’s so balanced and mature as a person. He’s going to be a magnificent player.”

Bale and Ampadu give their verdicts

Bale: “We had to put in a good performance with the first home game for the new manager, the new regime... We’ve been working hard in training. The manager wants to put his stamp on things. He wants us to attack and express ourselves and you saw that tonight.”

Regarding the performances of young players such as Ampadu, Brooks and Roberts, the Real madrid man says: “They settled in very well. As you know the squad is quite relaxed and we all welcome everyone in and settled in quicly into what we want to do.”

Ampadu agrees: “They helped us settle in and gave us the confidence to go out and enjoy ourselves.”

That is how Wales played, with joy and confidence. They were great to watch and a stark contrast to a damnably lame Ireland side.

Nations League results

Wales 4-1 Ireland

Germany 0-0 France

Latvia 0-0 Andorra

Gibraltar 0-2 Macedonia

Norway 2-0 Cyprus

Slovenia 1-2 Bulgaria

Armenia 2-1 Liechtenstein

Kazakhstan 0-2 Georgia

Friendly results:

Holland 2-1 Peru

Austria 2-0 Sweden

Portugal 1-1 Croatia

Full-time: Wales 4-1 Ireland.

Wales were wonderful. They played with enterprise and panache, full of confidence, deftness and offensive derring-do. Ampadu ran midfield like a veteran while Brooks and Lawrence made relentless mischief further forward and Roberts crowned his bold performance from full-back with a splendid goal. Those young talents fit right in alongside the likes of Bale and Ramsey. It was almost perfect for Ryan Giggs in his first competitive match. Ireland, meanwhile, were ridiculous. They were missing several key players, yes, but they also seemed to be missing any semblance of a workable plan; even basic pressing seemed beyond them.

90+1 min: Horgan and Stevens combine cleverly down the left before Wales put an end to their conniving.

90 min: Meanwhile in the Germany-France humdinger, Kari Tulinius reports” “It’s not entirely fair to say that there has been no entertainment in the Allianz Arena tonight. At one point a spider started building a web on the camera lens before being brushed away. That was fun.”

89 min: Wales continue to swank it up as Ireland run around unconvincingly. “Is this Ireland’s lower league and futsal player lineup?” quips Peter Oh.

86 min: Stevens rescues Ireland with a superb tackle on Brooks, who was about to either shoot from six yards or square it to the unmarked Ramsey.

85 min: Clark blocks a shot from Brooks as Wales launch yet another attack.

84 min: Wales fans are singing merrily. They have a team they can be proud of, with some exciting young players adding to established stars and a manager whose first home match has gone like a dream.

82 min: Wales try a canny corner routine. Brooks plays it low to the near post, where Ramsey flicks it back to Lawrence, who attempts to shoot into the net from nine yards ... but swipes at fresh air instead. Full marks for the plan, but they need to work on the execution.

Wales substitution: Dummett on, Davies off. The Newcastle man thus wins his third cap, three years after his second.

81 min: Lawrence with a foxy flick to Allen, who helps it on the Roberts, who booms over a good cross from the right. It’s put behind for a corner. Wales are loving their new-found groove.

79 min: Roberts drives forward from midfield, exchanges pass with Smith and then rasps a low shot towards the bottom corner from 20 yards. Randolph plunges to his right to tip it around the post. “To mitigate a little your pain: I am watching Germany-France on French TV,” confides Jonathan Denness. “If I watch on German TV the cameras on the other side which is always weird. Either way, we have a match where the Germans have the ball and shoot from distance. The French counter attack and shoot from distance. 0-0. At least there is entertainment in Cardiff.”

Ireland substitution: Horgan on, Robinson off.

76 min: Mayhem in the Irish box as Wales probe and hab. Ramsey tries to loop a pass over to Brooks, before Smith fires off a good effort from the edge of the area. Randolph saves.

Wales substitution: Tyler Roberts makes his debut in place of Bale What a moment for the youngster. I saw him score a magnificent goal for Leeds in a pre-season friendly at Oxford United. If he could do it there, he’ll fancy his chances against this Irish rabble.

73 min: The pace of this game has dropped. Wales feel no obligation to score again - especially not with a match against strong-again Denmark on Sunday - and Ireland seem happy not get a bigger spanking.

GOAL! Holland 1-1 Peru. Mephis Depay has equalised for Ronald Koeman’s team in their friendly before Sunday’s Nations League meeting with France, who are still drawing 0-0 in Germany.

70 min: Robinson makes good ground down the left wing for Ireland and then pings in a fetching cross. Williams heads away.

Wales substitution: Smith on, Ampadu off after the splendid performance.

GOAL! Wales 4-1 Ireland (Williams 66)

Ramsey tries to show off on the edge of his area and Williams nicks it off him and dinks the ball nicely over Hennessey! That’s the Millwall man’s first goal for his country and a reminder to Wales that they are still Wales: they can’t go showboating like that and expect to get away with it.

Republic of Ireland’s Shaun Williams deftly dinks the ball over Wales keeper Wayne Hennessey to pull a goal back for the visitors.
Republic of Ireland’s Shaun Williams deftly dinks the ball over Wales keeper Wayne Hennessey to pull a goal back for the visitors. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters
Republic of Ireland’s Shaun Williams celebrates scoring their first goal
Williams celebrates scoring his first goal for his country. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters

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64 min: Wales are popping the ball around with some pizzazz. If this is Giggsball, they’re sure hired the right manager.

63 min: As things stand, Wales are beating Ireland by double the score that Macedonia are beating Gibraltar. This is a fiasco.

62 min: Bale fires into the net after collecting a pass over the top from Ampadu. But it’s disallowed for offside. That’s the right call, by about half a yard. Another fine pass by Ampadu, mind. His dad, Kwame, played for Ireland, you know.

60 min: Stephen Ward has suffered a knee injury on his 50th cap and is replaced by Enda Stevens.

59 min: “Keano, what’s the score? chant the home fans. I’m assuming he could answer if he wanted to but, having said that, nothing on the pitch suggests the Irish know what’s going on at all.

GOAL! Slovenia 1-1 Bulgaria (Kaev 69)

Ireland substitution: Williams on, Hourihane off. Let’s see if that makes Ireland any more solid. They’ve been almost idiotically open so far.

57 min: Bale collects a pass at the edge of the Irish box and aims a shot for the top corner. He misses by about a yard.

GOAL! Wales 4-0 Ireland (Roberts 55)

That’s a beautiful finish by Roberts, who claims his first goal for his country with spectacular style. Ludicrously he was free at the edge of the Irish area as Wales attacked. Bale pinged a super pass over to him from the left and he chipped it up for himself and walloped a volley past Randolph!

Wales’ Connor Roberts fires the ball home after setting himself up nicely with a deft little touch. scores their fourth goal.
Wales’ Connor Roberts fires the ball home after setting himself up nicely with a deft little touch. scores their fourth goal. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Action Images via Reuters
Wales’ Connor Roberts (centre) celebrates with teammates Ethan Ampadu (left) and David Brooks.
Roberts celebrates with teammates Ethan Ampadu (left) and David Brooks. Photograph: Harry Trump/Getty Images

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54 min: As Wales fans sing “olé” in recognition of their team’s dominance, Bale tries to give them something else to gloat about. But his blaster from 20 yards cannons into Duffy.

52 min: Christie breaks up a Welsh attack on the edge of his own box and then rushes forward and sweeps a good ball forward to Walters on the right wing. Walters swings in a high cross. Robinson gets his head on it but can’t do much else, surrounded by Welshmen.

51 min: Clark cops a booking for shunting Bale to the ground as the maestro started to make a run in anticipation of a through-ball. A pre-emptive tackle by Clark, then.

50 min: Duffy rises above Williams to meet a high corner. He gets a decent header on it but it’s straight at Hennessey, who saves with no problem.

49 min: The sprightly Lawrence swaps passes with Brooks before clipping a dainty cross into the danger area. Ireland deal with it this time. Lawrence has been excellent so far on the left-hand side of Wales’ attack.

46 min: The teams are back out. Neither manager has made any substitutions. Understandable from Giggs, but I hope that doesn’t mean O’Neill is all out of ideas. Especially as I’m still not clear on what his initial idea is/was.

For an under-strength Ireland side to be beaten away to this dashing Wales team would not necessarily be disgraceful - but to lose without giving any indication that they had any idea how not to would be damning on O’Neill and Keane. They need a big improvement in the second half.

Nations League half-time scores

Germany 0-0 France

Czech Republic 1-2 Ukraine

Wales 3-0 Ireland

Latvia 0-0 Andorra

Gibraltar 0-2 Macedonia

Norway 2-0 Cyprus

Slovenia 1-1 Bulgaria

Friendly half-times:

Holland 0-1 Peru

Austria 1-1 Sweden

Portugal 1-1 Croatia

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Half-time: Wales 3-0 Ireland

Ryan Giggs’ first home match could hardly have gone better so far, thanks to his team’s vibrant enterprise and the depleted visitors’ cluelessness. Wales have scored three fine goals and could rack up more. They’re playing with confidence, flair and speed. Ireland have been uncoordinated, uninspired, open and sloppy.

It’s not been pleasant viewing for the Republic of Ireland fans.
It’s not been pleasant viewing for the Republic of Ireland fans. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

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43 min: Declan Rice, if you’re reading this, please feel free to drop us a line to share your thoughts on the game...

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40 min: For those asking, Wales’ record victory over the Republic of Ireland before today was ... 3-1. They do have an 11-0 victory on their record but that was against a pre-independence Ireland in the 19th century. I believe Jon Walters came on as a second-half substitute.

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GOAL! Wales 3-0 Ireland (Ramsey 37)

Ampadu nudges Walters off the ball in midfield, glides forward 20 yards and then offloads to Ramsey, who shots low into the net from the edge of the box. So simple and so deadly from the Welsh against an increasingly ramshackle Irish side!

Aaron Ramsey’s near post shot makes it 3-0.
Aaron Ramsey’s near post shot makes it 3-0. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Aaron Ramsey of Wales celebrates scoring a goal to make the score 3-0.
Ramsey celebrates his goal. Photograph: Kieran McManus/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock

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36 min: Ireland do get their act together, for a moment at least! Coleman swaps snappy passes with Hendrick down the right and then cuts the ball back from the byline for Robinson, who lifts his shot a yard over the bar from 10 yards.

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34 min: Davies curls in a sweet cross from the let. Roberts darts between the Irish centreback and heads over the bar from eight yards! The fact that both Wales’ fullbacks were at the end of that Welsh move is representative of how the hosts have approached this game. They’re comfortably the better team here and could rack up a humiliating score if Ireland don’t get their act together.

“Over in Germany the spirit of eleven-man defence is alive and well and being given a good outing by the French team,” observes Charles Antaki. “Did they really win the Word Cup this way? On the other hand, accentuating the positives, they are making Germany look almost dynamic.” Sounds like Paul Pogba will have to wait till he gets back to Old Trafford to play exciting football on the front foot. Right?

France’s Paul Pogba tussles with Germany’s Antonio Rüdiger.
France’s Paul Pogba tussles with Germany’s Antonio Rüdiger. Photograph: Pixathlon/Rex/Shutterstock

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30 min: Wales rip forward on the counter-attack, Brooks leading the charge. HE then feeds Lawrence on the left. He cut in-field à la Bale and rifles off a shot from 20 yards. Randolph gets down low to push it away. There’s a pleasing verve to this Welsh side.

28 min: Cyrus Christie’s inclusion at right midfield was presumably intended to help Coleman to subdue Bale. But it is not working because (a) Bale is too good and (b) Bale moves all over, appearing on the left as often as the right. Given how predictable all that was, O’Neill really should have started with a proper attacking wide man such as Horgan or Burke.

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GOAL! Czech Republic 1-0 Ukraine (Schick)

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26 min: Bale collects the ball in the same position as he was in when scoring his goal. This time Ward does not allow him to cut on to his left foot - at least not until reinforcements arrive. Bale is crowded out.

GOAL Portugal 0 Croatia 1 (Ivan Perisic 18)

Croatia’s Ivan Perisic, right, celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the friendly against Portugal.
Croatia’s Ivan Perisic, right, celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the friendly against Portugal. Photograph: Armando Franca/AP

GOAL! Austria 1 (Filip Helander Og 11) Sweden 0

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Wales fans seem to be singing a chant intended to taunt “jammy bastards”. Harsh, really, as their team deserve this lead.

GOAL! Norway 1-0 Cyprus (Johansen 21) Time for Cyprus to switch to Plan B if they’re going to avoid another defeat by Norway.

21 min: While I - and hopefully Messers O’Neill and Keane - try to figure out how in heck Ireland are going to stop this bleeding horror show, here’s a report explaining why Wales will have it tougher on Sunday.

GOAL! Wales 2-0 Ireland (Bale 19)

It’s a Bale special! He trapped a long crossfield ball on his chest wide on the right, then sashayed in-field and curled a sumptuous shot into the top corner from 20 yards!

Gareth Bale fires in a fine finish for Wales’ second.
Gareth Bale fires in a fine finish for Wales’ second. Photograph: MB Media/Getty Images
Gareth Bale of Wales scores his side’s second goal
Here it is from a different angle. Photograph: Athena Pictures/Getty Images
Gareth Bale of Wales celebrates after he scores Wales’ second goal.
Bale celebrates. Photograph: Gareth Everett/Huw Evans/Rex/Shutterstock

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17 min: Ampadu has been very impressive so far. He’s running the show in midfield, mixing expansive passes with neat short balls. He’s looking like an old hand in central midfield, helped by the fact that Ireland are failing to put him under any pressure.

Cyprus are holding Norway to 0-0 so far, a result they would be content with given they have never avoided defeated against the Norwegians. “I believe some of today’s fixtures are meaningless friendlies and others are semi-meaning-imbued Nations League fixtures,” reckons Peter Oh. “It must be hard to deal with such a confusing mix of meaninglessness and meaning.” Isn’t that what MBMs were invented for?

13 min: The early exchanges in Germany have been surprisingly low quality. Germany are the more muscular side and France quite coy but both have been imprecise.

France’s Kylian Mbappe and Germany’s Toni Kroos vie for the ball.
France’s Kylian Mbappe and Germany’s Toni Kroos vie for the ball. Photograph: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

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10 min: Brooks brings a cheer from the crowd with a foxy piece of skill to elude Ward. He lost possession straight after but the first bit was a sign of the audacity with which Wales aim to play.

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9 min: Lawrence takes advantage of hesitation by Coleman to nick the ball off the Irish captain and lope forward again. But he loses control of it and allows Ireland to recover. So far, however, this has been a very vibrant performance by Giggs’ teams, whereas Ireland are looking shabby.

GOAL! Wales 1-0 Ireland (Lawrence 6)

Ampadu spanks a ball from the centre cirlce wide to the right. Wales build from there and Allen then slips a cute ball through for Lawrence to run on to and fire past Randolph! That’s a nice move and finish but Clark needs to reflect on how Lawrence was able to dart past him unnoticed before latching on to Allen’s pass.

Wales’ Tom Lawrence lashes the ball home to open the scoring in Cardiff.
Wales’ Tom Lawrence lashes the ball home to open the scoring in Cardiff. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA
Tom Lawrence of Wales celebrates scoring the opening goal.
Lawrence celebrates. Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

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GOAL! Slovenia 0-1 Bulgaria (Kraev 3)

Bozhidar Kraev fires Bulgaria into an early lead.
Bozhidar Kraev fires Bulgaria into an early lead. Photograph: Borut Zivulovic/Reuters

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3 min: Brooks makes a strong early impression with an enterprising run down the right and a good deep cross for Bale, coming in on the far side of the box. Bale collects the balls and then faffs about a bit before flicking the ball off to no one.

2 min: Ampadu’s first involvement sees him give away a freekick for a foul in Irish territory. His second, however, is a nice pass to Ramsey to get Wales moving forward with purpose. Ireland fold back into a back four. Christie seems to be operating at right-midfield.

1 min: We have kickoff in Cardiff and across Europe.

The band strikes up the first notes of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau and then stops to let the home supporters to take over ... and they do so with gusto. As Han Solo might have put it: that’s no crowd, that’s a choir!

Here come the Welsh and Irish teams, striding proudly out on to the grass at a Cardiff City stadium that looks to be about 80% full.

Giggs and O'Neill say their pieces

Giggs: “Ethan [Ampadu] is a talent so it will be great for Welsh fans to see him play and I’m looking forward to it too. [Regarding his first home match as manager] I can’t wait for the whistle to go.

O’Neill: “We’ve got some players who haven’t been playing regularly but we’re trying to go as strong as we possibly can given the circumstances.”

Peace has broken out in Denmark!

Bad news for ambitious Danish futsal players: word is that Denmark will be able to field their strongest team against Wales on Sunday after players agreed to suspend their boycott while negotiating a resolution in their image rights beef with the country’s FA.

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Holland v Peru & Portugal v Croatia teams

Here are the lineup for those friendlies:

Portugal: Rui Patricio, Joao Cancelo, Pepe, Dias, Mario Rui,
William Carvalho, Neves, Pizzi, Bruma, Bernardo Silva,
Andre Silva.

Subs: Claudio Ramos, Luis Neto, Pedro Mendes,
Sanches, Marcos Lopes, Sergio Oliveira, Bruno Fernandes,
Goncalo Guedes, Gelson Martins, Cedric, Gedson Fernandes, Beto.

Croatia: Kalinic, Vrsaljko, Vida, Mitrovic, Barisic, Badelj,
Kovacic, Modric, Pjaca, Perisic, Livaja.

Subs: Livakovic, Milic, Cop, Brozovic, Bradaric, Pasalic, Jedvaj, Santini, Rog, Pivaric, Letica.

Holland: Cillessen, de Ligt, van Dijk, Blind, Tete, Wijnaldum,
Strootman, Babel, Vormer, Sneijder, Depay.

Subs: Zoet, Janmaat, de Vrij, Ake, Propper, van de Beek, de Roon, de Jong, Promes, Vilhena, Kluivert, De Jong.


Peru: Gallese, Advincula, Ramos, Santamaria, Trauco, Yotun,
Aquino, Carrillo, Cueva, Loyola, Farfan.

Subs: Alvarez, Lopez, Madrid, Araujo, Sandoval, Ruidiaz, Calcaterra, Pena, Flores, Cartagena, Abram, Carvallo.

As for Irish permutations, it’s really not obvious how O’Neill’s men are going to line up. It could be a 3-5-2 with Coleman or Christie in a daring Kyle Walker-style right centre back role. Or maybe Stephen Ward in an even more daring left-centre back role. Or, going on previous form, it could be a 10-0-0 from O’Neill. One thing’s for sure, Giggs is going to be guessing just like the rest of us until we see what’s what.

“Where will Giggs play Joe Allen?” demands-to-know Joshua Reynolds. “Will he be further forward as he is at Stoke or in a more defensive role?” I’m guessing he’ll be slightly more withdrawn than for Stoke but with instructions to get his box-to-box costume on. “Second, it says something that I find myself hoping ex Stoke player Jon Walters is part of the winning team rather than either of the current Stoke players who take the field for the Welsh.” Does it say you’re Irish? Or a fan of the Stoke team of yesteryear rather than the current version? If the latter, what do you make of James McClean?

Germany v France teams

Here are the starting lineups. As you can see, the world champions do not appear to be resting on their laurels. The prospect of sticking one on their dear neighbours is obviously an enticing one. You get the feeling Joachim Löw’s position can’t withstand many more embarrassments. He’s decided against starting Leroy Sane, however.

Germany : Neuer; Kimmich, Boateng, Hummels, Rüdiger; Ginter, Goretzka, Kroos; Müller, Werner, Reus

France : Areola; Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Hernandez; Pogba, Kanté, Matuidi; Mbappé, Griezmann, Giroud

Austria v Sweden teams

Austria: Lindner, Prodl, Lainer, Hinteregger, Ilsanker, Alaba, Zulj, Grillitsch, Arnautovic, Burgstaller, Schopf.

Subs: Strebinger, Stankovic, Ulmer, Dragovic, Wimmer, Sabitzer, Schaub, Gregoritsch, Hierlander, Kainz, Lazaro, Schlager.

Sweden: Nordfeldt, Krafth, Jansson, Helander, Hult, Sema, Svensson, Hiljemark, Rohden, Thelin, Quaison.

Subs: Olsen, Johnsson, Lindelof, Granqvist, Augustinsson, Sebastian Larsson, Ekdal, Berg, Guidetti, Claesson, Durmaz, Sam Larsson.

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Wales v Ireland teams

Giggs has opted to throw David Brooks and Ethan Ampadu straight into the fray. And why not? Both are highly talented and Brooks has made an excellent start to life in the Premier League following his move from Sheffield United to Bournemouth. There’s also some lad called Gareth Bale in Wales’ starting lineup, a notable change to the last time these countries met. Meanwhile, Connor Roberts starts at right-back.

For Ireland, Callum Robinson makes a first competitive start. He’s an ex-England youth international so no doubt the Irish fans lambasting Declan Rice will have words with the Preston forward.

All things considered, Wales should win this. Martin O’Neil would be very happy to take smash-’n’-grab, you suspect.

Wales: Hennessey; Roberts, A Williams, Mepham, Davies; Ampadu, Allen, Ramsey; Lawrence, Brooks, Bale.

Subs: Ward, Davies, Gunter, Dummet, Chester, King, Vokes, Ledley, Wilson Lockyer, T Roberts, Smith

Ireland: Randolph; Coleman, Duffy, Clark, Ward; Christie, Hendrick, Hourihane, Robisnon; O’Dowda; Walters

Subs: Doyle, McDermott, Meyler, S. Williams, Burke, Egan, O’Brien, Stevens, Horgan, Doherty, Keogh, K. Long.

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We already have a couple of results in, so if anyone ever asks you who won the first ever Nations League match, you can correctly answer Georgia, thanks to a 2-0 victory in Kazakkstan. And wow your friends by adding that the first scorer of a goal in the competition was Giorgi Chakvetadze, five minutes before Sergei Maliy became the competition’s first scorer of an own goal. So that’s Kazakhstan 0-2 Georgia.

Elsewhere, Henrikh Mkhitaryan ensured he is unlukely to ever be entrusted with penalty-taking duties at Arsenal as he had a spotkick saved by Liechtenstein’s keeper. But Armenia still overcame their pesky opponents to win 2-1. Marcos Pizzelli and Tigran Barseghyan got the goals for the home team, while Sandro Wolfinger netted for Liechtenstein who’ll take encouragement from that given that their record in their last World Cup qualifying campaign was: Played 10, Won 0, Drew 0, Lost 10, Goals For 1 Goals Against 39. (But they did beat Qatar in a recent friendly so if they make it to the next World Cup, watch out, host nation!)

Preamble

Hello and welcome to a new-fangled take on international football, as Uefa’s Nations League kicks off. It’s a complicated format, no doubt, but not so convoluted as to be incomprehensible. The gist of it is that the better a country does in this new competition, the better their chances of (a) reaching Euro 2020 – perhaps directly but most likely through favourable seeding for the traditional qualifying phase (which will begin in March 2019) and (b) gaining promotion to a higher level of the Nations League and thereby playing more prestigious competitive matches in the future. Four teams who do well in the Nations League will qualify directly for Euro 2020, including, possibly, a team from the lowest ranked tier (your Gibraltars, your Azerbaijans, your Kosovos and so on). As for today’s fixtures, there’s something for nearly everyone: we’ll be paying particular attention to Wales v Ireland but will be sure to keep you up to speed on goings-on elsewhere, especially Germany v France and, er, Latvia v Andorra and Gibraltar v Macedonia. There are also some enticing friendlies, including Holland v Peru and Portugal v Croatia.

Now then, what of Wales v Ireland? It’s the Welsh team’s first competitive match under aspiring young manager Ryan Giggs and also their first since they were royally outplayed beaten at home by Ireland in the World Cup qualifiers last year. The dragon slayer that day, James McClean, is unavailable because of injury while the Irish are also without several other players including Shane Long (foot), Robbie Brady (ankle), Sean Maguire (hamstring), Harry Arter (beef with Roy Keane) and Declan Rice (identity conundrum). Meanwhile for Wales, Paul Dummet (bygone beef with Chris Coleman) is available again and could make his first appearance since 2015, while Ashley Williams retains the confidence of Giggs even if many followers of his club form reckon he’s running on fumes. At least no one can deny he put his body on the line during that draw with Mexico in May.

Wales have never beaten Ireland in a competitive match and Martin O’Neill’s side have not lost a competitive away match in six outings so this would be a fine scalp for Giggs were his team to claim it. It’s all happening.

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